Three Years at Feast & Flora - An Update from Sarah
I was looking through old blog posts on the website, and realized that the last time I shared anything about the farm was in October of 2019. A lot has happened since then in the world and on the farm, so I figured I’d give an update on where we’ve been and what we’ve done in the past three years.
When COVID hit in March 2020, we were knee-deep in the spring harvest season at the original farm - a few acres in Meggett, SC where Laura used to live. With wedding and event cancellations coming in every day, our cooler was overrun with buckets of blooms (flowers don’t stop growing just because we stop buying them!). We quickly pivoted to selling our stems at local grocery stores and other retail outlets. In June of that summer, Laura sold the property and we up and moved to a nearby friend’s farm with a one-acre horse pasture (we will henceforth call this iteration of the farm the “Horse Pasture”) where we grew for another year.
Have you ever moved an entire farm? I have now. How does one go about it? Honestly I’m not sure I could give you a good answer. It was a lot of purging and packing and taping and trips in cars and unpacking into a storage unit and more trips in cars.
We broke ground at the Horse Pasture around the beginning of August, 2020. It was a little late to be planting for the summer/fall, but we threw some quick-growing seeds in the ground (zinnias, sunflowers, basil, celosia) with a few left-over dahlia tubers to see what would happen. I spent that fall and winter enjoying the new property with its marsh breezes, mossy rocks, and shady spots under the oak trees. The well water at the Horse Pasture was a little too salty for the liking of our seedlings and fresh-cut stems, so I worked on a rainwater harvesting system. It was very primitive and any sustainable agriculture pro would probably have a thing or two to say about my methods, but it did the trick! I managed to wrangle two 55-gallon barrels and install a spigot into one of them. I collected runoff from the carport in 5-gallon buckets and dumped them through a mesh strainer into the barrels, then used the water to harvest and to water in transplants.
At the Horse Pasture, we didn’t have a fully enclosed space to store tools or do other farm tasks like sorting and processing stems. Winters in the Lowcountry aren’t known for being especially frigid, but working outside in a misty 45 F for eight hours a day, five days a week, with no relief in sight really does something to make you resent the great outdoors. That was the winter I asked for insulated overalls for Christmas, and let me tell you they are the best thing I have ever put on my body.
We grew a few new varieties that next spring - sweet peas, campanula, calendula, bells of ireland, godetia, apricot statice, and my first successful crop of italian ranunculus! I also took over our wholesale accounts that season, and drove many carloads of flowers back to Laura’s garage studio to store them in the tiny reach-in cooler, then sort out orders the next morning.
In June of 2021, Laura signed a lease for the land that we are currently and plan to stay at for awhile. It’s a lovely tree-lined plot of about 3 acres that is part of a bigger property out on Wadmalaw Island. We once again packed everything up, left some plants in the ground at the Horse Pasture, and moved shop. SPEAKING OF SHOP - it was about that time that Laura began looking for a brick-and-mortar storefront for Feast & Flora. It has always been a goal to have a place to hold workshops, sell bouquets, and coordinate with clients for wholesale orders and weddings.
That summer, we got to work once again plowing the new field, tilling in compost, measuring out rows, shaping beds, and planting seedlings. Zinnias, celosia, cosmos, amaranth, and dahlias were once again some of the first things to go in the ground that season. I spotted my first swallow-tailed kites out on Wadmalaw that summer and definitely cried because of it. We installed a new drip irrigation system so the transplants could have consistent water (although it still has that distinctly sulfur smell to it), and finally were able to plant some hydrangeas and roses that had been living in pots for the past two years.
Fall and winter were as windy and rainy as ever and those insulated overalls came in clutch for the second year in a row. Because we plant our spring-blooming crops in the fall months, we have to get them to live through the coldest weeks of January and February. Some friends came out to help me secure frost cloth over the crops ahead of a weekend that was forecast to be particularly cold. They got a very realistic taste of what farm life is like, and also got to wear the insulated overalls!
The most exciting thing that happened this past January was that we got a SHED. Blessings upon blessings. I hadn’t realized (or had I?) how difficult it was to stay organized and on top of weekly farm tasks when all of our tools and supplies were either under a tarp or stored in Laura’s garage. Spring bulbs started blooming not long after the shed was installed, and we had ranunculus, anemones, daffodils, and tulips ready to harvest in no time.
March, April, and May were the usual harvesting and bouquet-making frenzy that they always are, but this time we got to do it all at the new shop. Laura found the perfect place on Ashley River Road right next to Hometeam BBQ. We moved in in April, and opened officially back in June. It’s been so exciting to see the shop transition from a big empty showroom to a cozy, inspiring space for all the flowers, gardening tools, homegoods, and random gifts you could ever want.
This summer was a balmy one. We’ve been sweating more than ever before and drinking more water than we thought we could, but we’ve been incredibly productive. During our time on Wadmalaw so far, we’ve expanded our growing area to over three times what it was this time last year. We’re currently in that weird transitional time when the days are getting shorter and summer flowers are slowing down, and fall blooms are just really starting. The cooler temperatures are a welcomed relief. We’re getting excited for fall planting, which means more spring blooms! I love taking this time to reflect on the highs and lows of past seasons and dream up ways to make the farm more efficient and more beautiful in the coming years.