What a ride it’s been

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This is the first season we’ve actually lived on the farm.  So I consider this our first “real” season of flower farming.  And let me tell you, it’s been a roller coaster ride!  Although the growing season isn’t officially over yet, we have put the brakes on many of our autumn plans due to a nasty storm that rolled through our farm in the early morning hours of Tuesday, August 20th.   This sudden stop has caused me to pause.  As I reflect on our first swing at the flower farming bat, I would say we didn’t strike out and we didn’t hit a home run, but we did land a solid base hit.  Hopefully next year, I’ll be able to say Bochner Farms hit a double.  HAHA!

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Jim and I are officially empty nesters this year, so we definitely aren’t as young and energetic as many of our flower farming friends.  We are NOT looking to grow Bochner Farms into a huge flower farming operation.  But, we love growing flowers and we are passionate about doing good in this world.  We truly believe that flowers feed the soul, so why shouldn’t they feed the world too?  Hence our mission of GivingColor where we donate a meal through Meals from the Heartland for every flower purchase from our farm.  Read more about Bochner Farms, and our mission, by visiting www.bochnerfarms.com. 

As we officially roll into September, I thought it might be fun to take a look at our Bochner Farms Top 10 list for the 2019 growing season (at least up until now):

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#1 – Seed sowing.  We sowed thousands of seeds this season, and had good success.  This spring, we learned we can successfully grow Bells of Ireland from seed!  This was a big win for us as they are notorious for being difficult to germinate.  We grew some beautiful Bells seedlings and planted them out in the field in April.  However, Mother Nature robbed us of our crop due to very cold, wet spring.  But we will try again next year, and hope to hit a home run on those babies!

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#2 – Flower studio.  I’m so thankful we decided to add on the flower studio to our new farmhouse.  This climate controlled space is used daily for everything from seed starting, propagation, flower processing, bouquet making, event hosting, and more.  This winter we will give it a fresh coat of interior paint, exterior landscaping, and some updated worktable space.  It will be awesome.

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#3 – Ranunculus.  These fluffy beauties stole our hearts.  We absolutely adored the ranunculus that we grew this year, and we learned so much about how to keep them happy, healthy and blooming.  We’ve already ordered in more corms in more colors.  We are looking forward to starting them in February, and sharing them with Bochner Farms customers next spring!  Who doesn’t LOVE ranunculus?  Seriously.

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#4 – LilyFest.  Our very first farm event was a success!  It was a little scary, but so much fun, to host the 1st Annual Bochner Farms LilyFest in July.  The daylily fields were exploding with color.  It was so exciting to see all our guests roaming the fields, taking pictures, and enjoying the hundreds of blooming daylily varieties.  We learned how to keep the “freshly dug” daylily purchase process efficiently moving along, so next year will be even bigger and better.

#5 – Lisianthus.  Another beautiful discovery!  These flowers look so much like roses, but no thorns and amazing vase life.  We were super diligent to keep them weeded, watered and fed through their very long and slow growing process.  We started them from plugs in March and finally had a bounty crop in late July and August.  We will grow more colors next year.  Be still my heart.  Yay!

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#6 – Local relationships.  This first season, we are learning where our markets are.  Learning where its most beneficial to spend time and effort selling our flowers.  Even though we grow beautiful local flowers, and we love our mission of GivingColor, we still need to actually SELL flowers in order for all this to work.  No plans to get rich by flower farming, but I’d like to at least not LOSE money.  We’ve been so fortunate to build some new relationships at the retail and corporate level.  We’ve had opportunities to speak to groups, participate on a corporate panel, and co-host a pop-up.  It’s just a tiny start.  But, from these tiny new seeds, I hope that Bochner Farms will grow.  I also have to mention our flower farming community as well – we are so grateful for the relationships we have with other flower farmers who are so incredibly supportive of each other!

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#7 – Giving feels good.  I can’t even begin to describe the feeling of dropping off that first GivingColor donation check to Meals from the Heartland.  What an honor and a blessing to do this.  The Bochner Farms Instagram and Facebook post from July 15th pretty much sums up my emotional experience.  We will be dropping off another Bochner Farms GivingColor donation in early September.  I can’t wait.  This is definitely our “why”.

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#8 – Mother Nature.  She is in control and she’s often a brutal boss.  We need to learn new methods to mitigate the risk of bad weather.  We lost so many of our spring flower crops to the very cold and wet weather.  It was hard to watch our precious seedlings die a slow death after nurturing them for months.  The summer season was much better, until August 20th.  About half our flowers were flattened and our high tunnel was destroyed.  We had to cancel workshops and farmers markets.  But we pick up, dust off, and keep moving forward.

#9 – Lifelong learning.  I believe this is the key to success.  We learned so much about seed sowing, harvesting, and post-harvest flower care.  But we also discovered three important things we need to learn more about.  How to best manage/optimize our soil health, how to manage/control pests and disease, and how to build a strong fertilizer regimen.  These 3 things will be the Bochner Farms learning priorities for next year.  And even though those are big lessons by themselves, I’m sure we will discover new lessons we haven’t even thought of yet.  So it goes.

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#10 – Optimism.  This is truly the heart of being a flower farmer (or any farmer actually).  We have to be optimistic about the next month, the next crop, the next season.  We have to have faith in God and in our dreams.  Without optimism, I’m not sure if Bochner Farms would still be here at this point. There is something special about the joy that flowers bring to others.  And because of that, our optimism for next season and the faith that it will bring good things (along with the hard things), remains strong.  We will continue on.

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I hope you’ll follow along on our Bochner Farms journey.  Traveling this flower farming road with supportive friends sure does make the journey a lot more fun.  Here’s to living a flower-filled life!

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Behind the Scenes

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Ok, I’m going to be honest with you all.  Here at Bochner Farms, we are fairly new to this flower farming gig.  We are learning a lot while we grow these beautiful flowers.  There is so much we still don’t know.  I suppose it might always be a continuous learning thing.  But right now?  We definitely “don’t know” much more than we “do know”.

Our motto at Bochner Farms is to just jump right in and try.  You don’t know if something will work unless you try.  My dad always said you learn more from your mistakes than you ever will from your successes.  So we try new things, experiment and learn.

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To give you a quick glimpse behind the scenes at Bochner Farms, here are a few things we’re experimenting with:

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Shade cloth.  We’ve never used it before.  But we know it’s important for newly planted babies to protect them from strong sun and heat while they are acclimating.  We purchased some hybrid lily bulbs that we planted and (hopefully) they will be blooming like crazy this fall and we’ll tuck them into Bochner Farms market bouquets.  They will need shade cloth until they are about a foot tall.

So, we ordered shade cloth.  It arrived this week.  But the thing is, we didn’t know how to hang it up.  So we brainstormed and tried an experiment.  Here is our current set up.  Using posts and bungee cords.  Jim and I were laughing a lot as we tried to rig it up.  Hope it works!

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Summer season snapdragons.  Usually we plant our snapdragons only in the springtime as a late spring/early summer crop.  This year, however, I wanted to experiment and grow snapdragons as a mid/late summer crop.  Because snapdragons.  So, I did my research and bought seed that I think is heat tolerant.  We’ll see if it stays happy and healthy now that the heat is cranking up.  (Maybe we should put some shade cloth on them?  Hmmmm….)  So far the snaps are looking good, and they are definitely shining bright in Bochner Farms market bouquets right now!

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High tunnel growing.  We finally finished our high tunnel and we were able to plant flowers inside the tunnel late this spring.  I knew the tunnel was going to be a hot environment throughout the summer, so I chose heat loving varieties for our first cut flower crop.

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We have amaranth, ageratum, basil, gomphrena, celosia, eucalyptus, and cosmos planted right now.  And we planted a small row of dahlias in the tunnel too.  They all seem to be doing pretty well.  Some of this stuff is taller than I am!  Wowza!

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Last but not least, we are taking extra care of our dahlias this year.  We planted about twice as many as we had last year, and we’re working hard to keep them weeded and supported (by pounding posts and corralling them with twine).  We’re doing all we can to ensure we have a bumper crop of dahlias to provide to our customers, and to share the bounty at our Bochner Farms Dahlia Workshop right here on the farm in September. Sign up for the workshop by visiting http://www.bochnerfarms.com and go to our online shop.  Yay!

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Hopefully, you found the Bochner Farms “behind the scenes” update interesting, and we’ll keep you posted on how things are going.  Crossing fingers that shade cloth doesn’t come down in a windy Iowa thunderstorm!

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If you want more day-to-day updates on our farm, please “Like” our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram.

Finally, I would love it if you would take a moment to sign up for our email list.  Sign up at www.bochnerfarms.com  so you can be the first to learn about Bochner Farms news, upcoming events and advanced notice of new daylily varieties and availability.

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That’s a wrap folks.  I hope you will go out and try something new.  Even if you fail, have fun trying!  Then dust off, learn your lessons, and try again.  Continuous learning is good for the mind and the soul.  Enjoy!

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Being part of something bigger.

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There is something special about the feeling you get when you’re part of something bigger than yourself.  I think it comes from something deep within ourselves.  I recently read Simon Sinek’s book “Leaders Eat Last”.  I highly recommend it.  In the book, he talks about the early Homo sapiens back in the caveman days, and how important it was to work together to survive.  There was this thing called the Circle of Safety and being part of the group.  When you feel part of the group, you care for each other.  And you trust that, if needed, others will care for you.

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This community spirit is what has allowed us to survive and thrive as the human race.  We’re wired up to help each other.  Our bodies reward us with a surge of chemicals that give us this euphoric feeling when we do good.  I love that feeling.

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I definitely experienced that feeling this week when I dropped off our very first Bochner Farms GivingColor donation to Meals from the Heartland.  The emotional feeling was so strong, it nearly brought me to tears.  Happy tears.  Joy.

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So what’s GivingColor?  It’s 1 for 6.  Through our collaboration with Meals from the Heartland, we donate a meal that feeds six people for every flower purchase from Bochner Farms.  All flower purchases count, so the more flowers you buy, the more people you feed.  Whether it’s cut flowers, or daylilies, it all counts.  We grow beautiful flowers.  You buy beautiful flowers.  And together we feed the world.  I think it’s a community effort between Bochner Farms and our customers to help care for each other.  To learn more about Meals from the Heartland, visit their website at www.mealsfromtheheartland.com.

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Feeding the hungry has always been something that tugs at my heart.  I’m so thrilled that we were able to build this mission into our business model at Bochner Farms.  I encourage YOU to find a way to give back.  What’s tugging at your heart?  I encourage you to think about how YOU can make a difference.  It could be anything, give it some thought.  I guarantee you’re naturally wired up to be a part of something bigger, and to feel that euphoria when you make a difference in someone’s life.  How can YOU reach out to the someone near, or far, and make their world a little bit better?  I promise you, you’ll be rewarded in ways so powerful.

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Let’s go out and be a positive force of good in the world.  We can do it.  Together.

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What a daylily means to me.

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At Bochner Farms, we are passionately in love with daylilies.  Of course they are beautiful and fill our summer days with a sea of color year after year.  Jim’s dad, Tom Bochner, was an avid daylily collector who passed the love of daylilies on to Jim and then to me.  There are literally thousands of different types of daylilies, and it is so exciting to be able to create brand new hybrids as well.  Daylilies are tough and strong.  They are beautiful, colorful, and so very unique each in their own way.  The rainbow of color just screams “Summer is here!”.

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But there is one other huge reason that I love this perennial stunner.  Another very important reason that daylilies are so special.

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It’s the very essence of what a daylily actually is that has me hooked.  The botanical name for daylily is Hemerocallis.  The ancient Greek meaning is derived from two words “day” and “beauty”.  The reason for this is because a daylily bloom (the actual flower) lasts just one day.  It emerges from bud in the early hours of morning, shines bright and bold all day, and then fades away that night.  But, not all is lost.  Multiple buds on each scape will bloom, thereby replacing it with a new daylily bloom the next day.  And another the day after that.  And on and on for weeks.  Sort of like it is re-born each day, with another chance to shine.  New and fresh and beautiful.

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Imagine if we, as human beings, tried to do that same thing?  Approach each new day, feeling fresh and renewed.  Just like the daylily does.  What if we woke up each morning with the ability to cast off all the waste from the prior day and begin with a new perspective that allows us to shine bright throughout each day.  Just like a daylily does.  And then relax and renew each night.  Waking up to start fresh the next day, with a focus on soaking up everything life has to offer.  Wouldn’t that be great?

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Embracing the fresh new day,  focusing on the “today” is especially difficult for me.  I’m a huge planner person.  I’m always thinking about the future.  Thinking about what’s next.  I’m super good at making to do lists and prioritizing projects, but I honestly struggle with embracing the beauty of the moment.  That’s why I love daylilies.  Walking amongst the blooms each day, I know that I must take the time to enjoy each one because it will most definitely be gone by tomorrow.

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I hope you’ll consider the lesson of the daylily, and take time to soak in the beauty of the present moment.  Allow the talents and kindness and sense of community that YOU bring to the world to come to life each day.  And then refresh and renew to do it all over again tomorrow.

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Hope to see you all at Bochner Farms LilyFest on July 13th and 14th.  The fields will be in full rolling bloom, and you will definitely find me there, soaking it all in.

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Springtime on the farm.

It’s been a super “slow motion” sort of spring transition this year.  So much rain and very cool temps.  It’s causing our early season flowers to grow very, very slowly.  Once we get some warmth and sun, I’m confident those babies are going to shoot up and grow like crazy.  My hope is they are building strong root systems to support abundant blooms…at some point.  C’mon spring!  Let’s do this!

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Another big project for the spring has been our high tunnel.  We started building the tunnel last year, and with everything crazy that happened last season, it just didn’t get done.  Then, with all the snow this winter, we were not able to get back to work on it until a few weeks ago.  I’m super excited to say that the high tunnel is OFFICIALLY DONE and is ready for planting!  Since we missed the cool season growing, we are going to give summer season high tunnel growing a try.  It will be a test to see how much heat our “heat-loving” flowers will love.

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Although the tunnel will provide our flowers with protection from wind, rain and hail, it will also add some extra heat (even with the tunnel sidewalls open).  Growing in the field versus high tunnel growing are two different animals.  Rest assured, we are growing a portion of our flowers in the tunnel, but still the majority out in the field where we have experience.  I love a good learning opportunity, but I’m not totally crazy!  HAHA!

Check out these Dianthus shown below.  They are looking so good (as they grow so slowly this year).  And the second picture is a “throwback” to last summer.  I can’t wait to see the farm in full bloom again.

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One final topic for today.  Friends, can you help us?

If you follow us on Instagram and Facebook, you’ve been kept pretty much up to speed on the daily activities at the farm. However, I wanted to be sure you knew about three very important ways you can support our farm this year:

  1. Please join us for our 1st Annual Bochner Farms LilyFest in July.  Details can be found at bochnerfarms.com. Our flower farm is not typically open to the public, so this is your chance to get a behind-the-scenes view.  Even better, we strategically planned this event to sync up with peak blooming time for the thousands of daylilies we have in the field.  It’s going to be a blast, and so very beautiful.
  2. Do you know anyone who works at a large Des Moines-based employer, loves flowers and local business?  I’d like to make a connection for a 5 minute chat about our BloomBiz mobile flower cart.  We think BloomBiz is a great idea, but we need to find 2-3 businesses who are willing to help pilot this concept with us. Who doesn’t want to enjoy locally grown farm-fresh flowers AND feed the world?  If you can help, please email me at info@bochnerfarms.com.  Info on BloomBiz can be found on our website.
  3. Visit us at the Indianola Farmers Market this summer!  We will be there on Saturday mornings starting in June, and we will have fresh bouquets, flower bunches and potted daylilies for you.  Avoid the Saturday morning massive crowds and parking hassles, and come visit our sweet, small-town Farmers Market at the Indianola Fairgrounds.  Hope to see you there!

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In closing, don’t forget!  All flower sales qualify for our GivingColor initiative where we donate a meal through Meals from the Heartland for every purchase from our farm.  Learn more about this great organization by visiting http://www.mealsfromtheheartland.org.

We believe flowers feed the soul, why shouldn’t they feed the world too?  Thank you for supporting our farm.  Happy spring!

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3 ingredients to success

 

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“To succeed in life, you need 3 things:  a wishbone, a backbone, and a funnybone” – Reba McEntire.

I just love this quote, don’t you?  Spring is right around the corner, and I’m so excited for this growing season.  Tulips and daffodils will be among the first to make their appearance very soon!

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Wishbone.  So many wishes for our little farm this year.  I’d love to gain couple new BloomBiz corporate accounts so we can expand our sales and our GivingColor donation.  Learn about BloomBiz and GivingColor at http://www.bochnerfarms.com.

Backbone.  This one is huge.  Flower farming is HARD WORK.  We will battle the weather, bugs, and weeds this season.  And that’s just a fraction of the work.  But, it will totally be worth it to see the joy on people’s faces when they receive our flowers.

Funnybone.  I know we’ll spend plenty of time dancing and laughing while we work.  Luckily, I get to work alongside my husband and son.  Thank goodness we’re usually alone in the flower fields or the studio, so nobody can see our crazy dance moves.  HAHA!

 

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There is no way to know what lies ahead for Bochner Farms this season.  I’m sure we will make mistakes and face challenges.  But, I believe if we dream big, work hard…and have fun…we will have success.   This mantra will work for you too.

Here’s to success!  And warm weather, bright sunshine, and pretty flowers, of course.

 

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Beyond the flowers

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Have you heard about GivingColor?  It’s the heart of our farm.  We like to say we’re a little flower farm with a big heart.

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Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve understood the value of a good meal.  When I was in elementary school, I worked in the lunchroom washing dishes in exchange for my lunch ticket. Kind of embarrassing as a kid, but my family was on a tight budget in those early years.  Fortunately for me, I always had a good breakfast at home and there was always a warm dinner on the table at night.  Other children in our communities, and around the world aren’t so lucky.  Even today, 1 in 6 children in the United States face hunger, according to www.nokidhungry.org.  And that’s just the United States, the situation is more staggering in developing countries around the world. This breaks my heart.

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At our farm, we decided to try and do something about it.  That’s why we launched the GivingColor initiative.

So what is GivingColor?  1 for 6.  Through our collaboration with Meals from the Heartland, we donate a meal that feeds six people for every flower purchase from our farm.  Every daylily.  Every market bouquet.  Every flower bunch.  It all counts toward our GivingColor initiative.  To learn more about Meals from the Heartland, visit www.mealsfromtheheartland.org.  To learn more about GivingColor, click here.

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Watch for opportunities this year to help package meals with the Bochner Farms team.  Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear about upcoming events.

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We believe that flowers feed the soul, so why shouldn’t they feed the world too?  I hope you’ll join us.

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Finding our rhythm

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Although the weather is still cold and the ground outside is a blanket of snow, we’re busy inside finding our farm rhythm as spring quickly approaches.

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We just moved into our new studio space, getting things set up for seed sowing and flower processing this season.  We are going to LOVE our new studio.  It’s filled with light and a big space to work.  But, for now we’re spending a lot of time trying to remember where we put stuff.  HAHA.  I’ll be glad when it begins to feel familiar, like spending time with an old friend.

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Under lights, we have hundreds of little baby daylilies that were created from our summer hybridizing program.  Out of all these seedlings, only a few will make the cut as they need to meet stringent requirements.  We’ll be looking for things like beautiful blooms, cold climate hardy, and prolific producers.  The daylilies who do make it, however, will be brand new introductions to the market.  I know this is super exciting to all the daylily addicts out there!

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For our cut flower business, we’re really trying to scale our production to a manageable level for us this year.  We’ll have mixed bouquets at our local farmers market, as well as deliveries to a few key business accounts.  Our goal is to focus on growing the highest quality flowers and sharing them with our customer base.  If you’re interested in where to find our flowers this season, please visit www.bochnerfarms.com.

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So we embrace the new rhythm.  A daily routine of sowing new seeds, watching for new seedlings to sprout, and caring for the tender plants as they grow on.  It’s a routine that feels comforting right now.  It’s been such a long winter here on the farm, to have daily tasks that require attention gives us new purpose.

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I hope you are looking forward to spring as much as we are.  Only 3 weeks away.

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Life on the farm

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After nearly 2 years of planning, we FINALLY built a house and officially moved to the farm.  This will be a game changer for us for many reasons, and we couldn’t be more excited!

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Easy access to the flower fields.

We own approximately 50 acres total, but the flower farm sits on top of a meadow area about 3 acres or so, that used to be cow pasture.  It will be so convenient to be able to jump into the gator and drive up the short lane to the flower fields!  We have only cultivated a portion of meadow area, and will be amending the soil heavily so we can expand our planting fields this season.  We are growing approximately a ½ acre of day lilies with plans to double that this summer. I can’t wait for the lily fields to be fully in bloom sometime around the 4th of July.  It will be magnificent.  Want to witness the magic in person?  Join us for Bochner Farms LilyFest July 13-14, 2019.

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In addition to the day lilies, we also grow about a ½ acre of specialty cut flowers.  We grow a wide variety of flowers that bloom throughout the season, so we’ll have farm fresh beauties available from May through late September depending on weather.  Seed sowing is underway right now, and we can’t wait to see these babies in bloom.  There is so much snow on the ground, it’s hard to imagine right now.

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New flower studio.

As part of our home build, we installed a 900 square foot flower studio attached to our garage.  This is where we will be doing all of our seed starting, flower processing and bouquet assembly.  It’s such a bright and cheerful space, with big windows and natural light.  And it totally smells like dirt right now because we fired up the grow lights.  So many trays of little seedlings starting to grow.  I love it!  We also have a large walk-in cooler built into the studio which will be a huge asset for us during the height of cutting season.  Although we still need to do some painting and organizing, the studio is a vast improvement over our garage and basement in our previous home.  So grateful!

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So what’s life like on the farm these days?  It’s been such a snowy winter, so I’m wondering how much mud we’ll be dealing with this spring.  Our two dogs, Rylee and Dot, are loving life on the farm, snow or not.  One of my most favorite things about life on the farm is being connected to nature.  I feel incredibly blessed to be given the gift of a gorgeous sunset every evening.  It’s like a fresh, new painting in the sky each day.  And quiet.  It’s so peaceful to only hear the sounds of birds and the breeze when I sit on the patio (in my heavy coat, gloves and boots HAHA!).  Oh, and did I mention the deer and fox that roam about?

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I’m excited to share our story this season, and I’d love it if you choose to follow along the journey.  Visit www.bochnerfarms.com to learn more about our farm, our mission, and how to find Bochner Flowers this year.

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Happy “almost” spring!

In search of blooms

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Spring seems to be eluding us this year, this Iowa winter continues to have its icy grip on us all.  But the craving for colorful blooms is real, and I’ve had several people ask me how they can get their hands on Bochner Flowers this season.  I truly appreciate the support for locally grown blooms from our small family farm, and can’t wait to deliver bucket loads of bouquets to our customers this summer.

There are several ways you can purchase flowers from us, so thought I’d quickly share them here.

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Farmers Markets.  We are excited to be a vendor at the Waukee Farmers Market every Wednesday from 4-7pm starting June 6th.  We’ll also be at the Indianola Farmers Market every Saturday morning  from 8am to noon starting in June.  We’ll be selling mixed bouquets wrapped in Kraft paper, beautiful mason jar bouquets, and later in the summer, we’ll be selling limited varieties of unique day lilies to plant in your perennial landscape plus a few other surprises.  Please come see us!

Bouquet Subscriptions.  We offer weekly and bi-weekly subscriptions for those who want a convenient way to ensure a full summer of fresh, local seasonal blooms.  Our beautiful bouquets are delivered directly to your home or place of business.  Choose between a short 4-week subscription or a full season subscription.  Sign up for a subscription by visiting our website at www.bochnerfarms.com.  Subscription season runs June through September.

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Online Shop.  Our flowers will be available to purchase anytime this summer conveniently from our website.  Order a bouquet for a special occasion, or just because.  Realtors, your clients would love to receive a welcome home bouquet for a newly purchased house.  Or, business clients would appreciate a bouquet of flowers as a thank you gift for a successful transaction or project completion.  Bouquets will be available in our website online shop starting in June.

GivingColor. 1 for 6.  We are a little farm with a big heart. Through our collaboration with Meals from the Heartland, we donate a meal that feeds six people for every flower purchase from our farm.  This is so important to me personally.  I believe flowers are food for the soul, so why shouldn’t they feed the world too?  If you’d like to learn more about our GivingColor initiative, please visit our website.    To learn more about Meals from the Heartland, visit their website at www.mealsfromtheheartland.org.

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BIG NEWS COMING SOON!  We are working on other ways to connect flower lovers with Bochner Flowers this summer, so stay tuned.

Happy spring!

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