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The Crop Report Week 32 | Ants, Not Grasshoppers

Have you ever heard the tale of the busy little ants that worked hard during summer while the carefree grasshopper danced and played the time away? Winter came, and the grasshopper found that his lack of preparation meant he wouldn’t make it through the hard months. But the ants took pity and saved him with the fruits of their summer labor. 

We like to think we take after the ants and keep working despite the scorching, ambition-zapping summer sun. This time of year is one of the slowest for flower farm sales because when blooms are growing in the yard, people are less likely to snag them elsewhere. Additionally, the season is filled with vacations, sports, and back-to-school planning, so flower purchases become more frivolous.

Typically, flower sales decrease when blooms are readily available: a true paradox of flower farming. With the glut of bounty coming from the farm at the same time as a sales slump, what’s a farmer to do? It’s a problem we encountered the first few seasons, which led to hard work and effort being literally tossed away into compost piles. There were tears (lots of them) and feelings of failure. But then we started thinking about what else could we do with flowers that we couldn’t sell right away. We then came up with our answer- dry them!

Dried flowers have come and gone as a trend but have been thriving recently in the home decor and event design industries. With a large, 1900s bank barn waiting for us to breathe life back into its structure, it didn’t take us long to fill the space with string rows of dried flower bunches. It was quite a sight when a full flower season adorned every inch of the wall. 

We were thrilled that we could sell the flowers that wouldn’t fit in the cooler or bloomed during slow sales weeks. Our team made hundreds of dried bouquets and packed countless dried bulk collections, crafter’s boxes (all coming soon!). As we said goodbye to some of our favorite flower crops twice (once fresh and again when we sold them dried), it was a victory to close the seasonal gap and perishability of fresh flower farming.

While August might seem like a good time to catch our breath, it’s when we focus on our dried flower process. We have been stocking dried flower inventory since the first crops bloomed, but the last month of summer brings the most volume. Endless buckets of strawflower, wheat, statice, and celosia along with more obscure flowers will fill the barn again. This year, we have worked on a streamlined process for drying and rotating storage from only one alcove room in the barn to control the flower debris that tends to cover the floor. While we air dry our flowers naturally, we try to minimize their exposure to barn dust, moisture, and critters.

We have learned how to test flowers for the right amount of drying time, package them for shipping as wrapped bunches, and then store the bunches in boxes. There is a process manual and drying station in our barn where we leave “love notes” (aka Post-Its that say how long a crop has dried and when it can be packed). There is also a bunch inventory so we know what we have large volumes of and to ensure a solid mix of our most requested varieties.

This year, our approach to dried flowers feels more intentional. We are working from spreadsheets and sales projections, but I can see our hard work lining the old wooden walls of the barn. Every time I walk into the drying room, I am filled with inspiration and I hope every dried box we ship has a little bit of that magic in it. The ability to create with these flowers has me eager to fire up the glue gun and find my stash of paddle wire. There is so much beauty waiting to be unpacked from these boxes of 2021’s hard work.

The towering stack of dry inventory isn’t as visually appealing as the strung-up walls from last year, but it feels more in line with the kind of “ant” work that will have us celebrating in winter and rescuing any grasshoppers who might need a dried bouquet.

- xoxo, Jess

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