Non-imported and sustainably grown flowers
Becky Devlin’s slogan is “the small farm charm,” and that’s a perfect way to start my story of this 38-year-old mom of four who grows more than 100 varieties of fresh-cut flowers.
Back Bay Flower Co. is based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. For you gardeners, that’s USDA Zone 8, which makes for relatively mild seasons. Becky can even grow some of her crops in winter – imagine, tulips, ranunculus and anemones in a hoop-house for Christmas or Valentine’s Day!
This flower farmer uses sustainable practices on seven acres. That Becky raises more flowers than children or chickens is pretty impressive, considering she’s mom to a quartet of offspring ages 2 to 13 — and she’s lost count of the flock total.
“Being home with my children has always been a top priority for me,” she says. “Growing flowers is something I’ve been able to do and also be here at home with them.” Now that the two youngest, ages 2 and 4, attend preschool a few days each week, Becky marvels at “how much you can get done in a couple of hours.”
I learned about Becky last year when Amy Stewart posted a Facebook announcement about this flower farmer’s efforts to fund and launch an online organic flower market. Through Kickstarter.com, a site often used to incubate artists and crafts persons, Becky solicited donations for her web-based venture.
The effort didn’t generate the $2,000 investment she needed, but it did serve as a valuable experiment. “The first time around, I didn’t really know what was involved,” she says. “The marketing and promotion was completely up to me and I caught onto that towards the end of the project.”
She promoted it as the “Sustainable Flower Nationwide CSA.” In exchange for pledging financial support in the form of flower crop “shares,” investors receive bouquets in the mail throughout the season. How cool is that? The botanical CSA is similar to Community Supported Agriculture farms that deliver produce to subscribers each week. The only difference is that now, Becky’s “local” flowers are actually available to anyone in the U.S., shipped overnight.
For my $200 pledge, I can expect to receive six months of bouquets. Becky will also feature me as a charter member on her web site (which is ideal, since I hope her customers will be interested in learning more about A Fresh Bouquet, even before it is published).
Becky’s goal was to raise $2,000 through Kickstarter. Her fundraising continues through March 28th and the great news is that she has already generated $2,400 and 28 backers who invested $25 and up, just to see this eco-flower CSA germinate and bloom. You can still get in on this wonderful sustainable flower movement for a few more days.
Becky plans to call the online business Roost Flowers & Designs, in honor of the chickens that live on her farm. “Our free-range chickens add lots of free fertilizer to our soil and give us yummy eggs as a bonus,” she writes in a description of the CSA. “As a result of our growing methods, our flowers are vibrant, healthy and long-lasting.”
As a small-farm fundraiser, Becky credits her success the second time around to social media. “The first time, I didn’t have a fan page. It wasn’t until I put myself out there on Facebook and started tweeting about my project that I got people excited about what I’m doing.” (You can follow her on Twitter and connect with her on Facebook).
When her site launches, Becky will promote it using multimedia. “My plan is to have lots of photographs. We also want to post the video of the week so customers can actually see how their flowers are planted and harvested and how the bouquet is made. Even though we are selling nationally, it will still feel local.”
Roost Flowers & Design will have several features for mail-order customers. “We plan on shipping year-round. We also hope to sell bunches and bouquets – and appeal to DIY brides who want to do their own flowers,” Becky says. I can’t wait to see what type of farm-fresh flowers will arrive in my mailbox, beginning in May.
Here is her description of what I can expect to receive:
In addition to being sustainably grown, we grow over 100 varieties of top quality flowers that would rival any big-city flower market. Our spring season starts off with tulips, ranunculus, sweet peas, snapdragons, cherry blossoms and other fragrant yummies. Summer kicks into gear with giant lilies, sunflowers, hydrangea, dahlias and a huge variety of other unique beauties. Fall is a bevy of texture and color with berries, pods and new colors and varieties of some summer favorites. We move to the hoop-house in winter where we force amaryllis, anemones, more tulips & ranunculus…..
This is all while still raising and delivering homegrown stems and blooms to customers at her local Old Beach Farmer’s Market and supplying high-end eco-floral designers in Manhattan, just hours away.
And yet, with all this productivity, Becky is pleased to receive the frequent phone call from someone eager to drive to Back Bay Flowers and pick up a single bunch of sunflowers. “We’re located 40 minutes from most places in Virginia, but people are still dying to come here and enjoy the romance of it all.”
Remember, it’s the small farm charm.
Just a few more shots, courtesy of Becky Devlin, that I wanted to share. We plan on following her efforts and including a story about Becky in our new book!