Flower Farmer Interview-March Edition
One of the main goals that I have in creating this blog is to introduce and educate my community on locally grown flowers.
I also have a goal, once a month throughout 2018, to introduce my readers to other flower farmers from around the U.S. All of these men and women are inspiring to me and all have a unique and inspiring business model.
I was really excited to score an interview with Jamie Sammons of Jayflora. Jamie is located in Fonda, New York and I have been admiring her work from the get go. I hope you enjoy Jamie's interview as much as I did!
You established Jayflora in 2013, give us some background on what led you down this career path and the land that you are farming on today.
When I was 14 I worked at an apple orchard and greenhouse. It was my first job growing up and the people I worked for became a second family to me. After working in the greenhouses, I fell in love with working the soil and growing plants. I then learned about the horticulture program at SUNY Cobleskill and decided to continue my education. I took a couple of floral design classes while in school and seeked an internship at a flower farm and nursery.
After graduating, I went back to the orchard where I originally worked. The owner graciously let me use an acre of land to grow anything I'd like and experiment some more with cut flowers. It all kind of escalated from there. People that came to the orchard to pick apples, saw the flowers and were immediately drawn to them. I started getting inquires for weddings and other design work. I knew that this was my calling and worked towards making my flower business a permanent career. I now farm on 10 acres where I live with my husband, Jed. I met Jed during my second year of growing, I was still borrowing land from the orchard at the time. Jed was the one that really pushed Jayflora in the right direction and that's when we made the transition of moving the farm to the homestead and building more permanent beds and structures. Today, Jed works a full-time job as a horticulture technician at SUNY Cobleskill and I work the farm full-time. Jed more or less has two full-time jobs, ha!
What were some of your biggest hurdles in your first few years of farming?
Farming alone has many challenges. It seems that nothing ever works when you need it to and there's always something broken down. That aside, it's hard managing a business. I have many hats; farmer, chief executor, office manager, operations manager, accountant, bookkeeper, sales manager, marketing, delivery man, the list goes on and on. I guess the biggest struggle is how to manage the hats and figure out which ones are most important to focus on.
There are some really big names out there in the flower community, however your design style is one that I absolutely adore. You have listed on your website that early on you took some design classes at a local college. Since that time have you taken any other design classes from industry professionals or have you perfected your technique with practice as you went along?
Absolutely! I think it is very important to invest in yourself and your education. I try to take a floral design class at least once a year, in the past I have taken the following classes:
Floral Design Master Class with Jennie Love of Love'nFresh Flowers
I learned so much from this 2 day class, Jennie is so kind hearted and one of the best teachers I know. Taking this class completely changed my business for the better. The setting is low-key and only a few people are in the class, this gives you lots of one on one time with Jennie and no question goes unanswered. I would highly recommend it!
Floret Master Class with Erin Benzakein, Susan McLeary of Passionflower, Tanya Shaw of OhFloraStudio
This class took place in Washington State at Erin's Farm. It was a total dream and I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship to attend.
The whole experience was out of this world and the knowledge and networking I gained were totally worth it!
Ariella Chezar & Jennie Love-Longwood Gardens
Longwood gardens offers all sorts of classes at an affordable price! I was lucky to snag a seat and learn from Ariella and Jennie. We designed a bridal bouquet and centerpiece in a short but jammed packed 4 hour class.
All of these classes have not only bettered my design style but also changed the way I manage my business.
Some professional designers that I idol and would love to take a class with in the future are, La Musa de las Flores, The Blue Carrot, Field of Roses and Soil and Stem.
What is the toughest aspect of being a grower and designer?
You have to be really good with time management. We are not your average florist that just orders flowers and they show up at their door already cut and ready to process. We have to cut everything ourselves and then process it before it is ready to design with. I like to think I have gotten pretty good about managing my time between harvesting and designing. The best part is, if you want more of something, we can just go out the front door and pick it.
Your farm is a total of 10 acres, of that how many do you grow on?
Yes, The total acreage that we live on is 10. We have 2 acres in annual field production, an acre of apple trees and probably a half acre in perennial beds.
What personal and business goals do you have in the next 5 years?
Now that we recently built a barn design studio, we are directing more time to on-farm workshops geared for the general public. This past fall we opened up the studio for our first workshop. The students got to create a pumpkin centerpiece with all of our heirloom mums harvested from the field. We also offered holiday wreath classes and hope to offer many more types of classes this summer.
We are also thinking about offering wedding ceremonies to be held in the flower field. Jed and I got married there this past summer and I couldn't imagine a more perfect picturesque location for brides to say their vows.
What is one piece of advice that you have for someone who is just starting out in the industry?
This industry is not easy! It isn't what a lot of people think it is. We don't just frolic to flowers all day but I will say, if it's your passion then you will find a way to make it happen, even if it means long hours and lots of sweat.