Reviewing Floret scholarship applications and preparing this post is one of the highlights of the year here at Floret.
Over the last week, the team and I have been burning the midnight oil as we have poured over all the scholarship essays. The entries were incredibly inspiring and left all of us so excited for the future of the floral industry – on a global level.
We were blown away by the number of applications we received this year. A record breaking 1,996 individuals from 53 different countries and all 50 U.S. states applied for a spot in our upcoming Floret Online Workshop.
This level of international interest this year was beyond anything any of us ever imagined. It came as a bit of a surprise, actually. I am aware of the growing interest in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, but I knew nothing about what has been building in Vietnam, Singapore, Lithuania and so many other countries.
I am humbled and amazed by the fact that our little two-acre farm has inspired folks from as far away as Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe to start growing flowers!
To see a map of submissions, be sure to check out the map below.
I have to say, choosing winners is both exhilarating and heart wrenching. There were so many deserving applicants and narrowing the list felt nearly impossible. This year I pledged five spots and, thanks to the generous sponsorship of an extremely gracious flower friend and past workshop participant, we were able to offer a total of six scholarships.
Before I introduce the winners, I want to first express my heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to apply for the scholarship. I am incredibly honored that you so willingly shared your aspirations, your dreams and beautiful life stories with me. All week I have been reflecting on the many thoughtful essays, family memories and personal journeys that I read. Some of the submission made me laugh out loud; a few even brought me to tears.
During the process, I was once again reminded of the power that flowers have to tap into our deepest emotions. The amount of joy they create, the comfort they provide, the happiness they inspire, the memories and nostalgia they stir, and the healing that can occur… it really is amazing.
As the team and I read through the submissions, there were a few common themes that surfaced. Here are a few that we noted:
Cultivating beauty in an ugly world. With the news cycle too often dominated by violence and conflict, our gardens are a place where we escape to find peace.
“Now, more than ever, deeper and meaningful connection is needed. Being rooted, staying present and cultivating beauty in the midst of the swirling chaos of the world is made possible when we put our hands to the earth.”
“Dostoevsky once said, ‘beauty will save the world’ and I believe him.”
Flowers as medicine. Gardening keeps you grounded. And flowers have given hope and provided much needed healing to many battling anxiety, depression, illness or incredible, unimaginable loss. There were more than a few misty eyes while reading about journeys into the garden after losing a baby, a husband, a beloved grandparent, or a life upended and home destroyed by hurricanes.
So many heartfelt applications clearly confirmed the old adage that flowers really DO feed the soul.
“Seeds can grow in more than garden soil, they can also be sown in the human heart. Like soil, they can lay dormant there for many years until conditions are just right & then they take hold to grow. My Grandma passed away this year in the month that Shastas bloom. She went to prune her flowers when she died with clippers in hand in the morning sun. She was 104 yrs old, her name was Daisy. Flore Farms has been the rain & sun for the seed that Daisy planted in my heart.”
“Two years ago after the loss of my mother, I sought a life authentic to my heart. Flowers chose me, and I followed curiously.”
“Farming breaks me in half and fills me right back up at the same time.”
Courage, confidence & pursuing a passion. I read many confessions of anxiety and self doubt. There is a sincere desire to step away from something stable but deeply unsatisfying in order to pursue a dream or to carve out more space for the things that bring you joy and make your souls sing. There is excitement, laced with a lot of fear, about starting a new chapter, taking risks and pursuing dreams.
“I put myself a bit on the back burner while working to give my family all of me. Now I would love to give to myself.”
“I’ve dedicated myself to pursuing MY dreams and have decided to stop working so hard for other people’s success.”
“Doing what you love seems to intensify the whole spectrum of your emotions, your senses awaken, you experience life on another level. It’s scary, it’s raw, it’s real. Creating beauty is the hardest work I’ve ever done, but it’s also the truest me, melding the gardener with the artist.”
Community & camaraderie. Many applicants expressed a yearning to connect with a local community of fellow flower lovers and kindred spirits who face similar struggles and share similar dreams.
“Nurturing the tender shoots encourages us to do the same for ourselves and for each other…Providing conditions for growth takes us on an inner journey, as much as an outer one. And celebrating and sharing the harvest joins us together in moments big and small.”
“Flowers foster very strong connections… connections with the Earth, with ourselves, with each other.”
Giving back. The generosity of the flower community is without bounds. Many applicants spoke to the ways in which they plan to pay it forward or other otherwise dedicate a part of their business to help others in need.
Modeling strength for our children. I was struck by the number of essays that referenced the deep desire to model strength, independence and courage with our children and grandchildren.
“I want to show my four children (especially my high-school age daughter) that the learning, growing, and changing process as a human never ends.”
Re-connecting with nature. Gardening and flower farming beckons many to escape soulless desk jobs, computer screens, long commutes and cubicles.
Revitalization & stewardship. There is a deep desire to keep flower farming alive in areas where it has dwindled or introduce it where it is doesn’t exist.
As in years past, the essays included many inspirational and memorable quotes. A few notable ones include:
“Let the Beauty that you Love be the Work that you do.” -Rumi
“I only have 40 summers left to get this right”
“My family laughs when I tell them, ‘I love you more than flowers.’”
“I think that life gently nudges you towards a path you didn’t even know was there.”
“I finally understood that agriculture need not only be about feeding our bodies, but can also feed our souls.”
“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But most of all, the world needs dreamers who do.” -Sarah Ban Branach
“But the heart is made for longing forward.” – Laura Kelly Fanucci
“Happy is she who has the power to gather wisdom from a flower.” – Mary Howitt
I know the anticipation has been building and it’s finally time to introduce Floret’s 2018 Scholarship winners! As you’ll see, there’s an international theme to this year’s winners. This was neither pre-meditated nor expected. While the seasonal flower movement has caught fire here in the United States, it is still very much in its infancy in other corners of the globe. The need for additional information, training and support in other countries is great and became crystal clear as we read through many of the applications.
With the conversion of our training into a digital format, it means making the workshop information available to our scholarship recipients – no matter where they live – will be much easier and much more practical. I can’t tell you how thrilling this is!
Ok, without further ado, please meet the 2018 Floret Scholarship winners:
(L-R: Christy Ralphs, Farah Altamimi, and Rosie & Oscar Winter + family)
Christy Ralphs of Nourish Gardens, Waiheke Island, New Zealand
Two years ago a serious cancer diagnosis for Christy’s husband meant she had to leave teaching to be home and provide care. After a year, she began to start to dream again and eventually put in a 5000 square foot trial growing patch, named Nourish Gardens, which has provided her with much joy, learning, and connection.
We loved her positive outlook and eagerness to support others in her region. She wrote, “Our seasonal local flower movement in NZ also feels in it’s infancy, so I’ve set up a private FB group to make connections for small diverse growers across NZ and it’s been great to share the passion with others. I’d like to expand my knowledge and networks to help support these growers who have also become friends too.”
Farah Altamimi from Amman, Jordan
As a teenager, Farah bought flower bulbs when most of her peers “were buying makeup.” But feeling trapped by a career she described as “dark and disappointing” and in an effort to avoid a slow descent to depression, Farah made the decision to leave her job and follow her life-long passion. She then rented a ½ acre of land, “went through the overwhelming task of importing proper seed varieties from abroad, and tried everything to absorb every single piece of info I could.”
“As I sow my seeds this Autumn, I also sow hope of a brighter future come spring, when I can be the first cut flower farmer/florist in Jordan. Being from a region of the world plagued with war and pain, NOW is the time for cultivating hope and beauty around us through positive energy. Here in Jordan, where 1/5 of the population are refugees, flowers have been thought of as a luxury item for too long. Shipping charges and high import taxation make flowers unaffordable to the average household. I believe that flowers are food to the soul, radiating positive energy wherever they go. My long-term vision is to produce masses of locally grown flowers at a fraction of the cost of imported ones, making flowers a daily treat available to all. Your scholarship will empower me as a woman, so I can achieve financial independency I have eagerly sought after, but never achieved, in a culture predominated by men. Your generous scholarship is a rare opportunity to get a jump-start at my business project, especially that it is now offered online, Given the honor to attend your course is the ONLY personal growth opportunity available to me here in Jordan, and might as well be the breaking point between success & failure.”
Rosie & Oscar Winter, The Rose and Radish, Piccadilly, Australia
Rosie & Oscar had always dreamed of farming. After moving to a small farm in the Piccadilly Valley a few years ago, the couple started a little roadside stall to sell their excess produce. On a whim one week, Rosie cut some roses from the bushes found on the farm, added carrot flowers and hawthorn leaves, and sold them along with the vegetables. Flowers quickly became their best seller and they later expanded their small flower patch to sell flowers at a city market.
“Flowers found us. Daily we see people uplifted by the medicine that homegrown flowers bring…Flowers and farming was just a hobby for a while, but then last year Rosie lost her job and we were faced with an unexpected crisis. It was a blessing in disguise though as it has meant we almost had no choice but to take a leap of faith and make our farm a business. While opportunities have opened up to us like we never expected, starting a business out of necessity has also meant everything we’ve been doing has been haphazard and without efficient systems. Too often we just hastily throw some seedlings in the ground and hope for the best. Your garden planning kit however has been the best resource for getting us on track this past season, so we know your workshops will be just what we need. We’d love to continue to offer our flowers to people in our region longing to connect with nature, and to create a business to support our family; and would love your help and guidance to get us there.”
(L-R: Masami Lavault, Inna Zvezdina, Katie Koch)
Masami Lavault, Plein Air, Paris, France
Four years ago, Masami quit her job in London to intern on biodynamic farms in Morocco and the UK. As part of her experience, she tended a flower patch and made bouquets for the weekly market. She later returned home after 10 years abroad and did everything she could to find land on which she could build the first urban flower farm in Paris. After a long, rocky process involving “countless sleepless nights and emotional roller-coaster rides” she recently received the keys of a council-owned 1200 m2 plot, in the middle of Paris.
“I do everything I can to make this dream come true: I have stripped down my side-jobs to the bare minimum – half of the week – to have just enough money to pay for my most basic needs. Every extra penny goes into equipment or farm-related expenses. It’s exhausting, and almost asocial at times, but I feel blessed to have the opportunity and privilege to fulfill my dream: I want to honor this….if I’m awarded this scholarship, I know that my business will simply not be the same. Getting the unique chance to learn from experts, at such a critical stage of my project, will massively broaden my skill set, and definitely strengthen my mindset.”
Inna and Konstantin Zvezdina, Fluffy Flower Farm, Moscow, Russia
Inna and Konstantin grow cut flowers near Moscow on a 3 acre piece of land, and are one of just a few flower farmers in Russia.
“We have always dreamt of having a spot of land to be able to grow seasonal flowers with respect to the planet and this year this dream has become a reality. It was such a great coincidence – we bought a piece of land and found Floret who gave us so much inspiration and knowledge to start growing our small business…Russia is a blue ocean for flower farming. We have an ambition, attitude and inspiration to grow…we seek for new ideas in flower farming world-wide, we are hard-workers and we want flower farm business to become our life story. We have created good prospect to grow during our first year of flower farming and we see a lot to be happening in future – today we need some guidance to prioritize and really looking towards getting quality advice from Floret.”
Katie Koch, Flower Mama, Davis, California
A born and bred Wisconsin native, Katie now rents and farms 1/3 acre of cut flowers in the Central Valley of California. Katie is now entering her third season as a farmer-florist, though she has been growing flowers since she was a child.
“I’ve had so much going on in my life right now that I feel like I’m barely holding it together. Within the last 2 months, I’ve become a single mother to my 2.5 year old and had to move out of our family home. I’m actually moving again in a week to hopefully a more permanent spot. These hard life transitions have very recently given me the fire under my butt to really figure out how to make my business profitable to sustain a life for my son and I. This truly is make it or break it time. I’m trying to utilize all the resources I can, and this Floret Scholarship would be absolutely golden. I want nothing more than to be a successful farmer-florist and model that for my son. The Floret Scholarship would be a huge step in that direction and I’m ready to take it.”
Please join me in congratulating all the winners! All of us here at Floret are so thrilled to have this group join us for the upcoming Floret Online Workshop.
I am so grateful to everyone who completed a scholarship application. Your stories touched us, humbled us, and inspired us more than you’ll ever know. Thank you.
Karen Merritt on
What a wonderful thing you have done! There are tears in my eyes right now as I have read these stories! You are touching so many lives beyond your own community and I know that those blessings will keep coming back to you. Cheers to the winners! Please share updates on how they are all doing.