A tale of two flower farmers

A tale of two flower farmers

Different operations, same passion for cultivating blooms


Archlynn Farms, Charlotte County
facebook.com/ArchlynnFarmProduceandFruits

For Amy Carwile, growing cut flowers is about the stories.

“People tell me they’re buying a bouquet to take to a nursing home or to their wife to say, ‘I love you,’” Carwile shared with a smile. “One lady told me it was her birthday, and she was buying herself flowers because she deserved it. Hearing (customers’) stories just makes me happy.”

She and her husband, Michael, have owned and operated Archlynn Farms in Charlotte County for the past five years, growing fruits and vegetables and selling them to subscription customers and at the Lynchburg and Farmville farmers’ markets. While shopping for produce, customers started asking about flowers.

Carwile decided to attend a Virginia State University cut flower workshop this past January and became hooked.
“I came home and ordered a ton of seeds.”

She planted some in a field and more in one of the farm’s four high tunnels, unheated greenhouse-like structures. Now she is learning what grows well in a field and what thrives under cover. She’s also discovering her customers’ flower preferences.

Old-fashioned stock, or gillyflower, has been popular with her customers, as have snapdragons, zinnias and sweet Williams.

At the VSU conference, experts suggested growing bupleurum. Carwile heeded their advice and planted seeds, but “I haven’t sold the first stalk of it,” she remarked with a frown.
Now she’s decided to make her own decisions about what to grow.

“Around here in Southside Virginia, flowers are like vegetables. People like what they know and what they grew up with,” Carwile explained. “I like to grow pretty flowers; ones you can take home, put on a kitchen table or share with your friends.”

Harmony Harvest Farm LLC, Augusta County

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The passion and excitement of growing cut flowers bursts through as Chris Auville and her daughter, Jessica Hall, discuss their family venture.

“Our flowers are farm-fresh from the fields, and this is a great way to marry agriculture with the niche market of cut flowers,” remarked Hall, Harmony Harvest Farm’s master grower and designer. “It’s highly rewarding to pick seeds out of a catalog for a bride, plant them, harvest them, arrange them and then watch them walk down the aisle.”

Hall and her mother cultivated the idea of starting a cut flower farm while on a family vacation six years ago. Hall was interested in returning to her farming roots, and Auville and her husband, Martin, wanted some hay land. Hall attended Virginia Tech, where she studied horticulture.

“I said to Jess, ‘Where do florists get their flowers?’ and that’s when we looked at each other and knew we would grow flowers,” Auville recalled.

The mother-daughter team spent the next year researching, consulting with experts, writing a business plan and constructing high tunnels, a greenhouse and a work space. The Auvilles and Hall and her husband, Brian, incorporated the farm in 2013, and business has been blossoming ever since.

They grow 200 varieties of flowers in fields and half a dozen high tunnels. “I love the peonies and dahlias,” Auville remarked.

“I love all the flowers,” Hall added.

The flowers are used to design arrangements for about 40 weddings annually. The two also sell mixed bouquets to Whole Foods weekly, and this year they have begun selling flowers online and shipping them across the U.S.

Last summer Hall was named one of Florists’ Review magazine’s top 35 floral designers under 35. She is a Chapel Designer—a member of an international collective of wedding and event floral designers—and recently served on the design team for the First Lady’s Luncheon at the White House.

kathy.dixon@vafb.com



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