Why Danielle and Ash changed their lives to grow flowers

Discover the beauty of small scale flower farming

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When Danielle White and husband Ashley Wren purchased 30 acres in Pipers Creek seven years ago, their initial plan was to continue growing Ash's organic garlic.

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WHEN Danielle White and husband Ashley Wren purchased 30 acres in Pipers Creek seven years ago, their initial plan was to continue growing Ash's organic garlic.

However the sandy, loamy soil in this granite country gave them cause to reconsider, and having grown up on the land (Danielle's family farmed sheep and cattle in the Macedon Ranges from the mid-1800s, while Ash's family is from Ballarat) the couple were open to trying something new.

The property had some established pinot noir vines fronted by roses and this, combined with a chat with a flower farmer, was the catalyst for their change of direction to flower farming.

Since 2016, the smallholding Crofters Fold Estate has produced paddock-grown roses and peonies (together with small batches of sparkling wine), using a farming method Danielle refers to as "bee friendly".

Their flower farm is just one of many cropping up in the central and western regions of Victoria, a niche market that's blossoming thanks to a reimagining of the possibilities and the capabilities of social media.

The bee friendly aspect means that whatever we're doing here, starting from the soil up, will attract biodiversity and all the beneficial insects - Danielle White, Crofters Fold Estate

As micro flower farmers, Danielle and Ash follow farming methods that address the important conversation around saving the bees, while moving against flower importation.

"We love that idea of buying Australian grown, but then went another layer deeper," says Danielle.

"Broad acre flower farming traditionally has a lot of infrastructure, inputs and environmental control, so it's not as natural and often sprayed - which you can highly understand when you try and farm organically, because there are a lot of pests."

Danielle says she and Ash have learnt the health benefits and trade-off of letting Mother Nature fight the pests, together with the importance of picking the right plants for where they live, instead of fighting with the season.

The harsh winter frosts Crofters Fold experiences this time of year don't harm the roses, while Ash's fruit trees help attract bees.

"The bee friendly aspect means that whatever we're doing here, starting from the soil up, will attract biodiversity and all the beneficial insects," explains Danielle.

"Yes we get hit across the head by those we don't want (grasshoppers can be a problem), but they're not dying from sprays either."

The juicy flavoursome rose cuttings are fed to the sheep and cattle that also call Crofters Fold home.

"They love them," says Danielle, "it's a contained cycle of benefits."

The prime market for Crofters Fold's blooms are florists and freelance fl oral designers working on weddings and events - ideal for Danielle and Ash, who live in one of the state's major tourism hotspots. While florists have successfully captured their target audience, it's Crofters Fold who are the primary producer helping them stand out.

"We're told by people who have been doing this for years that our product is well received (and) that's a pleasure for us," says Danielle.

And what is it that helps spread the word?

The nifty use of a hashtag on Instagram, a modern addition to the ag sector if ever there was one.

"Instagram has been helpful for the business model, because people often tag us in and we get to see how beautiful the whole experience is," says Danielle.

"That's something new in this social media-based ag space."

So has the social media movement helped flower farming?

Absolutely, says Danielle.

Visually, it's stunning, and it also allows the growing number of flower farmers share their knowledge.

According to Danielle, the new breed of farmers producing in this micro, or artisanal agriculture sector are 85 per cent female -

"Young mums often returning to work or trying to add to a farm space, pinching that little bit at the end of their husband's farm space," she says.

Indeed, flowers are a viable product, and mixed or succession plantings, combined with low flower miles and a product that's free from chemicals, successfully adds another layer to the slow food phenomenon.

"At the essence it's that connectedness that really matters and makes it satisfying," says Danielle.

"I'm made to care about the rhythm of the seasons, and meeting people who love them is great. There's a lot more depth to the experience, the product and where it's come from, and we like sharing that aspect of it. The small scales lets you do that."

  • This article is from Agri Culture Magazine 2019 - click HERE to read the full edition.
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