Meet the Farmer

Meet the Farmer


I am excited to wrap up the 2017 season with one last "Meet the Farmer" blog post. This week I am featuring the talented farmer, Anna Jane Kocon.  Anna Jane has been part of The Local Bouquet family since the beginning, when I first started this company back in 2013. I was one of her first weekly customers when she began her company, Little State Flower Co. in 2014, so my relationship with Anna has always held a special place in my heart. We have watched each other build our companies, supporting one another along the way as female entrepreneurs and as people who believe in the local flower movement. 

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Anna Jane and I first met at a farmer-florist pot luck dinner one chilly winter evening at a fellow flower farmer's home. At the time, Anna Jane was in the very beginning stages of starting her company. I remember this young and spunky chick who shared the same locally grown mission as me and who clearly had a great work and business ethic. I could tell from our first encounter that this girl was solid and that somehow our paths would cross again soon. Business cards were exchanged and we went on our separate ways that evening. 

A few months later, Anna Jane called to re-introduce herself and initiate what would become a beautiful and supportive business relationship. Anna shared more with me about her new company, Little State Flower Co., her mission to grow some of the best blooms in our little state of Rhode Island and her vision to provide floral designers like me with fresh and season blooms.

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What did you want to be when you were growing up? A veterinarian, everyone knows I love the fuzzy creatures of the world!

Why flowers? Flower farming combines art and farming on a daily basis. Our products are based on aesthetic….color, shape, texture, etc. AND we work primarily with florists and designers who are working to achieve a certain theme or vibe in their projects. So there is a lot of creative conversations that go on with my clients.

How did you come up with the name of your company? It took a very long time to come up with our company name. We were searching for something that was very local Rhode Island, with no specific gender, definitely not too whimsical and with a nod toward nautical. Also, we do not own a farm, we work several leased parcels so calling it a ‘farm’ did not make sense to us either...Hence choosing ‘company’ rather than farm.

When did you start Little State Flower Co.? Founded November 2014, first season selling was 2015

How many years experience did you have before you started this company? For about 10 years I farmed along with teaching adjunct drawing and art history at the Community College of Rhode Island, before I started Little State Flower Co.

How many acres are you currently growing on? We are currently farming 5 acres. 

How many different crops? I am not totally sure. It can change depending on the time of year...and now we have planted large amounts of perennials so I am not totally sure....probably close to 100-120? 

How big is your team? I have two field employees and one florist that work for me. Also my husband is heavily involved in equipment and structure maintenance etc.  and we have periodic helpers that pop in and out for specific jobs or when we need more sets of hands involved...such as dahlia digging/processing and putting up greenhouses.

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What inspires you when you are building your brand? I am super proud and dedicated to growing organically. I am also inspired by the flower movement that is happening in our country right now. I love being part of the resurrection of the US flower farmer. We are working to show florists and designers there is another way to do things. You can, quite literally, think outside the box.

What inspires you as an entrepreneur? Independence and creativity. I love to be in control of my days, my year, and of my money. I am not a control freak, in fact I love delegating. Before LSFCo, I worked for so many other people...I worked the hours they wanted me to, for the pay rate that they were willing to pay me, and did whatever they needed or wanted me to do all within THEIR vision. Though I am very thankful for the invaluable experiences I gained during these times...once I started LSFCo, I realized how little control I had for so many years day in and day out. I now feel I control everything about my life and my company and all within my own creative vision. Obviously there are issues and difficulties with being self employed, but I would say the same about working for someone else too.

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting out?“Crawl before you walk, walk before you run” I have taken this to heart and really believe trialing new and different crops before going big with them.

Name the biggest  lesson you’ve learned in running a business? Surround yourself with smart and positive people.  “Heavy wears the crown”  and my crew is a bunch of smart women (and one man…) who keep me laughing and help me stay focused on the positive. Both these things are invaluable to me.  

Name your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your business experience? The accessibility that people feel to my company. I work very hard to market our product and our brand every day through social media. I love to show people how we are building our dream and this has really translated into a story that people are wanting to be a part of.

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Which of your traits are you most proud of? My ability to make something out of nothing or very little...I built this company with my little savings account and a unique vision and I am very proud of that. I have earned every single thing we own now from hard work and a strong vision.

Name a woman or women whom you admire or look up to? Lark Roderigues, the woman who owns the first of my leased land parcels. Lark is also self employed and owns two successful, yet unconventional businesses that I have worked with her on periodically over the years. She has always showed me that there is another way to be in the world. When she offered to lease the 2 acres to start Little State Flower Co,  she looked right at me and said  “I know you can do it. I know you can 100%” and I believed her. Without her giving me the opportunity and encouragement, Little State Flower Co would never have existed.

What does success mean to you? At this point, success is being happy and proud of my project. I feel proud to say I own LSFCo, a business I have built with my own strong back, my own mind and my own money.


Favorite season for locally grown flowers? Fall...definitely Autumn! Especially in New England. The temperatures cool down and the work starts to shift towards Fall planting and planning for the following season...I love planting planning and conceptualizing all the possibilities of the next season.

If you could only grow one thing for the rest of your life what would it be? Lisianthus. There is just something so remarkable about the strength and toughness of such a seemingly delicate flower. We are growing over 10,000 plants of it in 2018!

What is one thing you couldn’t work without? Food. It takes a lot of food to keep this machine running!

What kind of music pumps you up? I do not listen to music to get pumped up...My days are so busy and complicated I actually listen to music to relax and decompress. I have always leaned towards calming music.

What is one thing you never leave home without? My clippers!!!! One never knows when a cutting opportunity will present itself.


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What's one of your biggest dreams for Little State Flower Co. in the coming years? To be able to round out the seasons with flower options for my clients. We are great at Summer and Fall, but definitely need to work on Spring production and that is specifically what the new high tunnels are for.  We are also focusing on early season perennial bulbs such as hyacinth and fritillaria, etc.

Any predictions for floral trends for 2018 for the local flower scene?  In the New England area the color trends have been the same for a long time, whites and greens, blushes, peaches, grey foliages...and then heading towards Fall there is a high demand for burgundy flowers and dark foliages.  I do believe that the flower farming scene is very strong specifically in Rhode Island and I think that a coming trend is that florists and designers are going to start seeking new options from us specifically, local and interesting options that are not offered from the import market for one reason or another or simply do not ship well. I think that WE (local flower farmers) will start creating the local flower trends by simply working with the seasonality of New England.

If you weren’t flower farming anymore, what would you be doing? Probably teaching drawing or painting. I still teach adjunct now at CCRI and I love it.

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Photographer: Maaike Bernstrom

Farm: Little State Flower Co. Portsmouth, Rhode Island







Meet the Farmer

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.

Why flowers?
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?
Coffee Oreo

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

Meet the Farmer

I have been dreaming about sharing a more in-depth, behind the scenes look into The Local Bouquet so that our readers and followers can get to know us more and feel a deeper connection with our brand. To do that, I have designed a special "Friday Feature" that I will be writing once a month showcasing one of the amazing flower farmers that I work directly with to source all of the flowers and foliages you see in our designs. These articles will be a Q&A style interview, highlighting topics such as girl-boss, flower farming, and even fun facts about the woman behind the brand. My hope is that this monthly article will inspire us all to get out and achieve those big, beautiful dreams we have for ourselves, because these ladies sure are! 

 This week I talked with the talented, kind, and generous farmer, Phoebe Poole, owner of Weatherlow Florals. Weatherlow Florals is located in the coastal and rural town of Westport, MA and is part of Weatherlow Farms. Their 200 rolling acres of pasture, field, woodlands, and wetlands are home to a growing abundance of livestock, wildlife and Phoebe's beautiful flowers!

 Phoebe had eight years of growing experience before she started Weatherlow Florals in 2016.  Her past farm experience included vegetable and livestock farming, as well as edible and cut flower production. During the off-season, she can be found traveling, visiting other farms for inspiration, and pouring over seed catalogs. Phoebe lives in Dartmouth MA with her farm dog, Daisy.

Read my interview with her to learn more about this amazing farmer making big waves in the local flower movement!

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A veterinarian and a marine biologist!

Why flowers?
Because they’re challenging, there are endless varieties and new things to learn, and you can fit a lot in a small space!

How did you come up with the name of your company?
I’m the flower arm of Weatherlow Farms, so therefore Weatherlow Florals.

What inspires you as you are building your brand?

What is your favorite thing about your farm?
Our high tunnels - they extend the season earlier into the spring, and later into the fall, and protect crops from our strong spring winds!

What inspires you as an entrepreneur?
Sustainability, both business-wise and farming-wise - making the community and the soil better through growing and selling flowers.

Name the biggest overall lesson you’ve learned in running your business?
Setting realistic goals and sticking to them.

Name your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your business? Go ahead, brag a little!
Emailing incredible floral designers that I’ve admired forever and getting an email back!

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting out?
Write a business plan.

What does success mean to you?
Helping to meet the demand for local flowers and foliages, and inspiring more demand!

Favorite season for locally grown flowers?
Early spring - flowering branches and bulbs, sweet peas and anemones. Enough said!

If you could only grow one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?
Poppies for sure - which is cheating because there are so many varieties - because they are delicate but have amazing impact.

Name a woman or women whom you admire or look up to?
Very cliche, but Erin Benzakein of Floret Flowers in Washington state. She is an incredibly talented flower grower and business person.

What is one thing you couldn’t work without?
Good, sharp clippers.

What is one thing you never leave home without?
Same - good, sharp clippers! They’re always in the car, just in case I see some neat foliage by the side of the road!

What is your favorite thing to come home to after a long day? 
A glass of wine and a flower magazine - and my sweet dog, Daisy.

What kind of music pumps you up?
Terrible 90s pop!

Favorite ice cream flavor?
Mint chocolate chip.

If you weren’t flower farming anymore, what would you be doing?
Raising dairy goats.

Which of your traits are you most proud of?



If you enjoyed this interview and want to visit Weatherlow Farms and learn first hand from Phoebe, consider joining us this summer at our Farmer Florist Series- "Dahlia Dreaming". For more information to reserve your seat for this beautiful and informative workshop click on the link below:

Photographer: Erin McGinn
Venue: Weatherlow Farms