SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: The Emerging Family Flower Farm, with Sarah & Steve Pabody of Triple Wren Farms (Episode 145)
June 11th, 2014
Earlier this week I headed north from the city and drove to Bellingham, Washington, close to the US-Canadian Border.
There, in lovely Whatcom County, I met Sarah Pabody for lunch at a charming cafe serving organic and locally-grown food. That seemed apropos because we were ready to talk about putting more flowers – edible and non-edible alike – into the agricultural conversation.
I’ve known Sarah and her husband Steve Pabody since their flower-growing operation Triple Wren Farms joined the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market two years ago. Sarah and I served together on the co-op’s board for a while and she has impressed me with her level-headed approach to our discussions and the thoughtful and inclusive way she makes decisions as a leader at the market.
We’ve been talking about me visiting Triple Wren, and now that it’s flower-growing season, the time was right to make the trip. I warned Steve and Sarah in advance that I wanted to record our conversation for the Slow Flowers Podcast – and fortunately for you, they were game!
After lunch and a whirlwind chat, I followed Sarah even further north up the highway to the town of Ferndale. What beautiful countryside, where only a few miles off the interstate you can find apple orchards and flower fields surrounding a charming farmhouse with a deep, covered, wraparound porch, perfect for sitting down with Sarah and Steve, and a jug of their cold, refreshing, home-pressed apple cider. Steve poured and we forgot about the recorder and you can join in vicariously.
I wanted you to meet Sarah and Steve because they are a young flower farming couple who are nearly 100-percent self-taught. Trial and error doesn’t seem daunting to them, though. Steve, a former Baptist pastor, has an incredibly gregarious personality, a can-do attitude and the willingness to poke fun at himself while tackling challenges like raising chickens, pruning thousands of apple trees and installing irrigation lines. He’s sort of a city boy who has taken to farming with a passion. [And PS, as the daughter of a Baptist pastor and pastor’s wife, I have a soft spot for Steve and Sarah – and their personal journey,]
Like Steve, Sarah has an infectious smile and the type of optimism you hope rubs off on you. This is not an easy path, but it’s one they are committed to walking together. And without owning the land on which they farm, Sarah and Steve are mindful of the steps they need to take to sustain Triple Wren for their future.
I know you’ll be inspired by their story, whether you’re a young farmer, too, or if you’re more established.
And by the way, their farm name celebrates the two reasons Sarah and Steve are so devoted to creating a family enterprise. First, their son Trey (Triple) and their daughter Chloe Wren (Wren). The children are a huge part of the farm’s energy and joy – as you can see in the family photos Sarah shared here.
Triple Wren Farms is located in the heart of Sm’Apple’s U-Pick Apple Orchard, which Steve manages for the Smith family, owners of the farm. During the fall U-Pick visitors are also able to harvest dahlias, zinnias, sunflowers and pumpkins to purchase.
Sarah, with Steve’s help, has developed two acres surrounding the orchard where she grows cut flowers and seasonal produce.
As you’ll hear in our interview, they got started with sunflowers just three seasons ago — and the mix of annuals, perennials, edibles, bulbs and woody floral ingredients they now grow for the floral marketplace has exploded. Since joining Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, Triple Wren has achieved Salmon Safe designation. The farm uses sustainable and non-certified organic practices.
In addition to being part of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Coop, Triple Wren sells to local florists and groceries in Bellingham, Ferndale and Lynden – and this year launched a very successful DIY Wedding Flowers program.
More farm photos, shared by Sarah and Steve:
The message to take from today’s episode is one that both Sarah and Steve emphasized: Mentorship is important. Perhaps it’s essential.
I encourage all you veteran flower farmers to reach out and share your expertise, experience, years of knowledge with someone just getting started. Pay it forward. . . and soon, those young flower farmers will, in turn, follow your example and share with the next generation that comes after them. It’s key to saving our American-grown floral industry!
Thank you for joining today’s conversation with Triple Wren’s Sarah and Steve Pabody. Please enjoy this fabulous Q&A that Alicia Schwede of Flirty Fleurs conducted with Sarah last fall.
Here’s how to follow Triple Wren’s activities, day by day:
Triple Wren on Facebook.
Triple Wren on Instagram
Triple Wren on Pinterest
Please join me next week for another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded more than 13,000 times.
Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time.
The slow flowers podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.