The leaves are falling, the weather is turning, and I’ve found myself reflecting on my first season of flower farming. I moved from Portland from Boulder, CO. a little over two years ago. On my first visit to Portland I went to the International Test Rose Garden and knew I had found my home. I called my friends and family and told them I wanted to move to Portland, that things don’t grow in Colorado like they do in Portland, that the trees even had things growing on them! I was in love. Shortly after finishing school I packed my degree in Buddhist and somatic psychology, and my two mini dachshunds and moved to Portland where I knew not a single person. The summer before I had moved I worked on a goat dairy farm and as a landscaper for my school and noticed that I was missing working on the land, but I moved late in the season and farms were closing down for winter, so I added myself to volunteer lists and forgot about it while settling into a job in social work, working with youth coming out of corrections. It was rewarding work, but heartbreaking and I quickly got burnt out. At this point spring was starting and I chose to take 2 months off of work to explore the magical city, take herbalism courses, and…volunteer on some farms. My first email requesting volunteers came through, a moment that was to change my life in ways I wasn’t anticipating. The first day I volunteered at a local urban flower farm I met the woman who ( didn’t realize it at the time) I would elope with and marry just a short six months later with a huge greek wedding planned for our year anniversary. We fell madly in love and I spent most of that summer on her farm learning everything I could. I loved it. I knew I had found where I belonged. As summer moved into winter and we began navigating the perils of relationship and marriage I began feeling a bit directionless, but did not know what I was seeking. My wife came to me one day and told me that one of her farmer friends was giving up his land to farm a bigger property and asked if we should rent the land, to which I said yes. As things began to play out I decided to rent the land by myself, still not having a clue what to do with it. And then, as if the most obvious thing in the world, I thought to myself..” I love flowers, things grow in Portland, why don’t I try to grow flowers?”, mind you, I had never grown a thing in my life so I was not entirely confident in this decision but I moved forward with it.
So here I was with a magical piece of land, and no clue what I was doing, but I was confident that with my wife at my side she would help guide me through the first year and we would live happily ever after growing flowers and vegetables, raising little farm babies…
Well, as they often do, things took a big shift about 2 months into my first season. My wife left, deciding the marriage business wasn’t for her. So I found myself heartbroken, angry, and grieving, with a farm full of plant babies and no idea what I was doing. I had never raised a plant in my life, this was my first stab at farming, and all of a sudden things were starting to bloom. I didn’t know what they needed, I didn’t know what I needed, so I took to the land. I sat with all my flower babies and learned the lessons they each had to teach. My sweet peas reminded me that life is full of beauty, playfulness, and sensuality. They were there to help me get my feet back on the ground and to figure out how to move forward. Once summer was in full swing I had the poppies, snapdragons, asters, and tobacco flower to show me beauty and resiliency. By this time I had taken on another near full time job back doing social work with youth. My days were full of teenagers, laughter, tears, and flowers. I kept apologizing to the flowers every time I went to the farm because I felt like I was failing them, I did not feel like I was there enough or that I was taking care of them well enough, and yet each day, they were still there, in their glory, thriving, reminding me to be gentle with myself, that I was not failing, that I, like them, was going through a process of growth, bounty, and endings and eventually rebirth (well not so much for the annuals, but the metaphor was just too good haha) And then fall rolled around and so did the dahlias. Oh those dahlias, the ladies who were there for some of the hardest days I had. There was more than once occasion where I sat in-between them and cried, and each time I opened my eyes to see those magnificent blooms I felt a little better. They were my strength to finish out the season. I grew Cafe au Laits for our second wedding so on our supposed to be wedding day/wedding anniversary I packed them and a dear friend up and went to the beach to thank the land, this earth, for the gifts and the challenges of the year and I offered them to the sea. I love ritual and I love water. It felt so healing to give it all back to the earth. In one final push through the month of October I finished out the season, cover cropped the beds, dug a 25ft trench while I had a concussion (I don’t suggest doing that, neither does my Dr. ), and I said goodnight to the land, knowing that next season will be even more magical and full of community.
I can’t articulate the lessons I learned, both about farming and life through this first year of farming. The warmth of which I was received into the community was astounding. I owe so many people a million thanks for the support, the help of all all my amazing volunteers and all my friends who let me complain about deadheading, weeding, and seeding trays with microscope seeds. A huge thanks to all the farmers who have come before a written books about this stuff! You saved me more times than I can count.
I closed this season out with a heart full of gratitude, warmth, and excitement for next season. I can’t wait to share all the magical things I have in the works for 2018.