Alberta woman enters cut flower business

Sarah Adams of Vulcan gets an early start by foraging for prairie flowers and crops that can be used to make bouquets

VULCAN, Alta. — There’s an odd thing about Sarah Adams’ new fresh-cut flower farm: the blossoms are few.

Not to worry, though. Her 5.5-acre farm southeast of Vulcan, albertagirlacres, has a wide variety of flowers that will bloom, all of them planted this spring.

In mid-June, the nascent plants were in various states of early foliage, but Adams was about a month into a fresh flower business.

How did she do it?

“Foraging,” said Adams. Prairie smoke, alfalfa, canola and other prairie plants and crops were called into service for bouquet sales at her converted horse trailer flower shop in Calgary.

“They were as Albertan as a bouquet could actually get,” she said, hastily adding her finds were made with permission or certainly without trespass.

Adams bought the property one year ago, yielding to her gardening instincts that frequently put her “obsessively into the dirt” despite a job in Calgary using her degree in fine arts and her skills in marketing and communications.

At first she considered a garlic-growing operation but opted for flowers instead.

“I didn’t really see anybody doing cut flowers. I decided that’s the focus. And there’s such a market right now for supporting local business.”

A loan through Community Futures and a course at Washington’s Floret Farm set her more firmly on the flower path.

Now, the property is dotted with various small beds filled with irises, gladioli, asters, sunflowers, marigolds, peonies, lupins, amaranth, dahlias and many other plants that promise to yield showy blooms.

Fresh-cut flower operations are relatively rare in southern Alberta but there are several unique features to Adams’ business plan.

A plant rescue operation has already gained her a batch of rosebushes and other plants. People who are adding buildings or undertaking landscaping projects that would result in loss of shrubs and plants can call Adams to rescue them. She’ll take them to her farm, where they will become part of the operation.

“I’m kind of a compulsive grower. I just like to garden,” said Adams, adding that she has often wished she could take plants with her when she has moved from place to place in the past.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be great if someone would re-home these plants?”

This service is her answer. It has also allowed her to meet people equally enthused about gardening and make trades. Recently she swapped ferns for peonies to widen the variety of plants on her farm.

Adams also offers workshops on flower arranging and is organizing an artist-in-residence plan. When the old farmstead has taken shape, she eventually wants to host weddings on site — with flowers.

Right now, assisted by various family members, she is focused on planting, erecting a greenhouse, building a flower cooler and marketing her bouquets.

“We’ve encountered a really, really eager market. The market is not a problem. It’s wind, water and weeds. The three Ws.”

She is also looking for other Alberta growers who can partner with her in supplying fresh blooms.

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