The Story of a New Business
at the Time of Social Distancing
It started about a year ago as a dream. It got shaped late August when 50 flower beds were laid on the hay field. It became absolutely real when 7000 bulbs were shipped by Colorblends, a wholesale flower bulbs company from the Netherlands. And slightly alarming, when a cheerful sales person told me not to worry, "I will send a forklift with this deliver, it's a lot of bulbs, you know!" And very shortly - when we started to put them into the beds, to be precise - I understood. 7000 bulbs is indeed a lot!
Our small SOEL farm in Millstone, NJ, was venturing into a new chapter - a pick your own flowers chapter. As the bulbs were cooling their feet (sorry, roots) in the ground, we were preparing throughout the winter for the opening: buying pretty baskets, safety scissors, and wrapping paper. And talking with an insurance company. And ordering new signs. And planning opening parties, and so on...
And finally spring arrived - with Coronavirus in tow. No grand opening - social distancing instead. No baskets, no scissors - when people came, they brought their own. Flowers, however, did not think much about these human concepts - in time they grew and bloomed beautifully. They stood close to each other, sometimes even touching their pretty heads when the wind picked up. There were daffodils everywhere: fragrant, yellow, orange and white beautiful spring flowers. Not a single one arrived with a mask. And they all signaled happiness and hope - that's why people plant them.
Do you recall that in the aftermath of 9/11, Dutch bulb supplier Hans van Waardenburg sent one millions daffodil bulbs as a gift to NYC? Around the same time, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe floated the idea of planting yellow daffodils across the city as a sign of remembrance. This initiative was named "Daffodil Project" and it continues to give out approximately 5000,000 free daffodil bulbs every year since.
We put a lot of planning around how to open our small daffodil field to the public at the time of severe pandemic in NJ. We were very modest advertising the new business. We offered beautiful flowers - and no contact with strangers at all, allowing only one family at the field at any given time. It took a lot of scheduling and coordinating - but was amazingly gratifying to see from a distance the families on the field - kinds running around, adults picking fresh bouquets. We built a list of our first customers. We gained some unique experience of how to run a business during a pandemic. Donated flowers to the local hospital - and met the real heroes of these dire times. When these flowers lift your customers' mood and make them smile (and I'm sure they will!) - it's a win for our business.
A sample of our beautiful harvest
Empty red chairs watch over this field, waiting for customers
Dogs were not allowed, but Leda, our vizsla puppy, got a pass - she knows the owners
Grandkids came to visit and helped collect flowers to donate to CentraState Hospital