if/when

Dear Readers,

I’m in my pajamas as I write this, sipping coffee. No buckets to fill for harvest, no emails to return; just a quiet morning on the farm.

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Winter brings a shocking change of pace. There is plenty to do, but we have three beautifully slow months to complete next season’s crop plan, buy a delivery van, hire more people, clean up Quickbooks…

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It’s hard to believe, but this season was our 6th in business. Here’s what I wrote 6 years ago as I started seeds for my first ever season:

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One day, if/when I have a hoop house or a greenhouse, I’ll be able to continue work outside into the winter; but for now, I have to wait until mid-February to start sowing seeds under the shop lights in my apartment. Ahhhh waiting! Why is it so hard!? (My future self will read this post and sigh over the good old days, when I had time off from farm work in the winter.)

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I was right that I’d have a greenhouse (plus two hoophouses!), but I was wrong about sighing over working through the winter. So far I’m loving it! Stepping into that cozy greenhouse and smelling the plants on a chilly winter’s day is the best thing ever.

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Looking back before the season begins again… that’s winter! And, on the subject of winter work… we just opened registration for our new and improved CSA program! Check it out here.

All of these photos are by the wonderful farm and portrait photographer Seana at Seana Shuchart Photography.

I wish you all a little pride in how far you’ve come!

Laura Beth

frost is near

Dear Readers,

We’re having a two-day T shirt sale! Our T’s are SUPER soft, great for sleeping, stocking stuffers, and everyday wear. Seriously, I wear mine every day!

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Usually, the end of the season means naps and office work in my pajamas. This fall is a little different. We’re scrambling to finish our new greenhouse so we can start planting.

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Jascha and I are also going on a road trip across the country in November, which means getting lots of ducks in a row before we head out.

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A killing frost could happen any day now, so we’re harvesting our last armfuls of flowers and turning our attention to other projects. Greenhouse, fall planting, cleanup, organizing…

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I do love this time of year. It’s chilly enough in the morning for a hat, but then the sun comes out and feels so good!

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Soon enough, all of these dahlia plants will be gone, and a dormant winter field will replace them.

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I wish you all a fuzzy fall hat! Oh yeah, and a Butterbee T!

Laura Beth

*Photos by L.A. Birdie Photography

breathe- it's october

Dear Readers,

It’s been an emotional ride. We were just short of devastated by flooding rains all of September. But, we also had particularly kind and enthusiastic florists and wedding couples this fall. I’m so grateful to each of our customers for their dedication to our farm!

 Vasilki Photography

Vasilki Photography

Now that we’re past the hurricane, I’m remembering how truly great this season has been despite the weather stress.

One big success this fall was our eucalyptus field (above), we’ll plant even more next season!

 Urban Row Photography

Urban Row Photography

We also enjoyed our best lisianthus year ever (above), and first crop of smokebush (the dark foliage on the right below), which smells like a wood stove when we cut it. Yum!

 Vasilki Photography

Vasilki Photography

Our team this year has been ROCKING. Peter, Courtney, Sam, Nancy, Jess, Ben, and our fairy godpartners Jascha and Spencer, trudged through mud for days to get flowers harvested and off to their homes in bouquets and vases.

 Urban Row Photography

Urban Row Photography

And our tunnel build team (you know who you are!) worked every sunny weekend on our new greenhouse, giving me heart when things got frustrating and helping me take the whole thing a little less seriously.

 Vasilki Photography

Vasilki Photography

More and more, I think- what would this farm be without the beautiful souls who give it love? Our team, our customers, our neighbors and friends- they breathe more life into this farm than I ever could alone.

 Urban Row Photography

Urban Row Photography

Thank you, friends!

I wish you all a little time outside on this beautiful October week!

Laura Beth

a diy maryland wedding

Dear Readers,

Wedding season has begun! We provide bulk flowers to couples who want to DIY (Do It Yourself) their weddings. This season, we're providing flowers for some or all of about 40 weddings!

 L.A. Birdie Photography

L.A. Birdie Photography

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Sarah and Scott got married in early August of this year, and it was extra special to grow their reception flowers. They've both worked at Butterbee, and we lived together for about a year before we moved to the farm. They are downright good people, the kind that make you glad about life!

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I so enjoyed being a part of the design crew the day before the wedding. The couple had about 15 friends and family gathered at the venue, where we put together the entire reception's flowers in under two hours! It was lovely to meet people dear to Scott and Sarah while playing with flowers.

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Sarah's friend Molly writes a food blog called Spices in my DNA, and she made the cake, decorated and surrounded by our flowers!

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We had such a good time at the wedding, where so many dear friends were also in attendance. Lindsay Anne from L.A. Birdie did the photography; she and I joke that she's the photographer at every single wedding I go to! Also look how she's rocking that fanny pack!

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I'm so grateful for Sarah and Scott, for hosting the best party of the summer, buying local flowers, and being all around wonderful. Congratulations dear friends!

I wish you all a good last-of-the-summer party!

Laura Beth

a little happiness

Dear Readers,

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions I've gotten recently, and the answers!

FAQ: Has the rain affected our growing season?

Yes. Flooding on the farm means that the plants' roots are sitting in water, which causes rot in some cases. We're lucky that we're on a hill, so only the plants at the very bottom are struggling.

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FAQ: What's happening on the farm these days?

Peter, our Crops Manager, just got back from a well-deserved vacation, so I'm catching up on office work today while he catches up on tidying the farm with weed whacking. This week, we're going to harvest, tie up our dahlias so they don't flop over, weed, and hopefully we'll have time to fix our deer fence.

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Also, it's August, which means that we just had our annual Headcrown Class with Local Color Flowers. It's SO FUN. I have no idea why putting flowers on my head makes me feel like Queen Laura Beth...

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but it DOES.

FAQ: What's your favorite flower on the farm right now?

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I love the pink sedum (it's that purply-pink succulent above) right now! It's such a good texture. I love berries too- I put tons of blackberries in my headcrown! And, we're getting into herbal foliage season- rosemary, sage, eucalyptus, and lemon verbena are all favorites.

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FAQ: What can we do to help farmers as global warming makes their jobs super insane?

You don't have to buy all of your groceries from the farmers market, and you don't have to deprive yourself of bouquets at Trader Joe's.

But, you can buy from a farmer just once every week- a big, ripe tomato from the Saturday market, or a few sunflowers for the kitchen table, or that bunch of kale that says "Local" on it at at Wegman's. Get into the habit of buying local every week, just a little bit, and see how good it makes you feel!

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Investing in each other- in our friendships, our communities, our local businesses- is a happy-making endeavor. I don't know anyone who couldn't use a little more happiness right now!

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Thanks so much to BaM Co Create for the photos, and Brittney, Jess, and Ellen at Local Color Flowers for doing this class with me every year!

I wish you all a little happiness!

Laura Beth

Blooms and Bouquets 2018

Dear Readers,

Put 50 flower farmers in the room and you're bound to have a wonderful day. 

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Julio Freitas of The Flower Hat was our guest speaker, all the way from Montana! Ellen Frost from Local Color Flowers and Dave Dowling, President of the ASCFG, and I spoke too, on topics like building flower walls, growing good lisianthus, using Instagram to market your business, and planning your season.

 We had three breakout sessions: the Business of Farming (me), Principles of Design (Ellen and Julio), and Success at Farmers Markets (Dave). It was our first time doing breakouts at this workshop and we'll definitely do it in the future! I loved my group!

We had three breakout sessions: the Business of Farming (me), Principles of Design (Ellen and Julio), and Success at Farmers Markets (Dave). It was our first time doing breakouts at this workshop and we'll definitely do it in the future! I loved my group!

 This is my face when I talk about spreadsheets.

This is my face when I talk about spreadsheets.

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We usually hold the full day workshop in the barn, but due to heavy rain, we moved over to our landlords' house for much of the day. Now they have 50 more grateful farmer friends!

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The day began with a farm tour and ended with the flower wall design. Volunteers from the group made the wall go up before our eyes, while Ellen and Julio narrated.

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I say it every year when we do this workshop and it feels true again: this is the best day of the summer for me! Flower farming is a labor of love, and these amazing women (and 2 men) are doing great work out in the world. Their energy is infectious!

 Thanks for the photos, LA Birdie Photography!

Thanks for the photos, LA Birdie Photography!

Aaaaand we went to get ice cream after, as one does...

 Behind the scenes heroes of the day were Jess (on the right) and Jascha (to her left) and Eric (holding the camera). Couldn't have done it without you three!!

Behind the scenes heroes of the day were Jess (on the right) and Jascha (to her left) and Eric (holding the camera). Couldn't have done it without you three!!

I wish you all happy day!

Laura Beth

what's better than summer

Dear Readers,

Happy July! Now that spring wedding season is done, we can take a breath.

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There's a lot to do around the farm to prepare for fall: planting, weeding, seeding, and believe it or not, planning next year's spring crops.

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Check out our upcoming events, like our Photography Contests and Farm ToursThere's always something new to see on the farm as the seasons change.

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We're also super excited for our adults-only Nature Walk (because what's better than strolling through flower fields with a beer in hand), and our annual Headcrown Class with Local Color Flowers. We celebrate summer right over here, join us!

You can see a full list of our upcoming events at www.butterbeefarm.com/visit. I wish you all a VERY cold lemonade!

Laura Beth

the harvest

Dear Readers,

Every morning, we fill buckets and head out to the field to harvest. When we've picked everything on the list, we move on to deliveries, weeding, planting, or whatever else needs to be done- and there's always something!

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Often, the work here is monotonous, uncomfortable, and a general pain in the butt. Harvesting, though...it's exactly as glorious as it looks.

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We're always trying to be faster and more precise when harvesting, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the fact that we're in a flower field, picking flowers!

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The abundance of our fields is the direct result of you- the community behind it. The list of people who contribute here at the farm is really, really long, and there isn't a single harvest that goes by without me feeling overwhelmingly grateful. Volunteers, CSA members, florists, our stellar crops manager, part time helpers, and interns, neighbors who put up with us daily, parents, friends...

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Harvesting is a daily dose of the miraculous reality: we are alive!

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Sometimes I can't believe this is my life. And then I get swarmed by mosquitos. :) 

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These photos are by our dear friend and photographer Lindsay Anne of L.A. Birdie Photography. To all the Dads out there in our village- we love you! Happy Father's Day this weekend! I wish you all a good summer book.

Laura Beth

spring and a bounce

Dear Readers,

We rarely open up the farm, but when we do, it's just so fun to share everything we're doing here! Come and see us on our three Farm Tour dates. he farm looks better than ever this season- thanks, awesome farm crew!!

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I know I've been complaining a lot about ranunculus being hard to grow and finicky and a general pain in the you-know-what, but...I mean...

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I changed my mind. It's so pretty! It's glorious! It's wonderful! I'm growing more next year! 

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I'm so excited about farming again! Perfectly sunny days, new blooms like this foxglove, and getting big projects done around the farm have put the bounce back in my step. That's the magic of spring.

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Next up: peonies.

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I wish you all a visit your local farmer's market this weekend!

Laura Beth

Punny

Dear Readers,

Two weeks late, we've got tulips! Tulips are always third to bloom in the field, right after daffodils and hellebores. I'm so grateful to see the buds flush with color after this long, tough winter.

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We PULL tulips rather than cut them, since much of their stem length is under the ground. They pull right up with a satisfying POP. Then they need to be washed, bunched with rubber bands, and packed away in our cooler.

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Someone asked me today how I stay sane with such crazy weather on the farm. My immediate response was that I have an amazing farm team. When it's windy and snowing and freezing, as it was for much of the last month, we turn to each other for support and a laugh.

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Jascha and I were super excited to get some help on the farm from our new crops manager Peter, but we couldn't have predicted what a joy it would be to have him around. Not only is Peter is kicking butt and taking names around here, but he is also thinking of ways to be punny about 87% of the time. 

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Oh hey, we got T shirts! We normally don't sell them on our website, but right now we're holding a T shirt sale that ends Wednesday night. Get one while you can, details here!

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I wish you all a good pun.

Laura Beth

badass women

Dear Readers,

We co-hosted the Creative Entrepreneur, a small business workshop for women, on Monday. The barn was cozy with 36 participants and 8 speakers.

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I was a ball of nervous energy before the workshop started... there were about to be so many badass women in the room, and I wanted to give them an amazing day!

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Thanks to our wonderful speakers, the workshop was just what I'd hoped it could be. Here are some notes I wrote throughout the day:

Strategy is about saying "no."

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Set measurable targets.

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Have a diverse team so that there are people who belong

to minority groups in the room, thinking with you. 

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Ask yourself "why?" 7 times to understand the problem.

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Hire people the second you need them; it's an investment that pays off.

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Setting boundaries is more about loving yourself than it is about putting up walls.

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Pursue service to the community along with having a financially sustainable business.

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Imagine your audience; create characters that your business serves,

and then cater your marketing to their needs.

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You could almost see the barn glowing with energy and the happy light of women sharing with women. 

I wish you all a spring weekend!

Laura Beth

winter (spring??) update

Dear Readers,

Winter storms, bone-freezing temperatures, wind, hail- the farm has seen it all in the past few weeks. 

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We're lucky that no major damage was done to our infrastructure. But, we did discover a fungal disease called botrytis on our ranunculus, likely caused by too much humidity under frost blankets.

I'll be a little fidgety for the next few days, until I know whether our precautions against botrytis is working (extra ventilation, new frost cloth, organic-certified fungicides, plant probiotics).

 last season's ranunculus blooms

last season's ranunculus blooms

In other news, our new logo is finished! Artist Paige Vickers did a beautiful job. 

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Oh, and another happy piece of news: our Funding your Small Farm class in April filled up so fast that we added another class in May! Sign up and details here.

I wish you all a crisp hard cider and a good comfort movie, preferably starring Meg Ryan.

Laura Beth

Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter email list, so you can read our monthly blog posts! 
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hear ye!

Dear Readers,

Hear ye, hear ye (I've been watching Game of Thrones. Better late than never, right?)...

Did you know about our open houses at the farm? Bring your husband, your kiddos, your parents, or your awkward first date for a lovely morning strolling through our flower fields. Make a bouquet to take home, of course!

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If you need flowers in your life, you can pick up flowers here at the farm on Friday afternoons, or we can deliver them right to your door. We are offering a very limited number of subscriptions this year, so pretend the White Walkers are coming for you and sign up soon!

 
 

If you're an amateur photographer, you'll be delighted to know that we have FREE photography contests. Winners get lots and lots of flowers. If you're a professional photographer, guess what- we're holding our first ever contest just for you! Again, space is limited, so sign up soon.

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Headcrown class is back! This day is always pure joy. And if you're into farming, or have been dying to meet Julio Freitas of The Flower Hat, you'll want to sign up for our farmer-florist intensive.

There are many more events at the farm in the works. The best way to stay up to date is to follow us on Instagram at @butterbee_farm, or to subscribe to our monthly blog posts like this one:

Farming is fun, but it would be lonely and sad without community. We hope our farm is a place where you can come to have fun with loved ones, or to smell sweet grass and fresh air, or learn something new. 

Can't wait to see ye! I wish ye a Long Summer and a pint of ale.

Laura Beth

the paradox

Dear Readers,

January is a standoff between me and my imperfections. I prefer being too busy to think about them.

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But in winter, there's nothing for it but to face the enormous chasms in my knowledge.

For example: I want to build a heated high tunnel for winter growing. But I know nothing about plumbing, electricity, or winter growing.

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I'm not being humble, I actually know zero things that I need to know. 

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So, for the last few weeks, I've been doing the hard, painful work of trying to learn things that are beyond my skill level so I can buy the darned thing. 

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Thankfully, Steve at Sunny Meadows Flower Farm in Ohio agreed to consult with me on the project, so I had a trusty Jedi master on my team. After several priceless hours on the phone with him, many high tunnel quotes, and an infinite maze (which I am still in the midst of) with BGE, I bought the tunnel yesterday!

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I don't feel much better about my capabilities, but if there's one thing I've learned about owning a business, it's that you just have to DO it. So I'm settling into the paradox that I can't do it because I don't know how, and I can do it because I am, well, doing it.

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To commemorate the uncertainty, this post is filled with photos of flaws on the farm, from weedy beds to bent flower heads. Many thanks to photographer Julie from Julie's Journey for finding them beautiful.

I wish you all the timely appearance of a Jedi master.

Laura Beth

a pop of champagne

Dear Readers,

'Tis the season for bubbly, so I'll share our favorite champagne story of the year.

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My best friend Jean and her fiance Mark wanted white, green, and a pop of champagne for their wedding colors. Naturally, they got the special hookup for flowers.

The Wednesday before the wedding day, we packed the van with dahlias, eucalyptus, succulents, and more, and drove over to Local Color Flowers. Everything they touch is magical, so I knew our flowers were in good hands!

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Because I was in the wedding, I couldn't help Local Color Flowers set up, but it was so fun watching them adorn the tent with our blooms.

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(I have to admit I pitched in a little. I couldn't help it!)

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L.A. Birdie Photography caught this one of Jean making me laugh before the ceremony. After 18 years of friendship, Jean's a pro at that.

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Here's to dear friends, abundance, love, and a promising new year! (Clink!)

Laura Beth

making change

Dear Readers,

I recently heard someone describe entrepreneurship as an exploration of self. But in addition to growing up inside, entrepreneurs manifest personal change outside of ourselves, in the form of our creative projects, for all the world to see.

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The farm is expanding in many directions. As I become ready for bigger risks and challenges, the farm reflects my growth. 

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We're building a heated greenhouse for winter growing, which will one day provide work for a full-time employee and allow us to grow flowers for Valentine's Day (a long held dream of mine). We're planting evergreen and magnolia trees, so that when Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around, we'll be busy cutting branches for wreaths. 

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Peter Sparklin (native Baltimorean, experienced farmer, and all-around wonderful person) will join our team full time as Crops Manager. Nancy Bjornard (native South Dakotan, long-time flower farmer, and bad-ass mom) will join the crew part time. We've also got some farmer trainees through the Beginning Farmer Training Program at Future Harvest CASA, which will make Thursdays the most fun day of the week.

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The biggest team we've ever had means we can do a lot more. We're doubling our annual production, putting in raspberries and blueberries for cutting, making new delivery routes to Annapolis and Frederick, adding classes at the farm... what are we not doing?!

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Being a business doesn't mean we're only about profit. One of my favorite business owners (Ellen Frost, I'm talking about you) taught me that for-profit businesses can be focused on making the world a better place. I've been thinking about that a lot lately. How am I making the world better? What can we do to make even more change?

I wish you a thoughtful Wednesday.

Laura Beth

british biscuit

Dear Readers,

After a weekend in bed with the flu, I'm now emerging from The Great British Baking Show and Gilmore Girls to confront fall cleanup on the farm.

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Unlike the anxious bakers in The Great British Baking Show, I get to dig dahlias at my own pace. The goal is to get them out of the ground by Thanksgiving, which is generally a good "end" date for all fall cleanup tasks. 

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Other than dahlia digging, there's peony planting, spreading cover crop, getting the tunnels ready for ranunculus and anemones, and a little harvesting here and there. 

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We are having a peony planting party this Sunday from 9:30 to 11:30 am. Contact me at butterbeefarm@gmail.com if you'd like to join! We will have coffee, and volunteers will take succulents home!

 Photos by the wonderful  Julie's Journey Photography

Photos by the wonderful Julie's Journey Photography

I wish you all a British biscuit and a florentine. 

Laura Beth

behind the scenes

Dear Readers,

Last month, we asked our photographer friend, the amazing Paula B, to take some photos at the farm. We wanted shots of the flowery paradise that it is, but also some shots of the mundanity that is running this business.

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For example, every morning, it takes me about three tries to open the barn door. I'm pretty strong, but not very tall! It's a struggle.

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 Did it!

Did it!

As with any business that provides a product, we double and triple check invoices before packing up the truck to deliver flowers.

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There is, in general, a lot more note-taking than you might expect. How are the crops doing? How much is available? What needs to be done?

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We sometimes sit at a picnic table behind our house during meetings. It's a lot more fun to talk numbers when you're eating cookies, surrounded by farmland.

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Boots! There's a lot of shoe changing during the day. Waterproof muck boots in the morning, hiking boots in the afternoon once the dew dries, and flip flops if I have to walk back out to turn on the electric fences in the evening.

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These little, normal things make up a day at the farm. Other than the fact that normally I'm wearing dirty farm clothes, these photos are true to form!

I wish you all a little pleasure in something mundane this week.

Laura Beth

october at the farm

Dear Readers,

Every day starts when it's so dark out that I have to feel blindly around in my drawer for socks. I shine my phone's flashlight to get downstairs for peanut butter/honey/toast and some tea.

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Then, I head outside to fill buckets with water. Once I've packed the truck with buckets, snips, rubber bands, and they day's invoices, I drive over to the annual field and start cutting.

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Sometimes I listen to It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, the Startup Podcast, or Hello From the Magic Tavern. Or, I start the day with the new War on Drugs or Perfume Genius albums. Sometimes I just cut listening to the quiet early morning sounds of birds and crickets.

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I cut until I have to leave for deliveries. When I get back, Jascha and I have a sandwich or a salad together. Then I do emails, water the greenhouse, and head back outside for planting or more harvesting.

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The weather's so nice right now that work is a pleasure. Plus, it's October, which means the season will soon end, and I can take some time off. Excited!!

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Visitors to the farm also make working overtime worth it. Heck yeah, I'll work on a Saturday if it means meeting lovely and interesting people and sharing our flowers!

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My third grade teacher came to Bouquet Saturday this weekend! And one of our awesome new CSA members, and a photography contestant from earlier this summer. Our little community is growing all the time.

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At the end of each day, after dinner and some Parks and Rec, I crawl into bed at 9 pm (okaaay, sometimes it's more like 8:30) and turn out the light. Over the winter, I can stay up as late as I want- but for now, I have flowers to harvest, and places to take them.

I wish you all an October visit to your favorite local farm!

Laura Beth

a short one

Dear Readers,

We're selling a whole lot of flowers these days! Between weddings, florists, events on the farm, and our CSA, I barely have time to get the mail. But that's the way it should be this time of year.

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The big new announcement is that we've hired our first full time employee! He'll come on board in the early spring. I'll introduce him, and talk a bit about our growth, in a future post. 

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Gotta keep on harvesting, until frost comes in mid October. Then I can take a nap!

I wish you a hike in the woods,

Laura Beth