Blog, Floral by Jenevieve Hubbard of Wild Flora
Florage Farms is a farming co-op specializing in providing locally grown fresh cut flowers to florists and customers. Located on two cut flower farms in Southeast Idaho and Northern Utah, the team offers unique flowers grown with love without chemicals or preservative sprays.
I first met Ali three years ago. There was a rumor of this new flower farmer who was not only selling her flowers but dutifully collecting and transporting every kind of flower grown from here to Idaho and peddling them to local florists. It was the first year I was able to offer sustainably arranged and 100% locally sourced floral arrangements for weddings and events, a dream of mine that was several years in the making.
This year was the first time I could make the trek out to Florage Farms in northern Utah. I met Ali, a few sheep, several Alpacas with South American names, Ali’s husband Lorin (all decked out in a floral shirt), and her 1950s era home, carefully decorated in mid-century modern decor and vintage magazines.
Ali and Lorin’s farm is stunning, with a view of the mountains and bluebird skies. It’s filled with rows and rows of carefully curated blooms. And just behind that, the remnants of the original garlic crop. I sat down with Ali and Lorin to ask them a few things, that until this point, in the flurry of overstuffed wedding seasons and spilling over buckets of blooms, I haven’t yet had the time to discuss.
Q&A With Ali And Lorin Of Florage Flower Farm
So tell me about the first time you saw this farm.
Well, 12 years ago, we were driving by on a Sunday and saw a for sale sign on the farm. Lorin says, “I love that little orchard. We should buy it.” Lorin’s sister lives out in Paradise, so we had driven past the farm hundreds of times and always loved the property. We owned a small farm in Hyrum, Utah, but always knew we wanted to be out in the country with a little more land. Little did we know the realtor pounded in the sign about an hour before we drove past. It was meant to be. We were hobby farmers in Hyrum, grew a market garden, and kept a few small animals, but buying the Paradise Farm made us have to up our game.
What are some things that keep you up at night about being a farmer? What makes you want to quit?
2021 has been one of the most difficult years for us in all the years we’ve been farmers. Because of the pandemic, a ton of 2020 weddings got rescheduled into 2021, which is great except it’s been super hard to keep up with the demand for our flowers. Add on top of that a volatile global flower market (also still dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic), a serious drought, and you’ve got this crazy storm of double the weddings and events and probably close to triple the demand for flowers, with half the water we usually have to water our flower crops! Florists are getting hit hard too. They are also doing double the weddings and events that they normally do so everyone is just feeling the pinch. The majority of our customers are wonderful, but we have a handful that are extremely demanding and stressful. I’ve never wanted to quit, I’ve only wanted to punch someone!
And why do you choose to stay and keep doing it?
I love that I get to be outside all day. I love that I don’t have a 9-to-5 job. I don't have to clock in and out in some office every day. I love taking the entire winter off. I LOVE seeing the florist's faces light up when we deliver our flowers. You can tell they are just so happy. I love that we can supply stunning, unusual blooms in large quantities to over 100 florists across three states. I love the texts I get from florists telling me how grateful they are that we do what we do. I love that because I had a dream, ten people have good employment.
If you could go back and talk to yourself when you first decided to do this, what would you say?
Find a good sunscreen and wear it more regularly. These crow’s feet have turned into emu legs.
Why flowers and not garlic or vegetables?
We tried everything: growing vegetables for the farmers market; a small soap business; selling homemade yarn on Etsy; sheep shearing; a dairy delivery service when I had a milk cow for a few years; a vegetable CSA; a u-pick apple operation; custom cider pressing; and hosting weddings and events at the farm. Flower farming was the only thing that we could seem to make a solid, sustainable living! We got tired of all the other ventures either breaking even or losing us money. But flowers stuck. We realized there was a big demand for local cut flowers, especially in the quantities we could provide.
What are your dreams for the future with Florage?
The direction that we are heading is floristry. There seems to be a demand for event florists in and around Idaho Falls. That’s the path we are on now. We are aiming to launch a full-scale wedding floristry branch of our business in spring 2022.
What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve learned in working with florists and flowers?
They need things in quantity! Florists don’t want or need 1-2 bunches of something, they need 30-50 bunches for their event. Early on in my flower farming years, I’ll never forget the time I handed a florist a single bunch of white Agrostemma I grew. She handed it to her 5-year-old and said, “Well that’s cute, but I need 75 more bunches for this event.”
How do you like your Barebones Hori Hori?
I haven’t seen that thing leave Lorin’s belt since you visited! It’s been strapped to him since the minute you left the farm. He used it to pry up garlic, planted a few rogue shrubs, and has done a TON of weeding with it. It’s an awesome multi-purpose tool. He just told me that it will shine in the spring as the world's best transplanting tool. It’s beautiful, well made, and will last forever. We’ve used many Hori Horis over the years, and this one is the most solid. It will get a lot of use from these two old dirty hippie farmers that have a love and appreciation for extremely well-built tools that stand the test of time.
What would you like to say to anyone thinking about getting into flower farming
Figure out your niche. If your market is growing for florists, figure out how to grow something well, and grow it in quantity. A mistake I see a lot of new flower farmers make is that they want to grow every flower in Johnny’s seed catalog! My advice is to hone in on one or two specialty crops, learn everything about them, grow them well, and grow a lot. (Especially if you don’t have that much land to work with.) If you are growing for farmer’s markets, subscriptions, u-pick, etc., you can grow a larger variety. The key is to figure out the market you want to be in. If profit is your end goal, I think there’s more money in growing for florists.
What are your Alpaca’s names, again?
Paloma Valentina, Ignacio Herrera, Ricardo Santiago.
Jenevieve grew up in a native village along the Yukon River in the wilds of Alaska where she spent much of her childhood exploring the forests, rivers and wild iris flanked inlet of the Pacific Ocean. She started her career in floral twenty years ago, first as a horticulturist at Denver Botanic Gardens, then as a florist at a little flower shop in downtown Denver, and another ten years in fine art and graphic design before returning to floral.
Wild Flora specialize in locally and sustainably sourced floral design for weddings & events in the Rocky Mountain West and Pacific Northwest.