Business in Bloom
Morgan County woman starts a pick-your-own flower farm
By Catherine Godbey
For the Enquirer
Katherine Adams saw the signs.
With concerns over the coronavirus shutting down indoor activities and causing mass cancellations of weddings, the Lacey’s Spring woman took an educated risk to grow her business.
“When COVID started, I had a feeling that a you-pick flower farm would be really popular. I knew people wanted to get outside. But, as much as I was expecting this, I am a little surprised it has done so well,” Adams said.
The popularity of Adams’ Collinette Flower Farm mirrors the success of pick-your-own farms across the country, including north Alabama.
At Isom’s Orchard, the Limestone County farm registered top numbers for the flower-, grape- and peach-picking seasons.
“We had a great turnout this year. I would say a larger turnout than years past,” Brooke Isom of Isom’s Orchard said.
Reeves Peach Farm in Hartselle experienced a similar uptick despite opening its strawberry patch to customers later than normal due to increased demand for worker-picked berries. Describing the self-serve picking as a “tremendous turnout,” the farm expects the trend to continue when the pick-your-own pumpkin season opens at the end of September.
Adams credited the increased interest in pick-your-own farms to the pandemic’s limitations on activities and people’s desire to create experiences and memories.
“A lot of people who come here talk about how peaceful it is and how nice it is just to get out. People want an experience these days over just going to a store and buying something. Many of them meet up with family and friends they haven’t seen in a while,” the 35-year-old Adams said.
Tucked beside her northwest Morgan County home, pops of yellow sunflowers, light purple and vibrant pink gomphrenas, white dahlias and orange, yellow and red zinnias fill the 7,500-square-foot flower garden.
Finding a niche
For Adams, the pick-your-own flower patch represents a shift in her business plan.
Three years ago, the mother of three sons and former member of the Air Force, created a 50-foot by 25-foot flower garden with plans on selling stems to floral designers for weddings.
“The designers love local flowers, but what they need is 200 hydrangea stems for a wedding. They don’t need 10 bunches of a mishmash of flowers, which I had. For two years, I was really struggling to find my niche,” Adams said.
After last season, Adams, inspired by self-pick farms across the country, toyed with the idea of a pick-your-own option while still trying to meet the demands of local designers.
“I had planned to grow lots of ranunculus. It is a beautiful early rose of spring and popular with weddings,” Adams said. “I was growing a lot of them and a lot of them in white because that’s what the designers wanted for weddings. I was producing 300 stems a week in the middle of COVID when everything came to a halt. That’s when I realized I needed to go a different route.”
She started a no-contact delivery of bouquets to homes, which proved popular, but meant Adams was driving across north Alabama two days a week.
Spurred by responses to her Instagram posts from people wanting to visit the farm, Adams, in late spring, moved forward with a pick-your-own option. She rewrote her field plan, purchased new seeds and planted zinnias, dahlias and cosmos.
“The flower business is very interesting. Weddings want different colors than people who buy bouquets, and people who buy bouquets pick different flowers than those who want to pick their own,” Adams said. “Pick-your-own people love zinnias, because they are bright and cheerful, and gomphrenas, little balls that add a cute pop in a bouquet.”
When creating bouquets, Adams encourages visitors to the farm to use their sense of smell along with their sense of sight.
“I have a bunch of foliage, but nobody will pick it because it doesn’t stand out like the zinnias, dahlias and cosmos,” Adams said. “I grow the foliage, the eucalyptus, mint-scented geranium and basil for the scent. When you walk by them, you don’t really notice them, so I remind people don’t forget to smell them.”
The farm will remain open to visitors for at least two more weeks. Adams, who serves as the farm’s designer, buyer, planter, waterer and, on Saturdays, traffic director, has already started planning for next season. In April, she ordered bulbs
and seeds for the flowers she hopes to have available by Mother’s Day. A greenhouse beside her home currently houses the snapdragons that will appear in the garden next spring.
For Adams, who home-schools her children, the farm serves as an outlet.
“I love being a homemaker and teaching my children, but this gives me something else to think about. When I am out here, I am able to focus my mind on flowers,” she said.
Adams’ interest in gardening began as a child while visiting her grandparents in Ocala, Florida.
“My grandparents had a little garden. I would go there and help them. That really started my love for gardening,” Adams said. “But I didn’t really think about having a flower garden until I stumbled across some pretty pictures of dahlias on Pinterest. Instead of wondering where I could buy them, I wanted to learn how to grow them. We didn’t have space at the time, but it stayed in my mind.”
When her husband landed a job at Northrop Grumman and the family moved to north Alabama in 2014, Adams’ search for property ideal for a flower farm began. The family moved to their Lacey’s Spring home in 2016.
“We are city people that have transplanted to the country. I don’t have a green thumb. Flowers will die on me all the time. Rabbits will eat some or I may start trays and forget to water them a day. The dahlias rebelled on me this year because I planted them too close together. I am learning all the time, but I keep going and keep planting,” Adams said.
The farm, which operates on the honor system, is open for self-service Monday to Friday, 8-11 a.m. with cash, check and online payments accepted. On Saturday, Adams accepts debit and credit card payments from 8-11 a.m. Cost is $15 or $25 per jar of flowers and includes the jar. For more information on the farm at 191 Dry Creek Cove Circle, visit collinetteflowers.com.