Today kicks off the start of the 2019 Floret Online Workshop. We have such an amazing mix of new and established flower farmers joining us from all over the world to learn about small scale flower farming and building a thriving flower business.
As excited as I am to share all of the information we’ve so carefully put together about plant propagation, succession sowing, and marketing with them, I’m equally excited to watch as students cultivate their own flower community and form friendships with other participants in the course.
When we transitioned our workshops from on-farm, to online, I worried that we would never be able to replicate the same deep personal connections that took place in person. But after hearing from so many people who completed our online workshop last season, gushing about how valuable and meaningful the connections they made through the course, I’ve realized that all of that worrying was for nothing.
One 2018 participant wrote, “I think the most unexpected thing was how close the community of support would be in the Floret Online Workshop. It has been so much fun! There’s so much encouragement here and I’ve made some of the sweetest friends. It feels like I’ve known them for years. Lots of kindred hearts! Flower farmers really are some of the kindest people around.”
Over the last year, Floret Online Workshop students have organized their own meet-up events across the country, including a tulip planting workshop in Pennsylvania last fall.
In Melbourne Australia, two students who met online through the workshop, later met “in the real world” and have since collaborated on Floral Acts of Kindness, a project that sources unsold flowers from wholesalers and enlists volunteers to make bouquets for charitable causes and senior citizen homes.
We’ve also heard from attendees who have arranged visits to meet other Floret students and tour their farms while they traveled across the U.S., Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. It’s been such a thrill to see these flower friendships develop and deepen and I’m excited to watch as this year’s class connects.
Along with the many celebrations, there has also been some sadness. We recently learned of the untimely passing of Marion Eckel (pictured below), an active member of the Floret Online Workshop class of 2018. She was described by others in the group as “that voice of unbridled enthusiasm for everyone. She shared in our joys and failures, beautiful blossoms and root rot.”
Marion and a small group of other workshop participants connected both inside and outside the class. She and fellow student Mary Mitchell Turner formed an offshoot group of Floret Online Workshop students described as “19 BFFs who share something together almost every day. We live far from each other…Missouri to Massachusetts…and have never met, but Marion’s death may change that.” Indeed, it did.
Following Marion’s memorial service, Mary wrote that she and another BFF from their Floret Online Workshop attended Marion’s memorial service in Boyds Maryland. Mary made a hydrangea and lisianthus bouquet (pictured below) for the lobby and another BFF from the workshop made two dahlia sprays for either side of the altar.
Following the service, the flower friends met Marion’s family and toured her carefully tended gardens. “Dahlias, zinnias, celosia and snapdragons, all planted and supported as we were taught, were a testament to the learning experience Marion took from the Floret course,” Mary shared.
“I am not sure anyone outside the Floret community could really understand the bond of support we feel for someone we have never met, whose voice we have never heard, whose hand we have never touched…but it is a real bond.” Mary shared. “We have experienced our first year as fledgling flower farmers individually, but together. This wonderful experience is certainly not something I expected when I signed up.”
Marion’s family donated her collection of gardening books, magazines, and seeds to the small group. Mary is now in the process of mailing Marion’s books and seeds to the BFFs from the Floret Workshop in Michigan, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Missouri, and Tennessee.
Each of the BFF’s will be planting flowers in Marion’s memory this coming spring. What a beautiful tribute to Marion and the perfect example of why flower friends are the best.
I’ve often said that the flower community is made up of some of the kindest, most caring, committed and generous people on the planet.
Marion clearly was one of those people.