|photo from http://fromme-toyou.tumblr.com/|
I took advantage of this GORGEOUS autumn day and continued on my quest to find the perfect farm. I had heard through farm friends in the area that a popular local flower farmer, well known for her displays at the Stonington Farmers' Market, was looking to transition her business and homestead to someone younger and passionate about agriculture.
The situation was ideal, and something I wish more aging farmers were capable of organizing. There is an apartment on the property where the "farmer in training" could live while he/she learned the business and established him/herself. Then, at the agreed upon time, the farmer transitions the property and provides some financing if needed (sort of like a lease-to-buy scenario).
The woman who owns the property was extremely knowledgable and passionate about what she does, very involved in town politics for agriculture and land conservation. I appreciated her taking time to show me her property and her home. In her mid-seventies, the property is becoming too much for her to care for and she wants to be able to devote more time to her writing, without having to worry about the farm. Something I hope I will be able to do when my body begins to tire and I'm looking to slow down in my old age.
The property was well-maintained, in a beautiful part of Stonington, right by the river. The property was tiny - just over 1 acre. She made the most of it by using intensively planted beds (a mix of vegetables, flowers, and herbs), combined with perennials immediately around her house. Each week she harvests flowers into large metal buckets to bring to market. There she assembles arrangements to with whatever guests would like. She almost always goes home empty-handed, and has for the past 15 years.
She has also recently begun to get involved in wedding flowers. There is a large demand for locally, sustainably grown wedding flowers in this area because of the large number of wedding venues. And the flowers receive a premium price - $2,00-5,000+ per wedding. She works with only "non-bridezillas" and picks up all of the containers and flowers after the wedding to be recycled. I was extremely impressed with what she was able to produce from such a small area. Her main flower garden was about the size of a two-car garage, and she makes enough to support herself. Certainly admirable.
The only real negative was the size of the property. There was some room to grow, if some of the woodlands were cleared, but the land was already planted intensely and being used really well. The property was very residential and far too small to have any livestock (even chickens, though the town is making strides towards allowing 5-7 hens per lot). I could supplement the land by leasing other parcels, but the immediate homestead was limited. And I can't live without my chickens...and a pig...and my dream cow.
In any regard, it was the most solid option I've encountered to date. A business. A means of paying for things. A real, working farm (even though it was SO tiny). The woman who owns the property was extremely helpful in sharing area contacts and information on Stonington agriculture. I was extremely grateful and hope that it is the beginning of getting to know her more, as well as other growers in the area.
I do have to say - searching for my dream is EXHAUSTING.