Soon after we purchased the property on Rt. 22 and built our produce market, I asked Tom about the possibility of my growing cut flowers. I was so excited to have a permanent building location and not to have to sell from the wagon we pulled to the side of the road each day. The thought of having rows of flowers to brighten people’s days as they drove by excited me and I wanted to brighten the inside of their homes, too, with fresh cut flower bouquets.
Well… Tom didn’t quite share the same enthusiasm as I. You see, in the almost 30 years we have been married, Tom has never bought me a bouquet of flowers. Being the practical engineer/farmer that he is, they are a waste and will just die. I do understand his point, but I still felt that fresh flowers in your home are good for you. They just bring a cheer to soul when you walk through the door.
Well, he relinquished and allowed me to have a few rows for some cut flowers. I did my best to study about good varieties and learn from other flower growers. Two that helped me so much were Judy Harlan and Vicki Schaeffer. Both had grown cut flowers for several years and sold at area farmers’ markets. Both ladies have since passed on, but I will forever be grateful to them for the knowledge and friendship that they shared with me.
I worked very hard at the flowers and struggled to make tasteful arrangements that people would buy. With no formal training, it was not easy, but I will always remember one of my wonderful flower helpers, Mary Shelley, saying to me, “Paula, just let the flower talk to you. They will tell what to do.” And Mary was right. Out in the field, you can envision colors combinations and textures and then go to work building them back at the stand.
Through the years, the flower business has grown considerably, so much so that Tom has become a great believer in fresh cut flowers. As a matter of fact, I know that I had really made it when Tom offered me irrigation water for the flowers. He has also offered more ground to grow them.
Flower farming is not all glamorous, like some folks think. Most varieties must be cut early in the morning, before the heat of the day starts. Buckets are filled, loaded in the cart and then it is hours of cutting, going up and down the rows. And when I say hours, it’s usually 4 -5 hours of cutting each morning. Then we head back to the stand to start building arrangements and sometimes work until later in the afternoon. Luckily, I have been blessed with some wonderful helpers who know more about flowers and putting them together than I do. Mary Shelley worked with me for many years, then Linda Vecchio, with her expert eye for color. And now, Lucy Cassilly helps, running circles around me and cranking out one arrangement after another, each more beautiful than the previous. And they don’t just arrange, they help in the field, trudging through mud and battling bees, but also enjoying the magnificence of God’s beauty in all the flowers.
At Harman’s we take pleasure in growing fruits and vegetables to feed the body, but the flowers we grow to feed the soul.