As we’re preparing for our upcoming scholarship program and to welcome our next class into the fold, I wanted to share a little bit more about the process of creating the course and why we designed it the way that we did.
In the first part of this blog series, I shared the story of how our workshops came to be. You can read it here.
I am a pen and paper kind of person and carry a notebook everywhere that I go. I can fill a 5-subject notebook in under a month just taking notes about what we’re working on day to day here on the farm.
There is something about holding paper in your hands that makes learning and understanding (at least for me) so much easier. I need to be able to see and touch things, and write down my thoughts as I go along.
So when it came time to create the written portion of the course, I knew in my heart that it needed to become a book—one that we could give to students so they too could hold it in their hands.
The first year we taught our on-farm workshops the course book was a tiny black and white spiral-bound notebook that was maybe two dozen pages in total. At the time it seemed like such a big deal, but looking back I can’t help but laugh because it’s come so far since those early days.
Today the course book is 290 beautiful colored pages filled with so many helpful how-to’s, step-by-step instructions, and resources that we’ve compiled over the years. It’s so big now that it needed an actual index, which technically makes it book number four.
In addition to the course book, we also created a sample cutting garden plan to demonstrate crop planning and succession planting on a small scale. The best part of this sample plan is that you can lay it out on the table and see such important concepts, which are normally very hard to understand, come to life right in front of your eyes.
One of the most challenging parts when we were teaching on-farm workshops was trying to squeeze all of the information into three short days. So many of the farm tasks and chores that I wanted to share couldn’t be demonstrated in person because of their seasonal nature.
What I love most about moving our workshop to an online format is that it has allowed us to share an entire year on the farm—from planning in the winter months to sowing seeds and planting in the spring to caring for all the flowers and harvesting in the summer, and then finally putting the garden to bed in the autumn.
The course includes more than 150 videos broken down into short, bite-sized pieces so that students can go at their own pace and watch and re-watch the video tutorials as many times as they need to in order to master the material.
Our intention behind doing it this way was that we wanted to structure it like an apprenticeship with a very hands-on learning approach. I am such a hands-on learner and need to see things demonstrated before I feel comfortable enough to try them myself.
The best part about this format is that we’re able to teach a wide variety of topics to students with varying skill levels and learning styles in a way that is easy to understand and implement in their lives and gardens, no matter how big or small.
Because the course includes so much information we intentionally broke it down into six core modules, each one building on the last. Modules are released weekly during the 6-week course, and then students have access to all of the material to reference any time they like from then on.
The reason we don’t release all of the material at once is that we want students to have enough time and support to work through that week’s module before moving onto the next. It’s so easy to want to jump to the fun stuff like seed starting or bouquet making and skip over the more challenging (but incredibly important) things like goal setting, planning, and marketing.
In Module 1, we spend a lot of time digging into the heart of why you want to grow flowers and then go through a series of exercises to refine your goals, highlight your strengths, and creatively work with what you have.
In Module 2, we dive into planning and all that goes into setting yourself up for a successful season. This module is often the most challenging but students always say that it is the most helpful and important one in the course.
Module 3 is all about getting off to a good start and we dig into seed starting, important supplies you’ll need, and then explore a wide range of different cut flower varieties and their specific needs.
In Module 4, we wade into the nitty-gritty side of growing flowers, including soil preparation, how to manage weeds, plant spacing, irrigation, and growing in tunnels and greenhouses.
Module 5 covers marketing, pricing, and the many different options you have when it comes to selling your flowers. Learning how to grow is only half of what it takes if you want a successful flower business—being able to sell them is just as important. I love this module because so many people who have struggled with this topic in the past (myself included) have huge breakthroughs going through this material.
In Module 6, I share all of my tips and tricks for harvesting flowers efficiently and getting them to last as long as possible. It also covers efficient bouquet-making techniques, how to package and deliver flowers, and the most important things that you need to know when selling to florists, wholesalers, and grocery stores.
When we transitioned the workshop online we were so worried about losing the community and connection piece that was the heart of the on-farm experience. But what we found is that nothing could be farther from the truth.
The amazing farmer-florists that once assisted at our in-person workshops now help moderate the Floret Learning Community, an online forum for students in the course.
Our workshop “den moms” lend their wisdom and climate-specific advice to students all over the world.
Through the Learning Community, we’ve seen so many students form real-life friendships, set up dahlia tuber exchanges, host meetups, go in on plant orders together, and visit each other’s farms and gardens to learn and be inspired by one another.
During the 6-week course, we also host a weekly Q&A session where Jill and I answer questions from students about that week’s module. These video sessions are always so much fun to film and we love being able to connect with students and cheer them on.
At the end of the course each year we send out a survey and gather student feedback about the workshop that we then take into our annual audit so that the program continues to improve over time.
Students have lifetime access to the course and any new material that’s created in the future. Because of the online format, there’s no way to fall behind and students have the freedom to work their way through the material at their own pace.
In the 11 years that we’ve been teaching the Floret workshop, both on-farm and online, we’ve welcomed students ranging in age from 16 to 76 from more than 50 different countries around the world.
Our students have included stay-at-home parents, corporate professionals, farmers, brand new growers, retirees looking for a joy job, people working a standard 9-5, and everything in between.
We’ve also taught all types of organizations, including community gardens, schools, universities, prisons, veteran rehabilitation programs, and programs serving people with a wide range of abilities.
If I would have known way back when we taught our very first workshop in my backyard that it would have blossomed into this I never would have believed it. Being able to share all of the lessons I learned along the way with others has been the honor of a lifetime. I am so incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity.
If you’d like to learn more about our next Floret Online Workshop, you can join the waitlist below.
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