Right now my friend Kaia and I are torturing ourselves a little bit. We’re doing the Whole30, this wheat-, dairy- and lots-of-delicious-things-free, month-long dietary experiment. So I’m so very thankful that I interviewed Shannon Trenholme before we started. Continue reading
Lucca got extra playful with this GIF, hinting about our upcoming interview. Continue reading
Watch a city and its green growth blossom before your eyes! What do you think this Panachie preview is alluding to? As usual, we’re looking forward to sharing this next woman’s story next Tuesday. Continue reading
Muddy boots, pretty flowers and great company. That’s how we kicked off last Saturday when we spent the morning with Heidi Joynt on her flower farm.
One year ago, Heidi started Field & Florist, a Chicago flower share (think CSA) and florist. Her dream turned into reality through a whirlwind of a few near-perfect circumstances and a lot hard work. One particularly serendipitous moment: Heidi was arranging flowers at Heritage Bikes and explaining her plan of having a small farm to her friend Mike, the owner, when he offered his family’s sprawling spot in Barrington Hills where she could start. Now Heidi’s a full-time flower farmer.
People with Panache: How long have you been a flower farmer?
Heidi Joynt: I started last year while I was working full-time at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I worked there for five years coordinating a program that trained teens in sustainable agriculture. So, I have a growing background, but with vegetables.
Flowers were pretty new to me until last year. I started with a small plot on the south side through the Botanic Garden actually. I was trying it out and experimenting for a season to see if I liked growing them, if I could sell them, what the market was, you know, just starting to dip my toes in that whole scene.
PWP: So when did you officially open Field & Florist?
HJ: Last year. I started the flower share in that plot, selling to about 20 people. I wanted to get the word out and gauge interest. I got it off the ground while I had my full-time job and just experimented with how it was going to be, if I enjoyed it and if I enjoyed being an entrepreneur. It became really clear to me that I needed to move on and start my own thing. It was really fulfilling and gratifying to make my own connections and do things the way I wanted them to be done.
PWP: How many people take part in your share now?
HJ: A little over 30. More would be great but I know I’m not going to have any problem getting rid of the flowers or selling them to other Chicago florists.
PWP: With your small operation, you really get the boutique experience. What kinds of unique flowers do you offer?
HJ: I probably have 15 varieties of dahlia including dinner-plate varieties, which are the large, super-full, double-headed flowers in all different colors, and then some scabiosa “night and day,” which are really cool and whimsical.
I’m trying to be able to provide something a little more unique than maybe what you’d find at the farmers market all the time. I want to hone in on things that are going to be really appealing to florists as well as your average consumer.
PWP: How does it work living in Andersonville, but farming in Barrington?
HJ: I come out here to harvest everything and bring it into the city. I usually do the arrangements here for the share because all of the flower stems have to be stripped and cleaned and cut, and I can just put them in the woods or toss them in the compost pile. Then I deliver the arrangements—only within the city limits—on Thursdays, or there are three pick-up locations.
PWP: Now that you farm here, what happened to your plot on the south side?
HJ: I still have that spot. It’s right behind the prison on 26th and California. The Botanic Garden hosts a program called Windy City Harvest inside the Cook County Sheriff’s Boot Camp, which is about an acre-and-a-half vegetable farm where the inmates work. They’re all non-violent offenders part of a post-release program so they have to check in daily and be employed in one of these specific crews. One of the crews actually helps water my site three times a week.
PWP: So, what’s your favorite part about the job?
HJ: I really like being able to produce something that’s high-quality and super fresh, and being able to offer something to the city that isn’t easily found. Providing an excellent, really beautiful product that’s locally and sustainably grown with no chemicals makes me feel really good. And I love designing. I like to be creative and play with flowers.
“It wasn’t all of a sudden. It was a path of experimenting.”
PWP: What gave you the push to start your own business?
HJ: It took me a couple years. I had been thinking about it and talking about it and plotting how maybe it could happen. But the more I talked about it, the more people were getting excited and the momentum was building and it became impossible for me not to. I was receiving so much support and encouragement, and I felt like the pieces were fitting into place. It wasn’t all of a sudden. It was a path of experimenting.
PWP: Do you have any really triumphant moments, where you thought, “Wow, I can’t believe I did that?!”
HJ: I feel like I have moments like that all the time. Even last week, when I harvested my first bunch of bachelor buttons out here—the dark blue purple ones—and I was like, “YES, I can totally do this. This is amazing. These flowers grew!”
PWP: What makes you happiest?
HJ: I’ve been in Chicago almost six years, and I think part of me starting this business was trying to forge a path that feels like me, that feels like my stamp on the world in Chicago. I don’t consider myself a city girl, though I can blend in pretty well, but for someone like me I need to be outside a lot and have a lot of downtime. I have a lot of quiet time out here, and I get to be with my own thoughts. And being able to feel completely independent while creating a path for myself and having it work out is really fulfilling and makes me feel like I don’t want to work for anyone else again. To be able to do this and be received well and be successful… it’s the icing on the cake.
[Photos by Kate and Alysse.]
On the muddiest of days, we loved getting down and dirty on the flower farm to experience our latest Panachie’s passion. Click below Continue reading
“I think it takes a lot of courage to take a moment, back up and realize that maybe you’re headed along the wrong path,” says Jen Ede, 29. Jen is the editor and publisher of Edible Milwaukee, a magazine celebrating Milwaukee’s local food scene. Continue reading