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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