I am excited to share another one of the talented farmers that I get to work with here at The Local Bouquet. Although the season is so short, each year I look forward to the bounty of peonies that will be grown from local farmer Anne Kubik and her partner David Rockermann. Anne is the co-owner of Electric Moon Peony Farm in Adamsville, Rhode Island.
If you've never been to Adamsville, Rhode Island picture a quaint little New England village, just minutes from the river, beaches and local fishing spots. This quiet little village is home to a handful of small businesses and lots of historic homes. Grab your morning cup of coffee and newspaper, walk through the lantern-lined streets past the local baseball field and continue on till you see the most beautiful peony farm, tucked behind an old New England cape and beautiful farm land.
Anne Kubik and David Rockermann dug their first beds for Electric Moon Peony Farm in September of 2012. Anne’s 20+ years of professional horticultural experience combined with David’s teaching skills from his 12 years of work as an educator, created a small-scale growing operation where individuals come to enjoy, work and learn within the beauty of the natural world. They have been cultivating peonies and designing and maintaining landscape gardens full-time in Little Compton, RI since the fall of 2013.
I met Anne (and David) in 2013 when word spread quickly throughout our little town that a young couple had started a peony farm just minutes down the road from my then-studio location. I was intrigued and knew I had to meet this couple because not only would it be an opportunity to buy one of the most coveted flowers in the wedding industry, but it would be an opportunity to meet other like-minded people who loved and adored flowers just as much as I do!
I am so glad that our paths crossed four years ago, because Anne, David and their adorable son Ninan have become part of my family. This couple is the definition of what it means to be stewards of this earth and the land that they live and work on. They inspire me to dive deeper into my craft and my art while educating myself on the horticultural history of the flowers that I am working with.
Images taken by Christine Chitnis
What did you want to be when you were growing up? A gardener.
Why flowers? I had been, and still am, working as a landscape gardener. Flowers are familiar friends.
If you could only grow one thing for the rest of your life what would it be? Sugar snap peas! The sweetness of a flower for the palate.
Favorite season for locally grown flowers? Spring.
What is one thing you couldn’t work without? A healthy body.
What is one thing you never leave home without? My nippers.
If you weren't flower farming anymore, what would you be doing? Gardening.
How did you come up with the name of your company? The land on our farm is mostly flat with hills rising up to on the western and southern sides. We grow peonies in this big bowl, and on moonlit nights, we harvest moonlight.
What is your favorite thing about your farm? The land.
What is your favorite thing to come home to after a long day? Because we grow at home, there is no 'coming home'. There is a magical moment at the end of the day after we've tucked the tools and the wheelbarrows into the barn: we slide the big barn door closed and the yard is ours to play in.
What does your day-to-day look like? I get up with Ninan and we play and eat breakfast until it's time to go outside. Then we bundle up, head for the tools and the toys and then to the field. There's a lot of stopping to answer questions and inspect worms. We work until lunch and nap. My partner and I eat lunch together while Ninan sleeps. Then it's play/work, eat, and sleep.
Images taken by Christine Chitnis
Name the biggest overall lesson you’ve learned in running a business? Timeliness with plants and clients.
Which of your traits are you most proud of? An eye for detail and an ability to enjoy the extravagant and mundane tasks of growing.
Name your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your business experience? People enjoying what we grow.
Name a woman or women whom you admire or look up to? Any of those stodgy British gardener/authors.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting out? Do what you love.
What inspires you as an entrepreneur? Yvon Chouinard.
What does success mean to you? Spending the majority of my day feeling like I am playing and knowing I am working.
You are a mom, like me. How do you balance mom-life and work-life? Ninan is with my partner and me all day. Mom-life and work-life are virtually indivisible.
Do you get Ninan involved in the farm and how? Ninan is out there with us pulling weeds and pushing his own wheelbarrow. He has a fleet of dump trucks , tractors,and excavators that find happy work in the soil.
What's one thing you want Ninan to take away from seeing his mom work so hard? Work can be fun.
What advice do you have for other working mommas? Working with our son presently requires a lot of flexibility. Mostly, this flexibility has to do with my expectations - I have ideas abut how the day will go, about what will get done today and what we can expect to do tomorrow. Working with our child at our sides, slows things down, and somedays it slows things down tremendously. When I feel impatient with what seem to be the day's slownesses, I take in our little one's sweetness and am reminded that his time with us is short then my mind changes to look at what we get to share with this child.
Photographers: Maaike Bernstrom / Christine Chitnis
Farm: Electric Moon Peony Farm
Welcome back for another addition of "Meet the Farmer"! It's a new month so it's time to feature another one of the amazing flower farmers that I get to work directly with here at The Local Bouquet. As you know, it is our core mission to source 100% local and American grown flowers for all of our designs. We always work with the local growers first, ensuring that we provide our clients with the freshest, most beautifully unique product possible while keeping our carbon footprint the smallest we can. Tiny footprints are way cuter anyways!
As a true testament to the local flower movement and the type of people that make up our community, I was introduced to Amy two years ago by another farmer who I buy from. I was told at introduction that I would really love her because she too was a "working momma"! Since that first meeting in a flower field surrounded by our children, Amy and I have bonded over motherhood and flowers.
Amy Rodrigues, owner of the Dahlia Shed, has been growing for nine years on her 1 acre farm in Middletown, RI where she specializes in dahlias. Amy has literally grown up in the farming world, working as a kid on her family's wholesale and PYO pumpkin farm as well as at her aunt's greenhouse operation just down the road from her childhood home. When Amy first started out she grew just two crops; sunflowers and cutting hydrangea blooms. These flowers were primarily sold at her small self- service flower stand at the bottom of her driveway, where locals could enjoy fresh flowers weekly. As the years passed, she added more varieties to build up better bouquets for the stand and more dahlias for her growing list of event designers. Through her years of growing, dahlias have been her primary focus. By concentrating on streamlining the dahlia crop, Amy has been able to grow a higher quality dahlia, which is so vital in the wedding and event industry. This year she is excited to be growing 28 additional cut flowers crops in an array of colors while increasing her dahlia production to 1,250 tubers, a record high for her farm.
Although Amy is one of the newer additions to The Local Bouquet family, she is someone who I have built a strong bond with. Like me, Amy also has three children who she works alongside with. I admire Amy's unwavering commitment to not only her business and the brand she is building but also to her family as a great mother and a wife. Her ability to balance work and motherhood look effortless and joyful!
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I always wanted to be a Mom. I remember sitting down with the career counselor and she advised me to be a teacher as that would give me more time with family. I went on to college and received my bachelors degree in early childhood education.
I grew up on my parent's farm that grows pumpkins, makes maple syrup, and apple cider. Right down the road from my parents farm was my aunt and uncle's greenhouse farm. In middle school my twin sister ( identical) and I raised vegetables and cut flowers to sell in the summer to keep us busy. Throughout high school I took flora-culture and horticulture classes and competed in floral design in FFA. In college, I worked at my aunt's floral shop where I fell in love with more cut flower plants to bring home to the garden. Having a family of my own and staying home, the garden by the house just kept growing. I wanted to give my children the experience to be out in nature and around something that anchored me in my youth. Flowers became my project, my escape, and my legacy to my family.
How did you come up with the name of your company?
In conversation one day with a customer she mentioned how she loves to tell her friends about the flowers. It became the shed with dahlias to her friends and then the Farm was named.
What is your favorite thing about your farm?
I love that my children can be involved. I can work alongside my children happily giggling in the field and playing in the irrigation stream. So many lessons that we all learn day to day. Flower farming keeps you on your toes and you can constantly experiment. We live on such a beautiful island and I love that only a few miles down the road on a hot summer day we can go and cool off at the beach.
What is your favorite thing to come home to after a long day?
I am pretty fortunate my husband is an amazing cook and I always look forward to dinner with a cold margarita.
Name the biggest overall lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
You need to learn the word "No" sometimes. This has been hard for me as I do not like to disappoint.
Which of your traits are you most proud of?
Work ethic, organized, routine and attention to detail. That critical eye has served me well in farming. Scouting bugs and being in tune to what each plant needs, I am able to stop an issue before it starts. I could not handle the daily tasks of farming without being organized and having a routine with a young family. It avoids melt downs from everyone when routine is followed and you have a plan. Of course changes are constantly being made daily and we are all learning to be flexible at times.
Name your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your business experience?
When other growers compliment me on the high quality of my dahlias. When I started growing my flowers they were just okay. Over the years I have learned some wonderful skills to get longer stems, cutting them at the right stage of development and post harvest treatment to produce a higher quality bloom. We are pretty lucky as flower farmers that other growers are so helpful and sharing of knowledge.
Name a woman or women whom you admire or look up to?
My aunt Holly Howard. She was an amazing bedding plant grower. I spent many years at my aunt's greenhouse and watched as she balanced family and her business. Whenever I have a crossroad in my business, I always ask myself "what would Aunt Holly do?" I call her when I have a plant issue as she is the plant whisperer. I also admire my Aunt Heidi Lessard. She can tackle an issue with a blink of an eye. I get my drive and organization skills from her. Lastly my aunt Helenna Livernois. Her floral design skills are amazing. The years of watching her design in the flower shop I use daily making farm bouquets and mason jar arrangements for the shed. I am pretty lucky to have had such amazing women surround me growing up. The Fountain Family has a drive like no other and doing your best was always emphasized!
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting out?
Offer quality and be nice- that will take care of the rest.
What inspires you as an entrepreneur?
For me I love that every seed, plant and bloom is nurtured by me. I love to make decisions based on my families needs and customers needs.
What does success mean to you?
That the blooms that I grow meet my high quality standard and exceed my customer's expectations. Achieving this goal with my young family is just icing on the cake.
If you could only grow one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?
Dahlias for sure!!!I love the challenge of them.
Favorite season for locally grown flowers?
Late summer/ early fall when dahlias are at their peak
What inspires you when you are building your brand?
Quality, quality, quality. I am constantly striving to meet every customers expectation.
What is one thing you couldn’t work without?
My headlamp. The cutting starts before the sun rises around here and a good headlamp helps you see what you are cutting.
What is one thing you never leave home without?
Kids snack bags and water bottles. Hungry kids are unproductive kids
If you weren’t flower farming anymore, what would you be doing?
I would be busy doing another project because I can't sit still.
What kind of music pumps you up?
LOL Kelly Clarkson's "What Doesn't Kill You, Makes You Stronger"
Favorite ice cream flavor?
What does your day-to-day look like?
It changes throughout the highs and lows of the seasons but a typical day looks like this during cutting season.
I am up by 3am. My husband has already got the coffee ready and I grab my coffee and zone into the computer for a good half hour checking email and slowly I wake up as I come up with the plan of attack for the day. I generally have my breakfast of oatmeal and banana and I am out the door to the garage to fill the wagon with buckets. By 4:00AM I am out in the field cutting away by head lamp and tractor light and slowly work my way through the list and the rows. As the sun rises, I hopefully am done with all the dahlias and head back to the garage to dry them out from the dew or pack them into the cooler. I need to be in the house by 7:00AM to wake my sleeping children, which by the way, the younger two greet me in the field well before 7. I head in to feed my children breakfast and off to school. My youngest and I head back around 8:00AM to process flowers or finish picking the rest of the list. I fill the retail stand by the house and make small bouquets for the stand at this time. If it is Wednesday or Friday I hit the road for delivery. I am back by noon, which means lunch and answering emails during the hottest part of the day. The youngest naps and if it is summer the big kids have reading time. I do my mowing while they are resting. After that it is time to feed them snack and back out we go. Sunscreen and hats and I try to set up sprinkler fun or give them a fun job. My oldest, who is 9, loves to drive the lawn tractor and wagon. He hauls out the big sand toys and last summer the kids happily played for hours making a dam in the irrigation stream. I try to do any weeding or seeding as I grow in black plastic and it is cooler during this time of day. My husband is home by 5:00PM and I eagerly wait for him to pull in as that is my sign to rally the kids. We gather all the toys throughout the row, turn on the drip irrigation and head into the house. From July to end of September this the routine. Some days you are weeding or seeding more. You can get lost in the work and it is nice to break it up when designers come to pick up. We talk about the upcoming events that they are using the blooms for. I love to see my regular stand customers to catch up with them on what they are doing and seeing young children picking out blooms with their parents. I feel blessed to do an array of things on a daily basis. Life is certainly not boring.
You are a mom of three, like me. How do you balance mom-life and work-life?
It is by far the biggest challenge. I am routine by nature and sticking to that routine has helped me tremendously. I try to get the bulk of work done early before they rise for my sanity. As the business has grown, I have learned to set priorities and know our families limits. I think as a mom you become really good at multi tasking. My children are also helpful by playing with the youngest and knowing when to be quiet during delivery or a phone call. It was slow building the business when the children were young. As the kids have gotten older, things have changed. I am faced this season with a middle school-er which means earlier bus and more homework for sure. My kids are active in sports and my husband and I love that time on the field to just watch them. I am very blessed that my kids love this life. They love being outside and working together as a family. They think it is fun and I have found that if you have that attitude they will too! I am also grateful that I have such flexible designers who have given me this opportunity. They understand when on rare occasions things need to be shifted as someone is sick. I work with such awesome people and so that makes my job even better. I am blessed to have a supportive spouse that makes amazing dinner, lunches, fixes equipment when broken, land preps for me and is such an involved father. I am not doing this alone. Oh, and I have help around the house with the cleaning- which I wish I did sooner!!!
Do you get the kids involved in the farm?
They are very involved in the farm. When my oldest, age 9, is not in school he is the tractor driver and goes along slowly in the rows as I cut into the buckets. My daughter, age 7, loves to seed with me in the greenhouse and deadhead old blooms. The oldest two also love to clean buckets- which usually entails a crazy water war. I miss them when they go back to school as I hate to clean buckets! They make it look so fun. The youngest, age 4, is into all things tractors and dirt. He is my side-kick and will drag his construction toys to wherever I am working in the field. Everything takes longer when you have children because you have to take a lot of breaks. I love at the end of the day they have played and are so filthy they need to have a pre-shower before entering the house. It is so important to my husband and I that they are able to participate in some capacity and be out in nature. We all get to be together and work for a goal. Some days are very trying and you scratch your head thinking what are you doing. But generally when I look up the kids are laughing and smiling and you get reassurance for another day.
If you had 1,000,000 today, what would you do with it?
Put it in the bank and save it for retirement.
Phototgraher: Amy Rodrigues
Farm: The Dahlia Shed- Middletown, Rhode Island