Delivering flowers to farmers – Sarah Taylor – Industry Profile

Sarah Taylor has found an untapped flower market in the farming community and in her rural neighbours. If you are interested in getting in touch with Sarah or to order arrangements, you can check out her Facebook Page

By Courtney Denard

16731351_10155222439518814_963073463_oBeef farmer, florist, and DHI customer service representative are just a few of the titles Sarah Taylor can attach her name to. Wife, mother, and completely charming are a few more.

I approached Sarah for an interview for this series after she showed up at my dairy farm a few days before Christmas with a giant bouquet of beautiful fresh flowers.

She was so bubbly and happy and couldn’t wait to deliver the holiday surprise my husband had arranged. I on the other hand was a little confused.

I knew Sarah mainly as one of our DHI reps so I had no idea why she was bouncing up my driveway bouquet in-hand.

Turns out Sarah, who runs Taylor Made Cattle Co. in Kemble with her husband Mark and their children Mitch and Katelyn, recently started Serendipity Florals, a full-service flower shop serving Owen Sound and surrounding area.

Her target clients are farmers and country folk, many of whom she’s gotten to know through her work in the Ontario agriculture sector.

The following is a selection of our interview that I put together just in time for Valentine’s Day, one of the biggest flower delivery days of the year.

Q: Tell me about Serendipity Florals?

16775997_10155222439238814_1294509293_oA: I started the business in August 2015 after a young girl asked me to do her wedding flowers from the varieties I grow here on the farm.

I had a worked in a flower shop on weekends when I was younger so I already had a hand in it and said ‘why not.’

After her wedding, a friend of the bride wanted to use my flowers too so that was the start of it.

When Valentine’s Day rolled around last year I told my dairy farmer guys that I work with that if they were looking for flowers for their wives and girlfriends I could do them.

I kind of had to pound the pavement and talk myself up but now I am doing more and more. I did eight weddings in 2016 and I already have seven booked for this year.

Q: What kind of flowers do you grow on your farm?

A: I have everything from gladiolas to dahlias to roses to carnations. I have lots of greens like boxwood, plus hypericum berries, tulips, daffodils and oriental lilies.

The list goes on but I recently grew mini cabbages, which was a major coup because they’re very expensive at wholesale at $35 a bunch.

I started growing more of my own varieties because I was unhappy with the quality of flowers I was buying in.

Often flowers that are brought in were cut in Holland two weeks prior and been through five different hands and they look like that.

Because my brides can come to the farm and pick their own flowers directly from the garden, they’re guaranteed freshness.

16734841_10155222439578814_1307979881_o-1Q: What are brides looking for in flowers this year?

A: Everybody likes the bohemian look and that’s mostly greens like Australian greens.

I am trying to grow things that look like that here and sell them on it because it’s more affordable. 

Peonies are big time right now too so I am growing a number of different varieties.

Q: What’s it like delivering flowers to farmers?

A: Farmers ask me all the time, ‘can you bring flowers?’ and I say ‘sure’ because I am on the road anyway.

I have been selling out of different locations in the rural community, which works out for them and works out for me.

I’m in my DHI clothes half the time but the recipients are still surprised and they’re still happy!

The best part is the look on their face when I arrive with a bouquet because really, everybody likes to get flowers!

Q: Has there been a particularly special delivery you’d like to share?

A: I’m not sure I can speak about this without crying but I have a friend I went to high school with who had been adopted by a dairy farming couple.

With both of her adoptive parents gone she was living in the U.S. and had been looking for her birth mom for years.

She eventually found her here in Ontario and asked me to deliver a bouquet to her on Mother’s Day.

I called her birth mom and told her I was a florist from Owen Sound and I had a delivery for her. She couldn’t believe that her daughter had found her after all these years.

A few months after the delivery, my friend invited me to join her and her birth mom for a visit and we all cried like babies.

Turns out, her birth mom was a dairy farmer’s daughter too.

Q: Because this is an Ag Women’s Network feature, when did you get involved with the association?

A: I joined AWN right after it started. I thought it was good because we’re all women in the agriculture industry and we all have the same take on things.

It’s nice to have a place to vent or to ask ‘am I the only one?’ or to admit that you’re stone bone tired but you still have to go out and do chores.

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Sarah and her husband Mark. Together with their children, Mitch and Katelyn, they run Taylor Made Cattle Co. in Kemble

Q: What’s it like being a woman in agriculture?

A: We’re women doing the same things as men and we know just as much as they do but for some reason that doesn’t get counted for sometimes.

We’re out there working along with our husbands but they’re the ones who get the voice and get taken seriously.

I’ll tell farmers what I think they should do with their calves and some of them just look at me and say, ‘oh.’

I’m starting to get more respect now. It took about three to four years but once you show you can actually do something you get taken more seriously.

Q: Is there a special ‘women in ag’ issue that you hold close to your heart?

A: For me it’s about raising kids and running a farm.

We bought our cows when we had just had our daughter Kate. I was trying to do chores, Mark was working on a beef farm and milking for someone else, and I couldn’t do it all at the same time.

Katelyn was really bad because she lost her mind when I stepped out of her line of sight but I still had to get the chores done.

We seem to have help for everything else so why can’t we have help in the barn for the mothers and young kids?

I see it all the time in my job and I believe it’s one of the biggest set backs- moms need some help.

I firmly believe if you can spend it in the barn you can spend it in the home. It never fails that there’s nothing new in the house because all the money is spent on the farm but she needs a dishwasher because she can’t keep up!

Q: So last question. What are your plans for Valentine’s Day?

A: I’ll be delivering flowers of course and then ordering out supper for my three valentines. I’ll probably have a calf or two that day too.

 

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Krista Hulshof on finding her niche in ‘Agritecture’

Krista Hulshof has turned a niche into her career. She’s a self-described “agritect” serving rural and agricultural businesses in designing beautiful and sustainable buildings. As well as running her own architecture business, she and her husband are busy raising two young children. Krista shares with us about developing her business, being a mom and working to make our world more sustainable.

If you’re interested in connecting with Krista, contact her via email (krista@veldarchitect.com) or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/VeldArchitect/)

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career path.

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I am an architect who specializes in rural, and agritourism design. I grew up on a dairy/poultry farm and went to the University of Waterloo for architecture. In third year I found a book called “Barns”, which included numerous projects that renovated old barns into homes. I realized I missed the farm life and culture, but I also loved architecture. So I set out to figure out how to bring architecture and agriculture together. I spent my thesis year studying sustainable farming practices and designing a 150-acre farm (land and buildings). I specialized in sustainable farm design through my master’s thesis, and now call myself an agritect! So what does an architect, or agritect do? An architect helps facilitate and guide clients through the millions of decisions required to prepare a building for construction (from colours to insulation), and document these decisions in the form of drawings for permits and construction. Using their training, expertise, and experience they assist in creating an efficient, flexible, and beautiful building for the long term of your major investment.

Tell us more about your work as an agritect.

 After university I worked for another firm while I tried to figure out how to break into this niche market of ‘agritecture’. This was a big challenge because farmers don’t traditionally hire architects. But a new industry of agritourism (on-farm, value added services like wineries, on-farm stores, farm tours, wedding venues, etc.) was emerging. This emerging industry often required architects and there was real value in helping farmers through the red tape of zoning and building codes required; this is where I targeted my skills. In 2012 I started VELD Architect. I am the only architect that I know of working specifically in this niche market.

I assist farmers and farm owners with the planning of their agritourism or farm projects from the master planning stages, through the hoops of regulations, building designs, permits, and the construction stages. You can see examples of my work on my website at www.veldarchitect.com. I have worked on wineries, distilleries, kennels, event venues, farm stores, equestrian facilities, barn conversions, as well as farmhouse and residential design.

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Do you have a favourite project you’ve worked on?

My firm is young, so the portfolio is small, but my favorite project so far is my first barn conversion to a house. It also happens to be my house so I might be biased, but I’ve learned so much, and I very proud to say we saved a bank barn that would have been torn down (http://www.veldarchitect.com/?projects=wartburg-residence). My second favorite project was for a not-for-profit group called My Farm in Waterloo (http://www.veldarchitect.com/?projects=sample-project-2). They hired me early on to help them plan a 10-acre sustainable farm with a gathering and working “barn”. The project is still in its early stages of site grading and tree planting using “restoration agriculture” methods (Here’s a video to explain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kb_t-sVVzF0) There is no building yet, but I hope they have continued success and we can slowly fulfill the vision we had for the property.

You have two very young children. How do you balance your time as a mom and an entrepreneur? 

I have lots of help! My 2-year-old goes to a babysitter three days a week (daycare one day, Nana’s one day, and Oma’s another day). My 6-month-old stays with me and I work as fast as I can when he is happy or sleeping! I have had to sacrifice both in my career and in mothering. I have learned to say ‘no’ to potential clients that don’t enhance my portfolio in the direction I want my firm to go. I have also hired a co-op student to assist me during busy times to ensure my clients are satisfied.

As a mother I sometimes feel that by sending my kids to daycare I miss out on so much of their learning and development, but I know they also learn a more varied amount of skills through the experience. It also helps that their babysitters are their grandparents and I hope this develops a special bond between them, as they grow older. I also try to keep my housework lower and realistic, so that I don’t get overwhelmed or upset with myself. My husband is a pig farmer, and he does his best to pitch in and share the responsibility of household chores. I also work flexible hours (nap times, slower response times, evenings, etc.) and share my life situation with clients and only work with those who ‘get it’.

How do you define success? What steps do you take to get you there?

I used to want to be a famous architect! There are only a few who get to be that, but I hope that I can be published and recognized not only by the architecture community but also by the agriculture community for providing value and enhancing rural culture. I work toward this slowly with each project, giving my clients efficient, inspiring spaces, and making the building process as painless as possible.

What is the biggest professional/personal challenge that you’ve had to face?

Balancing being a mom and an entrepreneur has been my biggest challenge. I didn’t have time to get good at either without being busy with the other. So I’m learning to be a mom while also learning to be an entrepreneur. Not an east task!

Krista Hulshof.jpgIn the spirit of these profiles helping others, are you willing to share a mistake you made but taught you something important?

I took on a very large project that with another architect. The design process was long and a very big undertaking. I made a lot of mistakes and embarrassed myself and the other architect. I was pregnant, had severe morning sickness and was busy with my 8-month-old. And that is no excuse, but I realized I bit off way more than I could chew. I often think I can do more than I can. I learned two lessons: 1) Say no when you need too, and 2) Review your work and take care in everything you do. When I make mistakes, it costs people money.

What’s the most burning career question for you right now?

What will my firm look like in the future? Do I want to grow and at what cost to time with my kids? Should I be looking for a partner or an employee to take on more projects? Will they be as invested as I am?

How do you define agriculture?

Agriculture is a community of people engaged in the production of food. It’s more than just farming; it’s a way of life.

What do you think is the most important topic in agriculture right now? Or what should be?

Moving toward less fossil fuel intense farming and looking at alternative more sustainable practices (restoration agriculture, keyline farming, urban gardens, CSAs, local food, increasing soil organic matter, enhancing natural ecosystems with farming, etc.). I know it’s controversial and change is hard in rural communities, but I think there are ways to address the challenges. The consumer is demanding alternative methods, more transparency, and farms are businesses trying to meet customer demands. There is no business model in the world that can survive ignoring the market trends and consumer needs. Farming is not an exception and will NEED to adapt.