How the Pandemic Changed my Business & Me for the Better
(But let's be honest, the struggle is still VERY real)
What's the difference between these 3 bouquets? It's partially where the flowers were grown, BUT it's also my own journey in taking responsibility for the effects of my choices on the environment and the community. These bouquets start by containing local flowers as an accident; and then contain local flowers as a half-hearted attempt to make good environmental and community-based decisions; and finally contain only local flowers as a full fledged commitment to our farms, our farmers, and our earth.
The Shirley poppy, my gateway drug into local flowers.
But in 2019 I was still a slave to pre-conceived color palettes created in the proposals I sent out. If a local farm had flowers that were the wrong shade of orange or pink, I would choose an imported flower from the wholesaler instead. Local flowers weren't the foundation of my designs, more like a bonus if I could find a way to use them.
A large part of the reason I was so inflexible in deviating from my proposals is because when I developed these ideas I had NO idea the breadth of what was available locally. There were flowers I'd never even heard of growing up in the Hudson Valley. My ignorance meant that I couldn't explain to a client that their proposal would be a guide but not a recipe. I didn't tell them that every year the flowers would be different with new varieties and slight shifts in the season. I started to learn these lessons in 2019 and build a business that could make local sourcing a bigger part of my regular practice, but then 2020 changed everything.
If you are a casual flower consumer, you may have never thought about where your flowers were grown. I certainly didn't, and even in the first few years of Three Notch Florals, I wasn't really aware. I sourced almost all my flowers at the wholesale market; where the wholesaler got them was not something I concerned myself with.
By 2019 I had become aware that we had flower farms in New Jersey and the Hudson Valley, and I began intentionally incorporating local flowers into my events. My motivations for doing so were a bit of a mix. Certainly I was motivated by environmental concerns. Most flowers are flown into this country from Colombia, Ecuador, and Holland; so locally grown flowers have a much smaller carbon footprint. But the first time I actually placed an order directly from a farm, it was also because there are flowers that I could only get from local growers because they were too delicate to ship. I ordered these stunning Shirley poppies along with a beautiful mix of herbs and Columbine for Elizabeth & Alex's early summer wedding at Caramoor in Katonah. It was full of soft pinks and purples, and the Shirley poppies bridged those tones perfectly.
These bouquets from E&A's wedding at Caramoor filled with poppies and herbs are still some of my favorites. Photo by Ortica Wedding.
When the pandemic hit and the shutdowns first started, I wasn't worried about my business (oh boy does that sound incredibly naive now). I was only worried for the flower farms. I thought Three Notch's weddings would just be postponed by a few months. Come June or July, the revenue would start rolling back in, but before then there would be hundreds of thousand of stems that would bloom and die. I worried the entire spring season could be lost, and the cost for those supplies and labor was already sunk — seeds and corms ordered the previous year, early blooms started inside over the winter, preparing the soil for planting, building beds, transplanting to seedlings. I worried that not recouping any of these expenses could potentially cause farms to close.
Facing the real possibility of losing businesses that I cared a great deal about "in theory" very quickly snapped me into realizing that "in theory" support doesn't count. Thinking local flowers are a good idea doesn't pay for labor. Instagram likes don't pay for a mortgage. I want a thriving Hudson Valley economy, and I want nearby flowers with a smaller carbon footprint, and I want flowers to be grown in a way that supports the land. But the only way any of those things are will continue to happen is if we are buying local flowers. So in 2020 I committed to buying ALL local flowers for the rest of that year and for the rest of time (when possible, I'm not crazy and think I can pull off a wedding January with twigs alone). And this is what I created last year with all those local blooms, every single stem locally grown or foraged...
But now here we are, almost a year later, and I've realized that we're facing a spring exactly like last years except for one huge difference... I now know how naive I was to think selling local flowers was a nice thing I was doing just for the farms. It was also one of the few things that helped Three Notch make any income last year. You didn't just help these farms (though you did do that — I was able to buy over $12,500 worth of local flowers last year!) but you also helped me. Your real support through bouquet subscriptions and orders were one of the few bright spots in an incredibly difficult year. I'm offering the subscriptions again this year starting with May and June, and I hope you'll support them again. I know there are 100 businesses at any one time asking for your support through the pandemic. But if you can support local flowers, it make a huge difference to the farms, to our environment, and especially to me.
PS: If you sign up for the newsletter below, you will get 10% off a subscription ordered for Valentines Day (2/14)! The newsletter will alert you to new blog posts (so you can expect to receive it anywhere from zero to ten times a year depending on how productive I am). I'm trying very hard to blog this year so we can have deeper conversations than can fit into an Instagram post. I believe filling our world with beauty and meaning are equally important. So join me in this conversation, and get a little bonus on a Valentines Day present of a promise of local flowers later this spring!