Red Roots Flower Farm began as the daydream of an Island girl. Born in the US, my family moved to the Mediterranean Island of Cyprus in 1984 when I was five years old. I grew up surrounded by friends who owned almond, lemon, mandarin, olive and carob orchards, banana plantations and grape vineyards. Throughout my childhood I grew up very close to the natural world, and had many opportunities to harvest grapes, lemons and olives, and pick jasmine flowers and roses from our garden, but I never imagined that farming would become an important part of my future.
In 2004, after traveling and living all over the world from Italy to Arizona, I applied to a Master’s Program in Island Studies on Prince Edward Island, packed up my life, and moved to Atlantic Canada. I had never been to Canada before, and arrived completely unprepared for rural life and bitterly cold winters, but I have found the Island culture similar to life in Cyprus–defined by a slower pace of life, closely knit community, mutual support, strong friendships and a degree of self-sufficiency that I have come to respect and embrace.
After graduating from my Master’s program in 2008, I got a job with Raymond Loo, a local organic farmer who was redefining what farming looks like by developing new markets in Japan, and coordinating a group of farmers across the Island to grow crops to supply these markets. From the moment I pulled on my rubber boots and started planting, I was hooked. I love crunching through frost covered fields in the morning; experiencing the tactile shift of the seasons through the migration of geese overhead or the nesting of birds in the hay fields; the visual satisfaction of planting a seed and watching it germinate and turn into something that is clearly far greater than something I could have created alone; harvesting full bunches of fresh produce for market; sharing the bounty of the season with customers, and how every day is overflowing with new opportunities to learn and grow. I also like the way that farming nurtures awe, respect for the connections between things, and humility. As a Baha’i, I have always believed that work is a form of worship, and I have never felt this reality more tangibly than when I am farming.
Between 2010 and 2012 I spent two years in California, where I had the opportunity to volunteer at Soil Born Farms working with urban-based children and youth who would come to the farm to learn how to plant, grow, and harvest healthy food, and hosting cooking classes for the kids in the garden to put all the fresh ingredients to good use! I also volunteered teaching childrens’ classes on weekends, and managed to integrate some planting into these classes as well.
In 2013 I started getting interested in growing flowers, and, in what seemed like a moment of random spontaneity, but what I see now was actually providence guiding me on my way, I bought a ticket to The Seasonal Bouquet workshop with Erin Benzakein of Floret Flowers and Jennie Love of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers in Philadelphia. I spent three incredible days totally immersed in the world of flowers, surrounded by farmers and florists that had a wealth of experience and knowledge, madly scribbling down notes on everything that was being said, knowing that some day it would all come in useful and make more sense than it did at the time. That first workshop was a leap of faith for me, and I left acutely aware of how much learning lay ahead of me if I was going to embrace the world of flower farming.
In the spring of 2014 I took the leap. I was working full time in culinary marketing, so my time was limited, but I sent off my seed orders, purchased seed germinating trays, heating pads and grow lights, and started 20 trays of flowers in my living room. I did not have permanent land to grow on, so I rented six 100-square-foot raised beds in a local community garden — the Legacy Garden. I also helped a local flower farmer friend (Island Meadow Farms) with her marketing, and had the invaluable opportunity to spend time on her farm learning from her knowledge and experience, and helping with her production and harvest. To my amazement, not only did my little islands of flowers grow — they thrived, and I sold weekly bouquets to a small group of friends and edible flowers to a local bakery who crystallized them to use on wedding cakes. I also harvested bunches of flowers to dry for wreaths.
In January 2015 I left my full time job, taking a handful of private marketing clients with me. I rented land on the organic farm where my farming journey began (Springwillow Farms), and did a work exchange with a local nursery for greenhouse space.
I harvested an abundance of flowers for bouquets, edible blossoms that were used at culinary events and weddings, and flowers that I dried to make flower wreaths and flower confetti off of my little 1/2 acre field.
In February 2016 I hosted my first dry flower wreath workshop in Charlottetown. It was a great success, and I cannot wait to host more workshops in the future.
During the 2016 growing season I took time off to attend a second flower workshop at Floret Flower Farm and then do an internship at Field of Roses in New Zealand. While there I had the opportunity to help prep for a Collected floral design workshop with Nicole from Soil and Stem, and begin the humbling process of learning how to grow beautiful roses.
I returned home to Prince Edward Island in the spring of 2017 and decided to move my farm to an urban location to cut down on commute time and the amount of gas I am using, and grow where the majority of my customers live. My new location is at the Mount Continuing Care Community in Charlottetown. Not only is it central, but I am hoping that it opens the door to new opportunities for collaboration with my community. I have already hosted one floral design workshop for the residents at the Mount. I hope to do many more, and eventually to create opportunities for children to get involved with the farm. 2017 was a smaller production year for me because of having relocated, but 2018 promises to be a terrific year, and I am really looking forward to expanding production again, and to start adding a variety of roses to my production.
I am the only farmer in my family, but I would not be doing any of this without the unconditional love and support of my teacher/artist mother, Anita; my late father and incredible musician and composer, Vic, and all of the friends that have helped me out along the way. I have named my farm Red Roots Flower Farm because it is the incredibly supportive community that I have here on Prince Edward Island that inspires me to want to farm, and has made me want to sink my roots on this little Island cradled on the waves in Atlantic Canada.