I’ve got to say, I’m in love with the idea of having my own flower farm lately. Inspired by the Instagram account of Erin Benzakein, founder of Floret Flowers and author of the book A Year In Flowers, I’ve been dreaming of planting, growing, and selling beautiful cut flowers of my own.
Who hasn’t dreamed of this at some point recently!? With digital overdosing, lockdown and covid anxiety, and recessional worrries, who wouldn’t want to daydream of more time spent in nature, creating and cultivating something beautiful, and earning an income while doing it? If we’re all going to be stuck at home anyway we might as well be doing something more worthwhile than sat addicted to the depressing newsfeed, right!?
However the obvious truth about starting a cut flower business is that it’s not as easy as it might seem. You have to battle with adverse weather, have upfront funding, access to a garden or land (though not as much as you’d think), as well as having a business plan and being good at marketing and / or working with people. You’ll need to be physically healthy, happy to work long hours outside, and mentally tough to cope with the ups and downs of business. Competition in this area is growing, and there’s no guarantee you’ll be profitable.
Can You Make Money As A Flower Farmer?
So how much can you earn as a flower farmer? The answers might surprise you! Erin Benzakein, author of A Year In Flowers and founder of Floret, according to this article, earned over $400,000 in one year from just cut flower workshops alone. That was almost four years ago – since then, the author has amassed a huge Instagram following, released two books, and that’s before we have even counted the fact that she actually sells flowers.
While this is the exception rather than the rule, it shows the importance of diversifying your flower farm income if you want to earn more. Otherwise, a more typical expectation is around $25,000-$30,000 per acre – although this may be on the low side. It very much depends on how good at business and marketing you are, like all businesses.
How To Earn More Money With A Small Cut Flower Farm
So rather than relying just on the income from selling your cut flowers, you could also create any of the following
- Youtube channel
- Instagram account (sponsorships, shoutouts, affiliate links)
- Physical books
- Online tutorials
- Workshops on and offline
- Products for sale (seeds for example, but also more practical items such as garden furniture, or pretty plant containers, wedding supplies, etc)
- Blog (monetised through sponsored posts, affiliate shares, ads)
- Online courses
Diversifying your income can be more work, but it might be worth it to negate the stress of having only one income stream to rely on.
While I’m happy to spend my time in all weathers outdoors, and working hard, I wouldn’t do it if it meant my kids would end up eating ramen noodles every day for lunch. Break even would not be an option for me, and neither would be running it as a pleasant hobby. If you’re going to run a cut flower business, you’ll need to remember this is a business, and businesses have to make money in order to stay in business. (And to be able to support other businesses, as well as yourself. And to make sure your kids don’t end up eating just noodles) 🙂
What Do You Need To Start A Small Flower Farm?
To start a small cut flower farm you’ll need
- a place to grow flowers
- a startup budget
- a business map or vision
- the seeds / bulbs / cuttings etc required to grow your desired flowers
- knowledge of your target client
- some knowledge about how to grow flowers / the willingness to learn
- energy, patience, and a long term outlook
How Much Space Do You Need To Start A Small Cut Flower Business?
Erin Benzakein started with just two acres – however, you can start a small flower farm with even less! Even if you don’t have access to your own garden, you can always
- Rent land
- Start a container cut flower garden
- Use neighbours gardens or communal gardens (obviously with permission)!
- Use high intensity farming to maximise your space!
You don’t have to have masses of land in order to have a successful cut flower business.
Rent A Plot
Emma from A Bunch Of Wild wrote in this post about how she started out with just an allotment.
For all of my readers outside the UK, an allotment is a patch of land that has been divided up into small areas for people to rent individually. They are usually tiny!! About 250 metres square, or around 0.06 of an acre, although many of the new allotments are half that size again! Allotments were originally designed for people who don’t have a garden in the UK to be able to grow their own veggies in.
Allotments are currently undergoing a bit of a hipster revival, as more people want to ‘grow their own’ for environmental and health reasons, and well, generally, large gardens or yards just aren’t that common in the UK, sadly.
Container Or Backyard Cut Flower Garden
So, if Emma can do it, so can you even if you’re just starting out in your backyard. I’ve personally been wondering if I can do it using just containers – although our rental house stands on quite a large plot, most of it is taken up by our pool, pool surround, and gravelled areas around the sides of the house. I literally don’t have ANY ground to plant it – even our beautiful Cypress trees and fruit trees were planted and the gravelled or concreted over around the base.
Swap Flowers For Space!
Where there is a will there is a way – Christina Clum only had a tiny garden in Brooklyn, so she asked neighbours if they would let her use their gardens in exchange for some of the flowers. Eventually she found 5 gardens within walking distance, and now has enough room for her cut flower business!
How Much Money Do You Need To Start A Cut Flower Business?
So I researched and read so many articles for this post that I actually lost one of them, so I can’t share the credit for this snippet of wisdom, though I wish I could.
But the the piece of advice that stood out the most to me about starting a cut flower garden was how little you need to actually begin one. You can start your own cut flower garden for under $200!
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have your own land (rent one or start with a ton of giant containers). You don’t need fancy equipment, you don’t need all of the most expensive, all singing, all dancing seeds and flowers to start with. The best thing about starting a cut flower garden is that you can start small and simple with literally just your planting spot, your seeds and bulbs, and some basic garden supplies that you’ll be most likely to have anyway.
The most complicated start up piece of equipment this cut flower farmer purchased at the beginning was a drip irrigation system, bu these are available for under $100 on Amazon.
The beauty of having a cut flower garden business is that you can expand as your business grows. Each year you can reinvest your profits into tools, education, and equipment to ensure that your profits grow nicely every year alongside your flowers.
The Best Tips For New Cut Flower Farmers
- Give Yourself Time To Figure It Out
There is a fine art to finding the right type of flowers to grow, timing harvests for specific times of the year, and selling to the right people for the best price. Flowers you sell at farmers markets are different from flowers you sell to wedding florists, for example. You might need a few seasons to sort this out, so be sure to factor in some extra time while you’re getting the hang of it all’ –Erin Benzakein For Mother Earth Gardener
- Get Fit First
It requires you to be in good physical condition, and can make you very, very tired – it’s not something you should attempt if you are running short on energy for the other parts of your life.It’s also important to note that you’re also not going to be in a nice, climate-controlled building – you are outside in the wind and cold and snow and rain as well as in the heat, the sun, the humidity (oh the humidity!) . You’ll get scratches from brambles and branches, bug bites and bee stings and poison ivy and stinging nettles. You’ll strain your wrist, twist your ankle, slice your finger, pull your back and more.Flower farming is rough. If you don’t toughen up physically, you won’t make it.– The Kokoro Garden
- Work With A Lean Budget
Overall, really try not to go into massive debt. Flowers embark emotions, even for the flower farmer. We swoon over the latest and greatest flowers. Just know, you can make things work. Each investment you make, do with intention and have the business earn it first. An air-conditioned room or a fridge off craigslist are not perfect solutions but are more affordable than a whole walk-in cooler out the gate. You may find yourself harvesting and prepping orders more last minute for a bit. Don’t invest in a high tunnel before you even understand which crops to grow in them or how to even grow those crops or how to even sell those crops. Go lean, especially in this market climate– Sierra Flower Farm
- Remember you can do big things with small spaces.
Danielle’s garden area is only 37 feet by 37 feet. In that space she grew approximately 25 varieties totalling 1200 plants and was able to sell over 100 bouquets. In 2019, she plants to grow 60 varieties of flowers, offer florist services for weddings, and increase the number of floral subscriptions she offers – Danielle Fulawka @ Saskatoon, for Shifting Roots.
- Be Passionate & Knowledgeable About Your Brand & Mission
As I said, I didn’t have a master plan and have spent quite a lot of my first year winging it. I sat down one morning and wrote a list of all the different types of people I thought would like my flowers. Then I made a list of all the people I could potentially sell them to, for example: florists and brides, and put the feelers out through my blog. I quickly got response from both florists and brides but hit a stumbling block when they asked for specific colours and types in certain months. That wasn’t and still isn’t what we’re about, and I became strangely possessive over my flowers, I wanted to make sure that the hands they were falling into understood them. I quickly learned that there are a lot of people out there that want to learn about our British flowers and the changing seasons. I needed to do research, educate and I needed to put myself out there! A Bunch Of Wild
Top Considerations When Planning A Cut Flower Business
Grab your journal, it’s time to note a few things down! If you’re at the idea / daydream stage of your business, you’ll want to make some notes in these areas.
- Customers / clients – who will you serve? What’s the budget of your local clients? would you like to focus on brides and weddings, or would you rather concentrate on supplying florists or hotels? what other services can you offer to diversify your income?
- Local competition – while the industry is very supportive, you might want to consider what nearby cut flower sellers offer so that you don’t end up having to compete on price, or price cut meaning loss of profit for you. What can you sell that’s different to everyone else?
- Location / seasonality – what flowers are best suited to the local climate? what do the local clientele want? speak to clients to find out!
- Shipping / delivery – how will you deliver your flowers? can you provide a delivery service for local bouquets? will you ship nationwide, or just locally?
- Price – what do you need to price your services at in order to make profit? How much profit do you want to make, and how many of each service do you need to sell in order to hit that target?
- Marketing – how will you spread the word about your flowers? What marketing / promotional channels will you use? how much time can you allocate to this?
- Worst case scenarios – what will you do if things go wrong? what would be your emergency backup plans for various scenarios, such as hail destroying your flowers, or frost destroying your seeds, or viruses stopping the wedding industry?
- Support – what support will you need to get your business off the ground? Whether it’s spouse physical support or getting the kids involved in planting, finding mentors or taking courses – knowing where your support network is can help ensure a smoother start to business and faster growth.
- Vision – What are the things you’re most excited about? Having a bigger vision, and staying focussed on this can help you through the harder times when they arise.
So, will I be a cut flower farmer any time soon?
I’ll be honest, I love the idea of it… but I’m not yet certain on the reality!
Here in Cyprus there is a huge wedding industry, but not so many local suppliers of those gorgeous, natural style of flower that I love and that I know brides and local businesses would love.
But growing flowers here is tough – the land is hard and dry, with unforgiving summers, and bouquets tend to last at most 3-4 days, less if you have air con on! Plus, we don’t know how long we will be in Cyprus for, we often dream of buying a place in France. I feel having a cut flower garden may be something that might be right for later in life, perhaps when I am in my 40s – for now, I am happy learning and writing about flowers and lusting after all the beautiful cut flower garden farm photos on Instagram! I also probably need to stop killing tomatoes first, before I make any grander plans! 🙂
What about you? Have you dreamed of setting up your own cut flower farm? Or do you already have a flourishing flower farm? I’d love to know!