Agribusiness  May 19, 2024

Flower-growing business fares well in Colorado

Plume & Furrow supplies locally grown flowers

A flower farmer and florist sold blooms at a flower stand during COVID but wanted to get even more locally grown flowers into the hands of their customers, so in late March they opened the Local Farm-to-Florist Studio & Shop.

“There’s just a higher knowledge in the local community that there are other ways to purchase flowers beyond grocery store flowers,” said Grant Hamil, co-owner and farmer at Plume & Furrow, a farm-inspired floral design business that operates the flower shop at 1100 Francis St. in Longmont.

The blooms and arrangements for the shop are sourced from Hamil and his wife Kim’s leased farm space at Lyons Farmette and other local farms in Boulder County and along the Front Range. 

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“I find each year in this area, more and more hobby farmers are growing flowers in their yards,” Hamil said, adding that some start micro-farms and sell their flowers at flower stands and farmers markets and to flower shops or through collectives like the Colorado Flower Collective in Lakewood. “There’s certainly a higher demand from customers to have local flowers in their purchases.”

Grant and Kim Hamil
Grant and Kim Hamil operate Plume & Furrow farm-to-florist business. Courtesy Plume & Furrow

Plume & Furrow curates the flowers it grows and purchases locally for weddings, events, special occasions and everyday florals. Plus, there are Colorado-made gifts from cards to candles at the shop.

In late 2018, the Hamils started Plume & Furrow and began growing and designing floral arrangements in early 2019. They grow perennials, specialty zinnias and dahlias at the Lyons Farmette, a wedding venue and event center, using about a quarter acre of the one-acre plot. They grew most of the flowers for the arrangements Kim, a floral designer, created, then this year became community florists with the opening of their shop. 

“There’s a shift, I think, in the collective consciousness in the community about local, especially in Boulder and Larimer counties, where we have access to locally grown vegetables and are looking for locally produced goods and flowers as well,” Hamil said.

Locally grown is fresh and long-lasting, plus special and unique varieties can be grown that aren’t available through traditional florists, but farming is a risky endeavor, Hamil said. The weather impacts the growing season, such as heavy snow early on, a hailstorm in June or July and an early frost in September, plus in Colorado, the growing season is short from mid-April to late October, affected by the state’s seasonality, he said.

Most floral farmers employ the use of greenhouses, hoop houses and indoor grows to help establish their seeds and start their plantings to get flowers to market as early as possible. Right now, tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and the high quality and highly sought ranunculus and anemones are growing, plus dahlias are popular because they do well in the state’s summer weather and can be propagated from tubers.

“There are certain flowers that are high quality that are very useful in wedding work — high quality have a higher demand and a higher price point for selling, and long-term they grow well here in Colorado and can be grown season to season without much worry,” Hamil said.

The Hamils work with two farm hands every season and two to four florists in the shop’s design studio who arrange bouquets and make deliveries. 

“We are lucky to live in Colorado where many, many people get married — they’re local to the state or travel in,” Hamil said. “Every year, we get busier and busier. There are more and more wedding venues having more and more weddings. “

Founded in 1983, Boulder Flower Farm is a 9.75-acre family-owned boutique flower farm and outdoor event venue at 4114 Oxford Road in Longmont, plus there’s a 15,000-square-foot greenhouse on the property.

“It’s all local, and it’s highly specialized and it’s very small scale,” said Chet Anderson Jr., a farmer for Boulder Flower Farm and son of founders, Chet and Kristy. “It’s a family farm, so everybody who works for us is family. … We’re very busy out here, and we have a very small team.” 

Boulder Family Farm sells ornamental flowers through local farmers markets and online sales, plus Whole Foods stores in Colorado. The farm’s outdoor growing season starts in June with peonies and continues with about 20 to 30 different varieties of outdoor cut flowers that includes annuals and perennials such as sunflowers, zinnias and lavender. The greenhouse enables the farm’s growing season to continue all year.

“Flowers are a difficult market because a lot of what’s available is imported and growing them takes a lot of patience,” Anderson said. “We love it, but it’s a lot of work, especially for a family farm.”

A large percentage of cut flowers sold in grocery stores comes from out of state or other countries, which is hard to compete with as a small farm, Anderson said, adding that for that reason, buying local makes a difference. Another factor is the weather, an unknown that affects results with last year being “just as about as good as any other year,” he said. 

“We’re careful about how much we try to do because it’s hard work,” Anderson said. “You can’t just farm and plant something and forget about it. All the work we do is very specialized in the sense that you have to choose your varieties and your timing very carefully. … There’s always that curveball Mother Nature throws at you every year.”

Brenna Freestone-Gilbert, owner of Bloom Floral Boutique, 153 N. College Ave. in Fort Collins, sources most of her flowers for her retail florist shop from eight to 12 Northern Colorado hobby farmers, the number depending on the season. She sources 90% of her flowers locally during the growing season, but the rest of the year, she works with a wholesaler in Denver that does global sourcing. She also makes sure she employs sustainable practices, avoiding the use of plastics and floral foam in the favor of organic matter.

“I would say that my focus is more on your garden flowers … garden and wildflowers during the summer,” Freestone-Gilbert said. “A lot of what I have is actual Colorado native flowers as well.” 

Freestone-Gilbert, who bought the shop in 2020 three years after it was founded, also provides flowers to restaurants, weddings and events as a full-service florist, plus does daily deliveries within a 25-mile range. Weddings are down this year on the tails of COVID, since the average timespan from first date to marriage is three years and from proposal to the aisle is one year. At the same time, events and restaurant subscriptions are up, with the businesses “balancing each other out this year,” Freestone-Gilbert said. 

“We have reached a nice, comfortable plateau,” Freestone-Gilbert said. “The last four years have been a rollercoaster ride for everyone. Our momentum is building. Our name recognition is growing. Our visibility is solid.”

For each order, Freestone-Gilbert works with her clients to understand their style and what they’re trying to communicate with their arrangement or event. She tailors her designs to the clients and what it is they’re looking for in what has become “an important business,” she said.

A flower farmer and florist sold blooms at a flower stand during COVID but wanted to get even more locally grown flowers into the hands of their customers, so in late March they opened the Local Farm-to-Florist Studio & Shop.

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