The new year is going to be a busy one for Jo Thompson. She shares some of the changes afoot at her flower farm in Gloucestershire.
2023 will be the 4th growing season at Wye Valley Flowers, and they have lots of exciting plans in place. At the moment, they grow flowers on just under an acre, set within a 13-acre eco-farm and glamping site located between the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean. They harvest rainwater, use an air source pump, avoid chemicals and pesticides, as well as using the waste from their guest composting loos as mulch on their flowerbeds. They are open from Mother’s Day to mid-December and run workshops in their Flower Studio throughout the year.
Expansion may seem a little crazy, considering they haven’t experienced a ‘normal’ year yet: they have been in either a pandemic, a lockdown, a drought, micro-wedding fever, or an event catch-up year – and now they find ourselves in a financial crisis. However, the interest in seasonal, sustainable British flowers continues to rise despite the financial pinch, and weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries will keep on coming around.
They have three planned changes at WVF this year. The first and probably most exciting for us is the conversion of their old dairy into a shop – ‘The Potting Shed.’ They are on schedule to open the week before Mother’s Day, just in time for their busiest day of the year. The aim is simply to make it easier for their customers to buy their flowers. Although they already run a small farm gate stand and an honesty box for bouquets, they will now be able to offer the kind of ‘make while you wait for’ service you might expect at a high street florist.
A shop will allow us to advertise regular opening hours, have an outlet next to the flower farm where potential customers can see more of what they offer, and they’ll also be stocking local artisan produce. Inspired by the grassroots campaign Just a Card, which encourages support for artists, makers, independent shops, and small businesses, we plan to sell a range of lifestyle products for every pocket, including gift cards and items useful to their glamping guests. This project is certainly a risk in the current economic climate, but their minimal overheads will mean we can hit the ground running.
The second development they have planned is a PYO field for the summer, filled with favorites like cosmos, dahlias, sunflowers, and zinnias. Visitors will pay just for what they pick, and the great family photo opportunity is free! There is a lot of bureaucracy involved in setting up a PYO, but their field is already allocated for tourism use, and they open for LEAF Open Farm Days, so they are used to having the public on-site, and they love sharing their space.
Finally, in February, they are launching a monthly seed subscription, having been through licensing with the Animal and Plant Health Agency to allow us to package and market seeds. Subscribers will be able to buy a one-off box as a gift or have a regular monthly delivery. Each box will include a range of bulbs and/or seeds, along with instruction cards and an invite to their monthly grow-along videos – all sustainably and beautifully packaged. For each box sold, we will donate £1 to Perennial, the UK’s only charity dedicated to helping those who work in horticulture.
It’s going to be a busy year, but they are looking forward to meeting lots of new visitors to the farm and spreading the word about British-grown flowers, Flowers From The Farm, and their lovely local group of growers, the #LedburytoLydneyFlowerCollective.