By Susan Emerson Nutter
Flowers are truly synonymous with happiness. Receiving a bouquet of blooms, whether professionally arranged or hand-picked from the field, is an instant smile-maker. Two Northeast Ohio farming families know this and have taken “how does your garden grow” to a whole new level by filling their farm’s open space with flowers for the masses.
Tara Fodor, floral designer and creator of Farmhouse Blooms by Fodor Tree Farm, has gained a loyal following for her market bouquets, flower subscriptions, wedding displays and flower farm events. Her husband’s family farm has been growing Christmas trees for three generations, but it was Tara who brought some color to their Poland, Ohio farm five years ago.
Tara explains, “My husband Jon is third generation on this farm. Jon’s dad started planting Christmas trees in the 60s as a way to earn extra money for the holidays using the land already part of the family farm. Jon and I took over when we bought the old farmhouse in 2009. We joined the local Christmas tree association to learn as much as we could to increase the business.”
Tara started making fresh wreaths and other greenery items in 2010 during the short Christmas tree sales season, and began researching other ways to utilize their land. “I read an article about a PA farmer who turned his cover crop into a cash crop. He was growing single stem, pollen-less sunflowers and was approached by a floral wholesaler who basically bought his entire crop. I thought to myself, we can do that on a smaller scale, and come spring, we tucked in 1,000 sunflower seeds to sell as cut flowers for the floral industry. After attending one farmers market and visiting local florists, we quickly learned there was a market for locally grown flowers. Further research brought us to The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. We joined, attended conferences, and soaked up as much information as possible; and still do.”
The Fodors have now expanded their operation to include, first and foremost, three children as well as two hoop houses, a walk-in cooler and designated design studio. A huge variety of flowers bloom throughout their property, making up about 2 acres of cut flowers.
Tina Higinbotham, lead designer and business manager of American Flower Farm, of Beloit, Ohio, is new to the flower biz. This is her family’s first year to grow flowers en mass selling market bouquets, offering subscriptions with a focus on providing flowers to assisted living facilities and nursing homes, and also hosting a few farm events. What a year to begin an operation, but 2020 has been good to this newbie.
“I’ve always grown flowers and my daughters grew up with flowers,” Tina states. “We began making bouquets for people who were convalescing after a health event or for those in nursing homes; and it just felt wonderful providing that service. When my youngest daughter, Alesha, decided growing flowers was what she wanted to do for a career, we began researching, and reading, and soaking up all the information we could. Then we got our hands dirty!”
The lower level of their circa 1800 barn serves as their seedlings’ “nursery.” Current renovations being done by husband, Mark, will result in a store front, studio for workshops and more growing room. Alesha serves as the company’s seed starting and field production. “We hope to have an open house in November, though there is more work to be done,” Tina added.
Tina and Alesha put in about an acre of flowers on the family farm this summer focusing on annuals they had never really grown before as well as their favorite annuals, perennials and herbs.
“We also steer clear of pesticides, and growing organically has its own wealth of challenges, but we are willing to put in the work,” Tina states. Son, Mark Alan, hauls organic compost in for this, and another daughter, Ashley Evert, helps with deliveries and markets.
Due to the pandemic, both Farmhouse Blooms and American Flower Farm have had to get creative in finding safe ways for patrons to enjoy their flowers first hand.
Though Tara’s farm bouquets are available for purchase at Catullo’s Prime Meats and Sweet Melissa’s Good Eats, both located in Boardman, Ohio, and at White House Fruit Farm in Canfield, Ohio, as well, Farmhouse Blooms also sells directly from their studio by appointment or on random open studio days.
“COVID has changed the way we do business because most of our weddings rescheduled to 2021 so it has given us an opportunity to try various new selling concepts direct from here. We created a self-serve open studio concept. On these open studio days, which are posted on Facebook and Instagram, we open the studio doors offering fresh cut flowers. It’s been working really well and I think early in the spring when we started this, everyone was craving a little more joy…spring blooms, ranunculus, double tulips, and peonies are real smile-makers.”
Farmhouse Bloom workshops adjusted as well. “Our studio space is not large enough to have a group and socially distance, so we found other options,” Tara explained. “We created the Unwind & Design workshop. It’s a self-guided opportunity to visit our farm, select from some pre-harvested blooms, grab a vase and go somewhere on the property to design. It’s been a great addition because this gives those that register flexibility on when they arrive (typically it’s anytime between 1pm -7pm) and an opportunity do something creative outdoors.”
Besides their offering of market bouquets at several local spots, American Flower Farm also hosted an outdoor flower-arranging take-away in August. Tina and Alesha filled buckets with cut flowers, arranged them in a farm wagon and put tables and chairs six feet apart in an open lawn area by the barn’s gardens. Using the provided vase, scissors, and selected flowers of choice, attendees (who registered and paid prior to the event) arranged their own bouquet while watching their hosts do the same.
“With everything that is going on in the world, we recognized people just needed the opportunity to get out in the fresh air among the flowers and relax if just for an evening,” Tina stated.
Whether wrapped in brown paper or cut fresh from the field, the restorative nature of flowers cannot be denied. Flower farms like Farmhouse Blooms by Fodor Tree Farm and American Flower Farm know this and work hard to bring the solace and joy only a colorful array of gorgeous flowers can provide to all who desire the reprieve.
by Fodor Tree Farm
1606 E. Western Reserve Road
Poland, OH 44514, 330-550-6767
Tina Higinbotham/Alesha Higinbotham
American Flower Farm
27735 Buck Rd
Beloit, OH 44609, 330-501-9431