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BUSINESS MONDAY: Tiny Hearts Farm ... in full bloom

What does it mean for a Dutch bulb company to check your little local flower garden website? “You may have wondered who ordered 80,000 tulip bulbs,” laughs Jenny Elliott, co-owner of Luke Franco at Tiny Hearts Farm in Copake, NY.

But maybe there is more. With the exception of some Dutch outposts in the Midwest, which host the annual “Tulips Time” festival, and a few farms in the northwestern Pacific coast, tulips (growth flowers sold in markets and florists) are Still mostly in the Netherlands (oh, 90 percent of the bulbs still have to come from their hometown).

It was cultivated locally in an era when more and more people wanted to know where and how meat was grown and where produce was harvested, and became more aware of the carbon dioxide emissions left by their choices. It’s easy to understand the growing popularity of flowers. Not shipped worldwide. Therefore, tulips from Tiny Hearts.

In fact, Franco and Elliott take the environment a step further by growing organic flowers using sustainable agricultural practices that help enrich the land. Not only does this make every bouquet of flowers a very beautiful gift, but it also makes a thoughtful gesture that both the donor and the recipient can feel comfortable with.

Elliott and Franco are working hard to take care of the fields.Photo by Sage Warner

It’s no wonder that two classically trained musicians who lived in New York City decided to run a 35-acre flower farm and shop in northern New York. “Living in Brooklyn was very stressful and I bought a dirty turnip at the Union Square Farmers Market just to smell the soil,” says Elliott. (She was ordering a dahlia catalog just to see her pictures). When she saw an ad for a farm internship at an educational farm in Westchester County, she told Franco, “I’ll go, with or without you.” Fortunately, he went on. (Franco was a jazz guitarist who played regularly.)

Approximately five years later (2011), after completing vegetable cultivation and internships, the couple worked with the Westchester Land Trust Agricultural Land Matching Program to bring land-deficient farmers and a few acres of real estate owners. I made a pair. Elliott learned that one acre of meadows was available at Dick Button’s 50-acre Ice Pond Farm in North Salem, Massachusetts, and she immediately applied. “I was a big fan of the Winter Olympics,” she says. “And obviously I thought this was intended!”

And Tiny Hearts Farm has started. This is a small vegetable and flower farm on an acre of land less than 30 years old. They installed a rainwater collection system, but without drinking water, vegetable growing options were limited. In addition, while it is difficult to sell as a vegetable grower at a local farmer’s market, people soon realized that they were anxious for more florists. “We switched exclusively to flowers in the third year,” says Luke. “But we knew that if we wanted to specialize in a variety that was particularly difficult to grow, we would have to focus on making it work because there is a steep learning curve for flowers to grow.”

Tiny Hearts Farm
Ground Zero at Tiny Hearts Farm is a vast site in Copake, home to family homes and farms. Photo courtesy of TinyHearts Farm

In the spring of 2014, they signed a lifetime lease on 22 acres of farms in Columbia County and moved to Copake to become part of a new Copake Agricultural Center, where they expanded space and improved infrastructure. Today, 35 acres, a house on the edge of the field, a barn for packing orders, four greenhouses, more equipment, two delivery vans, and an equal passion for flowers, to become a great farmer We have a strong team of dedicated employees who are investing. And the designer. They opened the Tiny Hearts Farm Studio / Showroom on Route 23 at the Happening Hub in Hillsdale in May 2018.

A fascinating entrance to Tiny Hearts Farm’s studios and showrooms. We offer classes, CSA pickups and seasonal retail. Photo courtesy of TinyHearts Farm

Initially, fencing, equipment, financing and housing were major challenges, but they were not comparable to the turmoil that occurred when the 2020 pandemic broke out. In one of the biggest wedding seasons to date, 25 weddings were booked and disappeared overnight. With immediate forced cancellation of all meetings. Relationships with other flower designers and wholesalers have ceased. “We were planning seeds and plants long before that spring, but suddenly there were no stores to sell them,” they explain. “We were afraid to open the store and had to restructure everything.”

As a result, the pair was creative and developed an online store on their website, listing all the flowers available for pre-orders or community-supported agriculture (CSA) accounts. They posted on Instagram and sent a weekly email newsletter. Elliott has launched a YouTube channel on a virtual tour to connect clients to what’s available on the farm and stay up to date on weather patterns and challenges. result? Surprisingly, the business has blossomed. As more regular activities in people’s daily lives were put on hold, the demand for their flowers increased.

As Franco recalls, one customer became emotional over the phone when he learned that his favorite flower was sold out. “She told me it was a very dark time. She really needed our flowers to give her joy. The bouquet was like a bright place in our community.”

Tiny Hearts Farm Shop
Inside the store, only a small selection of rotating flowers is on display. Photo courtesy of Robbi Hartt

That perception gave them a stronger sense of what they were doing and why. Stop at a flower shop between 10am and 4pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays to express love, joy, empathy, celebrate achievements and lose money. They raise every opportunity, raise the spirit and deepen the connection. Elliott and her team know this instinctively and use that sense of purpose to create arrangements that are as unique, voluntary and capricious as the people and opportunities they admire.

Franco pauses when asked how they define success. “Our vision has always been to create beautiful places to live and work and to spread joy to the community through our activities. The goal has never changed, but there are so many each season. I think our means of achieving that goal are changing because of the variables. If you stay open in new directions, you can go through the door when the opportunity opens. Each step of their journey shaped their identity and helped them evolve continuously, personally and professionally.

“Last year (our 11)th Year) was a big milestone for us and for the first time we were able to continue to grow during the winter season, “says Franco. Restoring “bulbs” (125 feet of covered temperature-controlled space connected to a 50-foot heated greenhouse) is an extraordinary feat and an ideal place to store and force bulbs. is created. For the first time, Elliott and Franco were able to retain five annual employees through special efforts to grow flowers faster. Their staff has grown to 12 employees this summer (including cutters, drivers, farm crews, equipment operators and shopkeepers). His sons George and St. Clair continue to help as well, often riding tractors and pinching peony buds for “marshmallow” tests.

This winter, they want to eat the heirloom chrysanthemum until early December, followed by forcing amaryllis and paperwhite. Once everything goes according to plan, the first tulips are ready to be picked in early February.

What is unique about Tiny Hearts Farm? Practicing sustainable agriculture, building a team spirit, selling seasonal ones and promising to offer an unprecedented wide palette of high quality flowers all add to the appeal.

But what’s the real key? “We run a beautiful flower shop, sell it to wholesalers and CSA members, and create beautiful event flowers,” says Franco. “The way to do this is also intentionally simple.”

To avoid expensive consulting services, they offer a transparent online à la carte menu of gorgeous seasonal flower arrangements, choose what customers want and know exactly how much it will cost (including shipping). You can know.

Tiny Hearts Farm Flower Shop
The florist and farm stand is stocked with fresh flowers and other items to celebrate the flowers every week. Photo courtesy of TinyHearts Farm

Stepping into the flower store is as magical as spring returning to Narnia. Light-filled spaces, peony and poppy perfumes, and soft jazz are an immediate lift to the execution of weekend errands. Online customers may miss the atmosphere of “Shop Around the Corner”, but they are equally pleased with the calm experience of working with Elliott and her team. Bow down and thank each plant at the time. “

Samara Rahmlow, who chose Tiny Hearts Farm for her summer dinner, praised it as follows: They used fresh local seasonal flowers that felt real … our guests praised their beauty. “

Bulb domes and greenhouses help Elliott and Franco face strange weather patterns that are becoming more frequent in climate change. Today, they are navigating how to turn a very successful business into a long-term entity. “I think there are three stages to growth: starting a business, starting a business, growing fast, and becoming an established business,” says Franco. “We are definitely set up now, but we live in a house and farm on the land that is part of the lease. A long-term farm that we can take over to our families. To have, we need to buy our own land. ”Understanding where and how they do it is the next big challenge. And, according to previous strategies, they remain open in new directions, allowing them to pass through the door when an opportunity opens.

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