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The Crop Report | Oregon or Bust!

If you’ve followed us on social, then you already know I couldn’t keep my trap shut and had to share the big news! We got more Mums! And in typical Jess fashion one of the oldest, largest, (farthest), away from us, collections in the US. I want to recap this whole venture, so let's start from the beginning.

 

Our venture to Oregon marked the beginning of The Mum Project, which I will explain more about later. Last summer, Elizabeth came across Mandi, a grower in Oregon, who was looking to pass on the baton of her prized collection of heirloom chrysanthemums. Her story is equally magical and important to our story so look for that in an upcoming crop report!

Mandi’s collection includes some of the most obscure and beautiful varieties on the market. She had collected varieties that I have never even seen! Each variety in her collection was evaluated by cut flower production standards- no sprawling flowers, no weird, insignificant blooms. Her master’s hand at growing curated beautiful, show stopping heirlooms. Not only that, but she was growing in the original structures of King’s Mums, the original supplier of these beautiful blooms.

As we walked through the process and made the commitment to come to Oregon and bring back her curation of mums, our connection with her grew incredibly strong. We knew she was allowing us to bring a piece of her heart back with us, and we didn’t take that job lightly.

Sonja, Elizabeth, and I packed our bags and flew to Oregon after countless meetings with the entire HHF team to ensure everyone was working in unison from coast to coast (that’s no small feat, yall!). We had one doozy of a travel day, as OF COURSE, the day we departed was the same day the country was grounded by FSA. But, we recovered fast, finding our “nest” for the week with some of Elizabeth’s family that welcomed us with open hearts and arms.  I felt so comfortable working out of a home with inquisitive children at play around us. Sonja made it through the week only because of Brougie, the family dog, and good cheese. We were focused to accomplish our mission to bring home the mums, but the added bonus of bonding with my girls and soaking in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity wasn’t lost on me.

 

After a jet-lagged sleep and a heavy dose of adrenaline, anxiety, and coffee we headed to meet Mandi and discover what was in store for us on the mum side. While we talked, zoomed, and planned there were still so many unknowns and we tried our best to equip ourselves to make the best plan of attack once we were on site. We shopped the local Fred Meyer, (which I found to be a delightful and more eclectic version of the grocery store back home), for packing supplies and snacks for the work week.

When we arrived to see Mandi I knew I had a new best friend in that first hug. She excitedly led us to the house of mother mums where we all started chatting wildly. The varieties were endless and the stories she shared about them kept us all ears. Mandi didn’t have to, but she took the day to join us in digging out these healthy and robust plants that were all meticulously labeled (THANK YOU MANDI).

Sonja, Elizabeth, and I began the process of labeling hundreds and hundreds of bags where varieties were individually tagged and then grouped. Mandi helped us to keep each variety sorted and labeled and even afforded us the extra perk of meeting sweet dear Mr. Ray Gray. I was gobsmacked! I stood in the presence of great working mum knowledge beside these two wonderful growers and I couldn’t soak it up fast enough. To have their blessing in moving the Heirloom Chrysanthemum forward means so very much.

It took us well into the night to lift out and catalog all of the varieties in that greenhouse. Over 400 bags of plants were meticulously packed in the back of Elizabeth’s family van that was graciously loaned to us for the week. I don’t think I will ever forget the look on Sonja’s face surrounded by bags of mums in the back of that van in the dark night when we finally got a cheeseburger to eat. Y’all that first day was intense, mentally and physically, but we were so relieved we did it and left a nice clean slate for Mandi and Ray to walk into the next morning.

The next few days were a blur to say the least. We were so grateful for the perfect outdoor Oregon temps to store the plants at our new Homebase and the most amazing outdoor covered patio to work from. (Have you picked up on how grateful and clutch having Elizabeth’s family allowing us to farm from their home was for this trip yet?).

Elizabeth helped us organize the most elaborate spreadsheet, labeling system, and communication path with our east coast team while Sonja and I cleaned the roots for each bagged variety for shipment back to the farm, along with a total so the farm could prepare space and containers to pot them once received. Not only did we clean all plants down for mother rootstock, but we meticulously removed all the new growth. These moms were kept in a nice, warm house with lights, so they were already producing so much new growth for propagation! Thousands of babies were quickly removed, labeled, and cold packed to be sent back for rooting stock.

We touched each of these plants so much that I feel like I have a deep connection with each and every one of them. All of us do now.

Once all the plants had been prepared we focused on the second half of our mission: getting  back to Virginia, all of us, the plants and the people. I will finish this story up next week. For now I’m still riding on the adrenaline rush that we did it and we really are changing this world for the better by connecting through the discovery of mums.

XOXO, Jess

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