2017 Floret Workshop Scholarship Winners

The team and I are filled with so much excited and nervous energy to make this announcement. I know the anticipation among Floret followers has also been building and we so appreciate everyone’s patience while we took some extra time to review the entries.

The massive storm front pounding the Pacific Northwest thankfully wasn’t nearly as bad as they predicted, which was a welcome relief. The farm is fine, but the high winds did leave us without power for eight hours over the weekend, which forced us to get creative about how to review the record number (1032!) of entries we received this year. In a moment of panic (on my part) Chris pulled our camper alongside the house, fired up the generator and ran extension cords through the windows to power our computers. While I’m sure it looked a little funny to the neighbors, it sure did the trick!

We received applications from a record 49 of 50 U.S. states (where are all you flower lovers in Nevada?), and 8 of the 10 Canadian provinces, plus the Yukon territory. The scholarship opportunity also reached a global audience, with applications from 23 other countries, from Bulgaria to Barbados and from South Africa to Singapore. A huge thanks to each and every person who submitted an application!

The vancouver florist team worked around the clock to finish reviewing the essays, narrowing the list down to 60, then 35, before handing me the finalists to make the difficult decision. This was by far the best bunch of finalists we’ve ever had, making the decision that much harder. Thankfully, I was able to choose not two, but three awardees, thanks to the extremely kind and generous soul and past workshop attendee who offered to sponsor a scholarship. I shared this before, but I think it is worth sharing again that she described the workshop as “life changing and life affirming, and I want to give that opportunity to someone who also needs to be there.”

The process of reviewing your submissions is always such a treat for me and the team. Some of the essays made us laugh. Some left us a little misty-eyed. We were humbled by the candor and honesty shared in your stories. The confessions of anxiety and self doubt, of leaving the stability of deeply unsatisfying jobs to pursue your passions….the need to carve out more space in your lives for the things that bring you joy and make your souls sing….the yearning for the freedom to take risks to pursue dreams.

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As we read through the submissions, there were a few key themes that surfaced. For example, we noted that conventional career paths have left far, far too many people feeling emotionally and creatively empty.

One applicant described her office job as climbing “this paved mountain of expectations…only to find feelings of emptiness and confusion.” Another confessed, “My biggest fear is doing something I don’t love for the rest of my life.”

There is an intense internal tug of war between what you feel you “should” do and what your heart calls you to do. You are looking for ways of “making” a job instead of “taking” a job. The garden beckons you.

“Growing flowers feels like finding home.”

“I am ready to reclaim some of the very parts of my heart that make me ME.”

I want “to live my passion and truth.”

Many confessed they lack the confidence to go out on a limb and pursue their dreams. Others yearn for the camaraderie of fellow flower lovers and kindred spirits who face similar struggles and share similar dreams.

“I’m so ready to join my tribe coaxing beautiful things from the earth, using sustainable growing practices, and sharing the gorgeous bounty with others.”

Growing flowers and digging in the dirt is therapeutic. For some, gardening has been vital to fighting cancer, healing from trauma and overcoming addiction. Complicated lives find quiet peace in the garden. There, you find calm amid the chaos of the world.

“Farming allowed my heart to heal and gave my life a new purpose and fulfillment.”

“I have experienced how flowers can heal, how they can unlock hearts, and how they can transform.”Many scholarship seekers shared that, similar to my story they had very special memories of flowers from their childhoods, shared with parents, grandparents, and other loved ones. Flowers help fill you up and connect you with the natural world, loved ones lost and the little people in our lives.

Thank you, again, to everyone who completed a scholarship application. I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, the many pledges to pay it forward and the enthusiastic interest in seasonal flowers.

Please join me in congratulating our three 2017 winners:

Joanna will be traveling to Floret from near Berkeley, CA where she is in her third year of operating a 1.5 acre flower farm. She described her business as being at a crossroad; it is “make or break time.”

In her essay, Joanna shared that by operating her farm she “could never have imagined the journey it would take me on. The 16 hour days often seem endless and my diet of donuts and canned espressos from the corner store cannot be very good for me…but I have built this business myself. And despite the long hard days which sometimes feel like they will never end, I know that what I have created is what I want for my life. I also realize, that in order to grow, I cannot do it alone….I know I need to assess and re-define my business and farm to be able to continue to grow in a sustainable way- not only for the planet but also for me. I am here- ready, willing and able to bring what I have already learned from my own business and equally excited to listen, learn and take in everything the Floret workshop can offer me.”

Maggie Smith, Pine State Flowers, Durham, NC

Maggie is the owner of Pine State Flowers, the only flower shop in North Carolina that exclusively sources locally-grown flowers. “The part of the business I most love is being the biggest buyer of flowers for many of the flower farms in the area, especially beginning flower farmers.”

Building the business has been a huge labor of love for Maggie. A self-taught designer, Maggie’s shop only recently expanding into weddings.

“Writing this, I’m looking at a polaroid of a bare room, with one broken table and a lone bucket of flowers. It was taken three years ago on the shop’s opening day. I used to be embarrassed that the shop was so plain, but now I love this reminder of everything I’ve done. At the time, I couldn’t even scrape together $100. Getting the shop to where it is today was a tremendous effort, I’m almost crying thinking of the exhaustion. I know I’ve gotten myself farther than many of the dreamers, but the truth is running this business often feels like a grind. I can count on one hand the times I’ve invested in myself—which is what this workshop means to me.”

Grace Alexander of Grace Alexander Flowers, Taunton, Somerset, U.K.

Grace Alexander is our first scholarship recipient from outside North America. A U.K.-based farmer-florist, Grace will be traveling to Floret for one of our Flower Farming Intensives. Grace just gained access to what she describes as a “derelict Edwardian walled garden” which will quadruple her current garden growing space.

I absolutely adored her introduction: “I’m still getting used to saying I’m a flower farmer, although it’s been nearly four seasons now. I’m also a clinical psychologist and it’s very hard to separate the two identities. I started growing flowers in the garden of my thatched cottage in Somerset, England, for my own mental health, but I got completely hooked. So now, alongside my full time job, I grow flowers for other people. Like you, I love the emotional impact on people of beauty, the memories of scent and of colour that touch something important. I also love the fact that flowers and plants connect people to something we all have in common. The earth and the ground and growing things.”

Congratulations again, ladies! All of us here at Floret are so thrilled to have you out to the farm next season.

As a reminder, tomorrow marks the opening of registration for our 2017 Workshops. We’re anticipating that the seats will fill super fast. If you have your heart set on attending a Floret workshop next year, be sure to set a reminder alarm so that you are ready at 10 a.m. to try to snag a seat. Payment plan options are available, also on a first-come-first-serve basis.

I’ll close with this quote from one of the applications:

Wendell Berry describes farming or stewardship best I think with these words “The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.”

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