Flower Hill Farm Q&AAlani Medeiros
This week I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with Nicole Pitt, owner of Flower Hill farm, she resides in the rural landscapes of Upstate New York well known for its cold climate contrary to the rest of the state. I had compiled a list of questions regarding how her farm came to be, what sparked her interest in the vast field of agriculture, as well the difficulties of living where the weather may affect the longevity of each growing season and production. Here is her response!
“Hi! I’m Nicole from Flower Hill farm. I’m going into my fifth year of flower farming in Upstate New York. I have a few selling channels for my flowers. I attend a weekly farmer’s market, I have a 40 member CSA, and I sell wholesale to a couple local florists. New this year, we are partnering with a local grocery delivery service to offer our flowers.”
What Piqued Your Interest in Flower Farming?
“Moving back to my childhood home in 2018 was what sparked my interest in building a flower farm. The property itself is very picturesque and I knew it was meant for something bigger than me. I had visions of the rolling hills full of flowers and the dream grew from there. I had no idea that farming flowers was an actual thing at the time.”
What Was It Like Beginning Flower Hill Farm?
“The beginning of Flower Hill Farm was very small. I planted 50 dahlias, a few hundred gladiolas and some annuals. My first year I only grew and didn’t attempt to sell. I was learning what worked and what didn’t. It also allowed me to build up a collection of photographs of the flowers I grew for marketing. I created the social media pages and did a few giveaways to build excitement about my business in my local community. There was nothing like Flower Hill Farm in our area and the idea was very exciting for my community. I’m pretty sure some people thought I was crazy. Farming FLOWERS? What? I spent a lot of time explaining the concept and why locally grown flowers are important that first year.”
While Living in Upstate New York, How Do the Shorter Growing Seasons Affect Your Overall Production?
“I’m in Upstate New York, zone 4b. My frost dates are approximately May 20- Oct 1, which means I have a pretty short season. I’ve learned to extend my season by growing plenty of cool annuals that don’t mind the cold. I also put up an unheated hoophouse to encourage blooms as early as possible. I think pushing the envelope is important to see how much cold the plants can withstand. This has allowed me to offer blooms much earlier in the spring! I’ve had great success with ranunculus, anemone and more inside the hoophouse.”
What Has Been Your Best Investment?
“A few of the best investments I have made at the farm include our Kubota tractor, the bed layer attachment from Progressive Grower, and our hoophouse. These are big investments but they are the reason I have been able to expand my farm! Another important investment has been a team. As much as I want to think that I can, I can NOT handle all of the things at my farm on my own.”
What Made You Decide to Take to YouTube to Share Your farm/ Why Do You Think Your YouTube Channel Has Been So Popular?
“My background is in television. I graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in broadcasting. I spent more than a decade working at television stations as a producer, reporter and TV news anchor. Over the years I’ve created documentary style videos about my family and special events. Making videos for YouTube just seemed like such a natural thing for me to do. I spent so much time telling the stories of other people, telling my own story came very easily. My channel “Flower Hill Farm” started out as my way to reach my local community and share the flowers I was planning to grow. I thought it would be fun for my customers to watch the entire process of building my business. I did not expect my channel to grow as much as it has over the past three years. I think being authentic and showing the good along with the bad is why my channel has an audience. I also (not so) secretly dreamed of being on SNL my entire life, so YouTube gives me a creative outlet to be quirky and just be myself. I think people are getting tired of seeing “perfection” emulated on social media, and I am the furthest thing from perfection, so people relate.
YouTube is also an additional source of income for my farm. It’s basically a full-time job and I would not have been able to expand the way that I have without it.”
How Do You Plan to Expand in the Future/ What Are Your Plans Moving Forward?
“In 2022, FHF expanded to a second location in the village of Boonville. I purchased the local nursery. There are four heated greenhouses and a retail space. This is an exciting (and terrifying) new adventure and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. Our nursery location will act as a store front for our bouquets and we also have plans to sell hanging baskets, vegetable starts, annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees- anything you’d expect to find at a local nursery! Another reason for this purchase was to keep the farm private. As the success of my YouTube channel expanded, people were starting to just stop by the farm. Some people traveled from states away. This made us very uncomfortable. We want our private property to remain private. The nursery gives us a public location for people to stop by and visit during open hours.”
What Would You Tell Someone Who Would Like to Begin Flower Farming?
“Growing flowers can easily become an addiction. If you’re wanting to dive in, consider this your warning. I am slowly learning to scale back on the variety of annuals I am growing because it’s more efficient for my business, but I also want to grow ALL OF THE THINGS! Also know that it’s ok to just grow flowers for fun. Nobody says you have to grow AND sell. In fact, I recommend growing for a season before selling like I did to test the waters. It’s easy to be swept up into the idea of being a flower farmer. It’s not as dreamy as social media makes it out to be. It’s a lot of dirty, hard work. I love it.”