Debra Prinzing

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Episode 424: A conversation with Sarah Daken and Tom Precht of Maryland’s Grateful Gardeners, plus, our state focus: South Carolina

October 23rd, 2019

Tom Precht and Sarah Daken

Grateful Gardeners: Tom Precht and Sarah Daken, photographed on my October 13th visit to Boyds, Maryland

Why and how do a full-time attorney and a PhD research scientist make the leap into flower farming as their side hustle?

You’re in for a real treat today as you’re invited to sit in on my lively and engaging conversation with Tom Precht and Sarah Daken of Grateful Gardeners, based in Boyds, Maryland. As a couple, Tom and Sarah exude passion and enthusiasm for their relatively new flower farming journey, one on which they embarked in 2018. In large part, their inspiration began with Tom’s mother, Diana Precht, owner of Rocky Mountain Blooms in Loveland, Colorado, who is an expert dahlia grower and new Slow Flowers member.

Flowers and Family at Grateful Gardeners.

As Sarah shared with me in an email, “Diana is one of the most beautiful souls I know. I am so lucky to have her in my life. She was our inspiration for this entire flower journey and I know she takes great pride in seeing Tom embrace her love of dahlias. Dahlias are her legacy to us and she gets to observe us fall in love with them in her lifetime, which is so meaningful. We now all share this flower farming journey and regularly troubleshoot together, share tubers, discuss pest control, etc. We’re so grateful for the way flowers have further connected us.”

You will hear how Sarah and Tom balance their full-time, demanding and stressful professions with co-parenting three children in a blended family —  all while starting down the path of flower farming. It is an inspiring story and I really appreciate this couple’s honesty and transparency in sharing the origins of Grateful Gardeners. We will have to circle back in a few years for an update, for sure.

Serendipitously, I met them both at the very beginning when I was Kelly Shore’s guest at the second annual American Flowers Week flower-crown party held at M&M Plants and Flower Farm on June 27, 2018. Two days later, Tom and Sarah attend the 2nd Slow Flowers Summit in Washington, D.C., where we heard a little more of their new floral venture.

This fall, when I knew I would be traveling through the DC Metro area in mid-October, en route to Holly Chapple’s Flowerstock festival, I reached out to Grateful Gardeners to see if they were up for a visit.

Tom and Sarah fetched me from the train station in Baltimore and took me to see their young Maryland flower-growing operation. After touring the beautiful fields where annual flowers, foliages and lots of dahlias were still flourishing, pre-frost, we sat down in Tom and Sarah’s living room to record our conversation.

An acre of blooms at Grateful Gardeners

The couple planted their first flowers here last summer, setting up raised beds, planting rows of annuals and erecting a seed-starting structure, as they began to take over portions of Sarah’s mother’s one-acre property.

It soon made sense for Tom and Sarah to buy grandma’s house and move there with their children, just a few months ago. So now, instead of a 40-minute round trip commute to tend to their flowers, they are living where their flowers grow. Fortunately, transition hasn’t disrupted the younger children’s schooling and Tom and Sarah say the change has immediately made things more efficient and effective. When we pulled into the driveway of the charming brick ranch house, the first thing we did was visit the brand new walk-in cooler that Tom and his dad recently finished building. Seriously, a game changer!

Sarah also shared this with me: “Buying the house where we farm means we are “all in” and on-site, which has been life altering. No more commuting every day to the fields!”

Tom and Sarah are in love with growing dahlias, among other beauties. Right: Their local Whole Foods displays Mason jar bouquets from Grateful Gardeners

Please enjoy this conversation and take a moment to follow Sarah and Tom at Grateful Gardeners’ Instagram feed — and reach out with your words of encouragement and advice! Interviews like these reinforce my belief that the Slow Flowers Podcast is an ideal vehicle to share inspiring voices and personalities with the broader floral community. I’m humbled that you have taken time to listen today and I invite you to share your feedback in the comment section below!

Find and follow Grateful Gardeners on Instagram

Farmer-Florist Kendra Schirmer of Laurel Creek Florals in Sunset, South Carolina

Now, let’s take a virtual visit to South Carolina and meet Kendra Schirmer of Laurel Creek Flowers as I continue uur theme for 2019 – Fifty States of Slow Flowers. Based in Sunset, South Carolina, Kendra is an event florist and flower farmer who describes her aesthetic as “naturalist floristry that is consciously sourced and infused with whimsy.”

Grown, designed and styled by Kendra Schirmer

Originally hailing from the Appalachian mountains of north-western New Jersey, Kendra spent most of her childhood making snow angels or romping barefoot in the woods looking for fairies in the wild columbine blooms. Her parents always had some shady gardens along the edges of these woods, yet her own desire to tend to plants didn’t come until much later. 

After attending Bard College and studying Photography/Environmental Studies, she lived in Nashville for almost 9 years before meeting her farmer man. Craving the cleaner air and star-gazing opportunities of country life, Kendra and Sam moved to a lovely farmhouse back in Appalachia in 2013 to break ground on farming dreams. Tomatoes and cows and just a small patch of zinnias blossomed into an expanded flower garden.

Kendra’s kitty, “Mullein” poses with her season’s first ranunculus crop (left); Kendra with her bouquet and her own custom, hand-dyed ribbon

As Kendra fell completely head over heels for all things floral & design she expanded her offerings to wedding design in 2015 and has never looked back! She seeks inspiration from designers all over the world and saves new ideas to bring a unique take on design to her clients. She is always adding new seed packets (too many really) to the wishlist and popping in interesting perennials on any scrap of property she can dig into.

More local flowers from Kendra Schirmer, including her Columbine tattoo!

Find and follow Laurel Creek Florals:

Laurel Creek Florals on Instagram

Laurel Creek Florals on Facebook

Laurel Creek Florals on Pinterest

Designed by Nancy Cameron of Destiny Hill Flower Farm.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 532,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for listening, commenting and sharing – it means so much.

As our movement gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of the American cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too. I value your support and invite you to show your thanks and with a donation to support my ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button in the column to the right.

THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS

Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for Slow Flowers Journal, found in the pages of Florists’ Review. It’s the leading trade magazine in the floral industry and the only independent periodical for the retail, wholesale and supplier market. Take advantage of the special subscription offer for members of the Slow Flowers Community.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org.

Longfield Gardens, which provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Check out the full catalog at Longfield Gardens at longfield-gardens.com. I’m so excited to get my recent order into the garden very soon — in addition to tulips and narcissus, I’m planting anemones for the first time, so stay tuned! I’ll be sure to share an update of my anemone crop next spring in the #slowflowerscuttinggarden.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Find the full catalog of flower seeds and bulbs at johnnysseeds.com.

Photographed at Everyday Flowers in Stanwood, Wash. (c) Missy Palacol Photography

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast.

Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. 

And if you like what you hear, please consider logging onto iTunes and posting a listener review.

The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at soundbodymovement.com

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