This episode is a little bit unusual for us: Instead of an interview with a local food producer, today’s guests are flower farmers. Stephanie Auville Duncan and Jessica Hall are the co-owners and operators at Harmony Harvest Farm, a women-owned online flower shop in Weyers Cave, Virginia.
Harmony Harvest believes that everyone should have access to beautiful, farm-fresh flowers. They grow and ship fresh-cut, farm-grown flowers to buyers all across the US. Their business model is compelling, their Instagram account is stunning and, just like local food producers, they share the same values and face the same challenges in growing and selling an agricultural product. Listen in today to hear more about the women of Harmony Harvest Farm, as Jessica and Stephanie share why they use flower frogs over floral foam (and introduce their company, Floral Genius), how COVID actually saw their customer-base widen, and how they are pushing their seasonal enterprise to generate year-round revenue. They also explain pivoting to retail, digital marketing for farmers, and the importance of an authentic voice, as well as the various benefits of having flowers in our homes. Don’t miss this episode!
Get to Know Jessica and Stephanie:
Names: Jessica Hall and Stephanie Duncan
Location: Weyers Cave VA
Years in the industry: 15
Favorite Food: Jess: Bacon Steph: Pad Thai Least Favorite Food: Jess: Peas Steph: Lamb
Favorite Flower: Jess: All of them Steph: Lisianthus
Best advice you ever received: Jess: You’ll never get rich working for someone else’s dream Steph: Tell them once, tell them twice, and then tell them three more times.
Key Points From This Episode:
Jessica introduces Harmony Harvest, the only farm of their size to ship flowers nationwide.
Stephanie introduces Floral Genius, which produces pin flower holders called flower frogs.
Why flower frogs are better for the environment.
How Harmony Harvest has been affected by COVID – from event florals to retail consumers.
While farming is seasonal, Harmony Harvest is working to sell fresh perishables year-round.
The misconception about flower farming is that the plants are always in bloom, but flowers are harvested pre-bloom for consumers.
DIY boxes and individual bouquets are new to Harmony Harvest’s website offering in 2020.
Harmony Harvest does work with restaurants to help foster a more local community effort.
Jessica is also a designer – she custom pulls every bouquet, DIY box, and wholesale order.
COVID helped Harmony Harvest pivot to retail and develop systems that allowed them to grow.
Digital marketing for farmers – Stephanie explains how they meet customers’ expectations.
The value of making the time to create videos and content for social media as an online store.
A high-quality image on social media is important, but it is nothing without an authentic voice.
Harmony Harvest worked to expand their range of dried flowers to sell during the off-season.
The various benefits of having flowers in our home, if for nothing other than to make us smile.
Links Mentioned in This Episode:
Click Here for Full Transcript
Jessica Hall 00:00:
And while we knew our calling was to get flowers in hands, we didn’t understand just how deep that calling was to get flowers in everybody’s hands. So we just saw our dreams get much wider and much larger than what we thought it was capable of pre-COVID.
Georgiana Dearing 00:13:
Welcome to The Virginia Foodie Podcast, where we lift the lid on the craft food industry and tell the stories behind the good food, good people and good brands that you know and love. If you’ve ever come across a yummy food brand and wondered, “How do they do that? How did they turn that recipe into a successful business?” Then we’ve got some stories for you. Hey foodies, welcome back to the podcast. I’m George Dearing, owner of Water Street Marketing and the founder of Virginia Foodie. I’m kind of excited to bring today’s guest to you because they’re a bit off our beaten path, I’m taking a little bit of a pivot and instead of bringing food producers, today’s guests are farmers but they’re flower farmers right here in Virginia. I first met Stephanie Duncan at a Farm to Fork event in Harrisonburg, sponsored by The Extension Office, Farm to Fork helps local producers make connections with buyers in the hospitality industry. I was so fascinated to hear about their women owned business, Harmony Harvest Farm in Weyers Cave, Virginia and how they grow and deliver stunning, fresh cut, farm grown flowers to floral enthusiasts across the US. Their business model is interesting, their Instagram account is stunning and just like local food producers, they share the same values and face the same challenges with growing and selling an agricultural product to their customers. Listen in today as you learn more along with me about the women from Harmony Harvest Farm.
Georgiana Dearing 02:09:
I’m so excited to be here with Stephanie Duncan and Jessica Hall from Harmony Harvest Farm in Weyers Cave, Virginia. I’ve been following them on Instagram and I love them so much and I just was excited to bring them to our audience. You’re a little bit different than our regular food people so could you tell us who you are and what you’re doing?
Jessica Hall 02:33:
Well news flash, we’re different than our own industry, we like to stand out a little bit. I’m Jessica with Harmony Harvest Farm. I’m the brainchild behind the operation, we are a 20-acre cut flower farm, located in Weyers Cave, Virginia. I run the farm with my mother, Chris who also goes by the Lady Monarch, and my sister Stephanie and we happen to be an anomaly because we are the only farm of our size that ships flowers nationwide, both wholesale and retail to the end consumer, as well as providing event florals for weddings in Virginia.
Stephanie Duncan 03:14:
Yes, we do that and I am Stephanie Duncan. I am, like Jess says, I’m one of the three members of what we call the trifecta. I run a lot of the sales and marketing here. Jess is the green thumb so I’m more on the sales and marketing side that I also do a lot more of the hands on management of our other company, Floral Genius, which I’m just going to talk about very briefly. Floral Genius is actually the only manufacturer in the US of, they’re called flower frogs and basically, they’re just a flower arranging tool that makes arranging flowers super easy and they are also sustainable and a great alternative to that icky floral foam.
Georgiana Dearing 03:53:
Icky floral foam is icky because?
Jessica Hall 03:57:
It’s actually something that doesn’t naturally break down in the environment and has been shown to have carcinogens in it so not only is it not good for the end consumer but all the florists that are spending lots of time designing over it are finding long term health impacts. So our design tool, it is a company that we purchased so we’re the last manufactures but it was the precursor to foam. We are bringing the old school right on back, going back to the basics of getting flowers beautifully designed but in water only so that they’re as healthy and give you as maximum vase life as possible.
Stephanie Duncan 04:38:
Georgiana Dearing 04:38:
Now, I really want to talk to you about your flower farm because I think that’s just the coolest sounding way of farming. So the very first thing I’ve been asking everybody is this is a crazy year, we’re talking right now in early October and it’s crazier and how are you? I’ve been watching you, I know you.
Stephanie Duncan 05:00:
How are we Jess?
Jessica Hall 05:03:
We were primarily selling to wholesale customers so our florist and event designers, we would ship both flowers, we would ship these big flower collections to them and in March, you know, obviously the world spun upside down and all of our income from our own local weddings and from all of our bulk orders just stopped, right? So we were like, “Oh crap, panic ensues.”
Stephanie Duncan 05:28:
What do we do?
Jessica Hall 05:30:
It’s funny because I’m going to go ahead and just let her have it, right? The Lady Monarch, our mom, has been saying that she’s been wanting to ship bouquets for every year.
Stephanie Duncan 05:38:
Since we started.
Jessica Hall 05:39:
Mom, that sounds terrifying, absolutely terrifying, it just, I don’t know. I think that we were just a little scared of really what selling to the end customer was like and the reason for that is because the people that we were selling to were flower experts, right? If you're selling to somebody who knows how to work with flowers and knows what to expect, that’s a lot less intimidating just selling to people who maybe don’t know a lot about flowers. We bit the bullet and pivoted very quickly, very hard and started selling retail bouquets and DIY boxes and we haven’t looked back, it’s been the most fun, amazing thing that’s ever happened to us and that we’ve... you know.
Jessica Hall 06:27:
I think when we all faced great fears at the first of the year, that fear got knocked down on the priority ladder a little bit, we kind of were like you know, we’re scared of everything right now, let’s just jump in and see what happens. We had the most positive experience and while we knew our calling was to get flowers in hands, we didn’t understand just how deep that calling was to get flowers in everybody’s hands and so we just saw our dream get much wider and much larger than what we thought it was capable of pre-COVID.
Georgiana Dearing 07:06:
Wow, that’s really – that’s kind of – that’s inspirational really. I’ve been watching what you’re doing and I just think it’s been really cool and many, many farms have had to do the very same thing, they have made that shift, maybe they were selling into farmer’s markets is one thing but when the market is shut down, what are you going to do with all the stuff you’re growing, you know? That’s a big move. I saw that you're ordering plants now so are you planning to continue like all revenue streams that you’ve got going?
Jessica Hall 07:42:
The reality of our industry, especially flower farming, most farming, is that it’s seasonal, right? You’re really reliant on the nicer weather to help you get through the year and you kind of front load all of your money into making hay when the sun shines. We are aggressively working towards having fresh perishables available for shipment year-round and this will be our first year to really challenge that. We do operate with seven high tunnel green houses on the property so we do have the ability to push our season and really squeak by but at the same time, our whole business brand is the seasonality of the farm. Right now, we still have oodles of fresh flowers but as we watch the fields slow down and get tired, we have amazing dried collection and assortment of dried flowers that we’re shifting towards for the fall months and then we’ll be working with Christmas greens and things along those lines, so really figuring out how we can take a seasonal enterprise and continue to build revenue that is generated year round is something that we are very aggressively tackling this year as we build out and figure out how to make this bigger than just what our farm can provide. To answer your question, yeah, we’re planting all the time. We plant all the time and it’s flower succession, right? We always tell people, if you drive past our farm, there’s a lot of times out of the year that you may not think that we’re even a flower farm or may not be able to tell because of the fact that we have to harvest our blooms at a certain point and usually it’s before they even open. If you drive by and there’s just like fields and rows and fields of rows of flowers, then we don’t have any orders and that’s a big problem, right? When you see a lot of flower farms on Instagram who have these fields and fields of flowers, a lot of times it’s because they’re selling the seed so they have to let them flower out on the plant but I think it’s a big misconception for flower farming that you know, you think that either you’ll drive through and they’ll be just fields and fields of flowers but for us, especially since we’re shipping, we have to grab them up in a really kind of the very beginning of their maturity so it’s not exactly what people think it is but we’re lucky because we get to hang out in the cooler. All the flowers.
Jessica Hall 10:13:
You know, we definitely want that flower enjoyed by the end consumer. Not by us. If it’s blooming here on the farm, it’s not doing anybody out there in the world any good. We harvest for maximum base life for the recipient, not so much for us. That’s different on all the different varieties that we grow, which is over 200 because I’m a crazy person and need to grow every flower I can find. But we are constantly planting, in fact, right now, we’re on a big push, we’re doing a lot of putting teeny little seedlings out in the fields because we will protect them and those will be the first blooms we have in the spring. We’re already planting for next year, we are always a few months ahead, thinking about what’s coming in the pipelines, what crops we want to begin our season with, and making sure we have a variety to put beautiful bouquets together with.
Georgiana Dearing 11:10:
You guys, when I think of your sales channels, right? You were selling to, I would say retail channels, like shops that were then taking your product and reselling it in a value-added bouquet, right?
Stephanie Duncan 11:25:
Sometimes that would be more of our wholesale but we’re shipping directly to Joe Shmo and Uncle Larry, our website, HHFshop.com, anybody can go on, we ship nationwide, we ship overnight so anyone can go on there and pick out a bouquet that they like or even a DIY box of flowers and be a florist in their home.
Georgiana Dearing 11:49:
That part though, that part of your business is brand new this year so you were selling it, you were selling to the professional floral arrangers and were you selling also to things like grocery stores and things like that?
Jessica Hall 12:01:
We were, pre-COVID, we were selling to Whole Foods on the East Coast and we’ve been shipping for what? Three, four years now. But it was all wholesale or to grocery chains. When COVID hit, we didn’t know really what was going to happen with our Whole Food -those types of channels and when we pivoted to retail, we just didn’t look back, we’ve really found our rhythm and our calling, servicing our wholesale florist accounts and the general public. We just feel the mission to go out there and spread the awareness of the benefits of fresh flowers to everybody.
Georgiana Dearing 12:42:
Virginia Foodie, we’re all about food and a lot of our content, we kind of show the finished product, right? The kneel and a lot of that’s in restaurants. If I were a restaurant that cared about local sourcing and wanted flowers on the table, you guys are to my knowledge the regional people in Virginia, so where would they go to get your flowers?
Jessica Hall 13:08:
HHFshop.com. Really easy, while we have, you don’t have to interact with us any more than you want to, you can go directly on the website and just click, buy, check out and your nice little box shows up. But if you don’t find specific things that you’re looking for, email@example.com gets you directly to the trifecta, more likely than not, you’ll be speaking with the lady monarch who is really well versed in taking care of whatever your floral needs are. We do work with restaurants and other businesses that want to engage and support a more local community effort towards everything that they’re providing in their service. You know, it’s an entire experience to sit down and enjoy a fine meal, the connection to nature and the flowers that helped bring those vegetables to the table is still a very much important part of that story. Yes, you just click, click buy and if you don’t see what you want, you email us.
Georgiana Dearing 14:12:
It’s not all bouquets, you do seasonal coat, you do color collections in bulk so if somebody had particular vessels to fill, they could order an assortment of colors or shapes or sizes.
Stephanie Duncan 14:25:
Absolutely. 100%. I mean, we’re super flexible like if people want something specific or you know, have just something that they just need to talk through how it could be done. Just call us. I mean, we’ll hook you up. Flowers are meant for everyone, okay?
Georgiana Dearing 14:44:
Okay, that’s really cool. The other thing that you're doing though is you're a designer, right? Jess, you also design the bouquets that you send out and do events.
Jessica Hall 14:58:
I do, I actually come out to work at like, before the crack of dawn, it’s usually 4:00, I’m out here with the Amazon as loud as she’ll go on my Echo. I custom pull every bouquet, every DIY box, every wholesale order that goes out. I’m a particular designer and I just hold that kind of level of accountability for whoever is receiving the box. I take a lot of pride in making sure every single order is pulled by my hands. Then in addition to that, I do all of the wedding design work, this weekend we got three weddings coming up. Yeah, I think between the first of October and the end of, or the 20th of October, we have over 10 weddings on the books. It’s a lot of moving parts here but I love it. I mean, I go to bed exhausted but I have literally been immersed in beautiful flowers that we worked very hard for and I know the smiles that are on the other side of that bouquet. It’s a really good feeling to work that hard and feel that good when I lay my head down at night.
Georgiana Dearing 16:04:
Wow, I can hear your passion, how many people do you have back – besides the lady monarch which I need to find out about that name in a minute but how many other people do you have backing you up?
Stephanie Duncan 16:16:
Not enough. I think that right now, we have six or seven full-time people.
Jessica Hall 16:25:
That’s about right.
Stephanie Duncan 16:26:
But, we understand, obviously, this is kind of our first year rolling through this and yeah, I think it’s been really important, yes, Jess is pulling every single order, I’m there setting up all the fulfillment processes in our shipping and I think that that was like really COVID did us some good justice there, amazingly, I feel almost kind of terrible saying that. Because we actually furloughed our staff for 30 days at the very beginning just because we didn’t even know how to keep people safe. We had to kind of regroup. In that time, that’s when we actually pivoted to retail and had the most orders that we’ve ever had and it was just me and Jess, trying to fulfill and you know, keep the farm going and planting all those green houses, it was all on our back.
Jessica Hall 17:18:
It was crazy but it was really good to get back in the trenches because we started developing systems that allowed us to grow. The idea is that okay, once now that you know, I’ve kind of gotten the fulfillment side at a really strong point and then she’s got the pulling the – curating these boxes and flowers together, we have a really good foundation to be able to transfer that knowledge next year, right? Our intent is to be able to kind of transfer that but I think that you know, probably one of our biggest lessons learned as business owners is that if you want it to run the way that you want it done, then you need to do it and perfect it first. We did that and found it very helpful. Right now, we have six or seven people full-time but you know, that fluctuates with seasonality and so when we have usually like during the peak of the summer, we’ll have 10 ish people at least here.
Georgiana Dearing 18:15:
I like hearing you talk about systems. I’m that kind of gal, I’m like the checklist gal in my own operation and it’s like, I hate to have to solve a problem over and over again. I like to solve it once and then l – my dad was in the navy so it was like watch it, do it, teach it, you know? You kind of like get a system together and then you start training people to do it the same way because I like to have the rest of my brain freed up for creative stuff.
Jessica Hall 18:50:
Correct, because there’s always different balls and things that we have to flat and spend time figuring out, you know, new doors open, new paths to march down. Being able to really stop, like the whole world did in March, and assess from the basic level what our process was going to look like, everybody came back 30 days later and we had a perfected process book for all the different steps so that we could train our team what we learned while they weren’t here. We took that 30 days with a lot of seriousness, we never went down the path of thinking that this was it. We knew that we had people who counted on us and we were bringing them back. Every Friday we either delivered a paycheck or if it wasn’t payday, at least a bouquet of flowers to keep connected with our staff and let them know what we were doing out there to protect their jobs and make sure they had something to come back to. Even during that 30 day hiatus, we stayed a very tight communicating team because our team is valuable to us, they are just like our family and for us, we wanted to make sure that they understood that we saw that and we were going to do what we needed to do as owners to make a beautiful and thriving company for them to march back into.
Georgiana Dearing 20:19:
Yeah, I think this is the year that everybody dug deep. You know, let us really dig in and take a look at what we are doing here and figure out how we can do it right. I am going to shift gears a little bit because I mentioned at the beginning that I follow you on Instagram and that I am a follower, you guys were already doing a lot of marketing. We get asked a lot about marketing for farmers. There’s a lot of farmers that are more interested in the growing than the promoting. I want to ask a few things like, I see you guys all the time on screen and you’re doing things that I admire because this is the most out there I’ve ever put myself and I watch you guys with some courage that I – you know, you are out there recording videos and you’ve got – I can’t imagine the wig collection you have. I don’t think that a lot of farms could look at that and say, “Yeah, I am going to do that,” but I just learned the other day you have a photographer who is helping you, right? So who do you have helping you? How much time are you really putting into it?
Stephanie Duncan 21:31:
Yes, a lot. I am not even going to pretend that it is not a lot. So we have a professional photographer that helps us with our product images, which for us was really important especially when you go to retail. You know shifting to that custom – just trying to meet the customer expectation, right? So we wanted to make sure that our imagery was good, especially for our products. So we have somebody that does that and then actually one of our ride-or-die employees too is how-- Harley is 17. She’s 17, she is a budding photographer, she’s awesome. She’s actually been taking pictures for us for years and she works here on the farm and we’ve just seen her progress so much in her photography that she does the everyday candid shots around and then all of the stuff in between I do it on my iPhone and I think it is really important to let people know that when we really started beefing up our marketing, which is probably back in 2018, it was all done on an iPhone. We did not start at this point at all. You know our “Live from the Cooler” series was just me on stories being an idiot, which has now turned into me and Jess just together in a video being idiots but you know it’s definitely been a progression and you get little cool toys here and there, like our little light now. We have a light rig, that was the coolest thing we got this year but it didn’t start there. We worked out way up to that and have been super blessed to find especially from a creative standpoint, a team that is just excellent and works well for us. When it comes to thinking about can any farmer start doing videos? Yeah you can and I know that it is like, “Well, I don’t have time” but I think that people – it’s like having a baby. You don’t think you’re ever going to have time to have a baby and then you have a baby and suddenly you have time, right? So you just make it, you just make the time. You have to figure out what works for you and for us like Instagram works really well, our videos work really well. So we make time for those and it’s crazy and sometimes it’s like, “Oh my god, I still have to do Live from the Cooler,” but we do it anyway, we make it happen just because it is important.
Jessica Hall 23:51:
I think it also maybe we wouldn’t focus so much on it if we weren’t 100% an online store because we live in this virtual world, the only way we can sell ourselves is to sell our story through imagery, through engagement, through all of that. So taking kind of our personality aside, it is more because that is our business model in order for us – we don’t have a storefront. I am on Main Street. I don’t get walk-in traffic. So I have to go to where my audience is and I have to serve them what they want, which is learning the behind the scenes and being able to visually feel like you are on the farm.
Georgiana Dearing 24:37:
You’re trying to make a connection.
Jessica Hall 24:40:
Absolutely and with that being said, I am a ride-or-die farmer. Before anything else, I started this as a farmer, that’s what I love. I love designing flowers but I am a farmer. I am not a marketer. I hate dealing with money. I started this with mom who loved the money. So great, you do all of that but for a while when we first started before we had my sister, it was like a two-legged stool. You know we were missing that key marketing component because that wasn’t what we did. So bringing my sister on who where that was her real bread and butter, it kind of made that a much firmer foundation for us. We believe in aligning with everybody’s strengths. So that’s how we do it. I mean we – I don’t have 10 different hands. I can’t juggle all the balls.
Georgiana Dearing 25:32:
So I heard you say a couple of things in there and one is you started doing it just on an iPhone and the first thing you did is you just started being consistent about it and then when you grew and realized that you needed more powerful photography, you found somebody and I guess you have a contract with her to say, “Here, take these pictures,” or you have a relationship with someone where you send them product and she shoots it. Now you are growing a younger generation, you’ve got somebody on staff who can also help. So these are all actually the three things we kind of advise people, is like start somewhere and if you can’t take good photos, geez, there’s plenty of places to learn. It is not hard to take a good photo, particularly on the iPhone, it is pretty easy to use but yeah, it is not hard to find photography instructions.
Stephanie Duncan 26:27:
Yeah and I quickly want to just add to that, all of the stuff they can tell you about, people have so many tips and tricks to social media and I will almost say that yes the quality of photography is important but it is nothing without a genuine voice. Like everything that we do, everything that we put on social media is exactly us.
Jessica Hall 26:55:
It’s our family. Stephanie Duncan 26:56:
We’re not – for better or for worse, we stopped trying to keep up with what everybody else in the flower business was doing. It didn’t feel right, I felt like we were being just not genuine and it was the moment that we really started being genuine that one, we actually started to grow our following and everything else, but it stays fun. It doesn’t feel like work. I don’t – yes, of course there’s times when we’re like, “Oh my gosh I still have to do this,” but there’s no pressure there. It doesn’t feel like, “Oh well let’s just go knock it out real quick.” It’s, we look forward to it. We plan it every week like, we really enjoy it because it’s us. It’s raw sometimes. It is real, cellphone pictures, getting on and being genuine, telling your story, all of like, just people want to know you. They don’t want to see a bunch of pretty pictures that anybody can take, they just want to know you. So I think that that’s above all.
Georgiana Dearing 28:01:
So you are just speaking to the heart of what I do is to find your brand’s story and stick to it and then be the brand through all of your steps. I mean you guys are pretty genuine, you come off pretty genuine. Nobody could write that crap.
Stephanie Duncan 28:17:
No. Not me because –
Jessica Hall 28:20:
No but we are writing like what really happened. I can’t even tell you how many times somebody that’s been on the farm saying like, “Where’s the camera? Why isn’t this being recorded?” Because this is literally what it’s like every day. We give snippets of it but this is – welcome to our family. This is what it’s like to be one of us and we welcome everybody with a positive open arm approach. You know we are slap-happy goofballs and we like to have a really good time. So we tell our story within that context.
Stephanie Duncan 28:53:
Yeah. Georgiana Dearing 28:54:
Oh that’s great. That is just a wonderful story. I enjoy it so much. I don’t want to keep you forever and forever but I have a question about the fall products and the dried flowers. Have you expanded this or is this kind of new? Because I don’t remember this.
Jessica Hall 29:13:
No, we offered a little bit of dried last year. So last year we were shipping and it wasn’t COVID but it was still real crazy. We had tons and tons of flowers and if we weren’t moving through things we saw this huge antique bank farm and said, “Huh, maybe we should put some up there for dried,” and we did that and then in the offseason we said, “You know what? Let’s try to sell that dried product,” and we sold out right away. And we were like, “Note to self, we didn’t dry enough flowers,” so this year we spent a little bit more time developing a dried flower line where we have different offerings on our website and just using that as a really great transition between high production summer months and going straight into the holiday season and already we’ve just kind of launched that and I have been very floored with the amount of orders for dried product going out the door.
Georgiana Dearing 30:14:
Yeah, I am going to have to take a look at that because the dried flowers appeal to me because I don’t know why, I love flowers. They’re beautiful but I will not buy fresh flowers for myself. Well, it’s this weird thing about – I think it is about watching them die. I will buy fresh produce from farms and I will eat it and consume it and love it but I hate to spend the money on the fresh flowers and then see them die and I am also terrible with plants, I am going to tell you that. So that’s my confession.
Jessica Hall 30:49:
And what I will say on that is the flowers hold you way less accountable than the house plants because plants are going to die. That is part of their life experience but the joy of watching them open up and being able to watch them really come into their own, I think far trumps what a house plant is going to deliver and also as well, you know the flowers they’re going to last longer than that cup of coffee. They probably cost about the same amount. You are going to get a lot of benefit just even walking by. I will say we spend the month of October learning a little bit more about the true and tactical benefits of fresh flowers, having flowers on your dining room table. Studies prove that it increases your likelihood to eat healthier meals when you’re close to nature. Why do we send flowers to people in hospitals? It lowers blood pressure. They actually have shorter hospital stays, quicker recovery. It is an emotional connection that we have. I am a mom of four so I am stuck at home with my kids and you would think that we’ve already kind of gone through all of these on the farm learning modules but I have found this year that my kids have opened up so many more questions and connection to flowers than I ever realized. So I think there’s a lot of benefits to making sure that we have flowers in our houses. If for no other reason to make us smile.
Georgiana Dearing 32:22:
Yeah, okay. All right, you are getting me there. You are so passionate. All right, I am going to be more committed to having flowers in my house. I love them as gifts. I get them as gifts and I have a daughter who buys herself flowers all the time and I think, “Good, I raised you to be smarter than me.”
Jessica Hall 32:45:
But it also feels good to know that you are sending out flowers to other people and providing a smile – you know we can’t hug right now but the flowers are essentially that hug in a box and when we get to be included on that story and we get to see that they are really excited that they sent somebody flowers and the recipient gets super involved and excited, you know that is when I feel like I did my job. I provided a connection that couldn’t happen otherwise. Flowers are hugs in a box, emotionally connected. We all are. Georgiana Dearing 33:17:
Yes, flowers are hugs in a box and that’s a wonderful thought to carry with me now. I do need to ask, why is she called the lady monarch? I just want to get that in there before we wrap up.
Stephanie Duncan 33:31:
So okay, two of her grandchildren, our mother, they call her nana and so Jess and I started calling her nana and she got real mad about it because she’s like, “I am not your nana.” So we were just in the car one day and I was like, “Fine, we’ll just start calling you the lady monarch,” and she was like, “Well I love that.”
Jessica Hall 33:53:
She took it and ran with it.
Stephanie Duncan 33:55:
Ran so hard and fast.
Jessica Hall 33:57:
And now uses every opportunity that she can find to be referred to as the lady monarch. Of course, we’ve also shorted that to TLM in case you wonder where those abbreviations come from.
Stephanie Duncan 34:10:
Yeah that’s the Lady Monarch or TLM on Instagram or Facebook or YouTube, anywhere. That’s mom.
Jessica Hall 34:19:
That’s just mom.
Stephanie Duncan 34:21:
That mom, she’s the best.
Georgiana Dearing 34:24:
So I’ve got one more question and it is this inspiration, like you talked about your mother and you kind of starting this business together and I gather that you grew up farming but not everybody stays on the farm or comes back to the farm. So what is it that really inspired you to be in this space and go in this direction?
Jessica Hall 34:47:
We grew up as ag kids. Our dad was an agriculture teacher and we grew up on a very small family farm with sheep. My parents still have the sheep farm and I went to Virginia Tech all because of taking one horticulture class in high school and I was like, “You know I love growing plants and this is a good connection and I did that and found myself in the corporate world of horticulture and was like, “That’s great. I am going to climb the corporate ladder.” And that first baby came along and living out of a suitcase in a hotel became way less glamorous and I felt the calling to just do my own thing and there was no question whether it would be agriculture or horticulture specific but we didn’t begin with flowers. We bought the farm before we knew what the heck we were going to farm and I, like a lot of people, was like, “Sure produce, that sounds great,” spent a whole season, a whole summer, picking green beans with my 18-month-old. I was so proud to go to the produce auction with my one little wax box of green beans and watch the wagon loads of pallets of green beans from one family show up after the other and I was like, “I can’t compete. I can’t do this,” and we had a family vacation to the beach and it was sitting on the beach with my mom and my sister and my mom looked over and said, “Where do florists get flowers?” And that was the light bulb moment. We spent the rest of the family vacation researching online or at the local beach library trying to find out more about flower farming and found it was a really small untapped market of agriculture and kind of knew immediately in our gut, this is it. This is what’s going to fill us full, this is what we want to do and we’ve just grown from there.
Stephanie Duncan 36:43:
Yeah, mine’s a little different. So I moved away and lived in Charlotte, North Carolina for 10 years and I had the best time of my life okay? But I don’t know what it is, growing up in the Shenandoah Valley, there is zero comparison for me between mountains and outside and farmland and the skyline of the city, okay? So I just got to a point where I’d worked in events and then I was actually working at a marketing agency for six or seven years and Jess have been begging me for years to come back and work on the farm and it just – I just got sick of being in the city and said, “Okay, it is time to go home” and it’s been awesome. The timing was impeccable because obviously I’d gained all of this knowledge in marketing and advertising and was able to apply it here and it is just a lot, it’s fun, you know?
Jessica Hall 37:45:
I am also a really good manipulator in the family. I used to joke, I wanted to work for the family business but there wasn’t one so I made it and forced the family to join it.
Stephanie Duncan 37:57:
Jessica Hall 37:59:
I don’t want to have it.
Stephanie Duncan 38:00:
Anytime anything goes wrong it’s Jess’s fault.
Jessica Hall 38:02:
It’s my fault.
Georgiana Dearing 38:04:
You started it all. It is all on you. Well, could you please tell our listeners how they can find you, tell them how to follow you on this crazy Instagram account and subscribe to YouTube and all of those things.
Stephanie Duncan 38:18:
Yeah, so you could find us on our website. It is actually HHFshop.com. If you go to harmonyharvestfarm.com you will still get there but we’re hhfshop.com. You can find us on Facebook and Instagram @harmonyhrvst or if you just search Harmony Harvest Farm we’ll come up and then yes, subscribe to our YouTube channel so you can see all of our crazy antics. We have our Live from the Cooler segment that we do every Friday and then we also have our Designing with an Idiot series which teaches people like me who are floral idiots how to actually create things with flowers. You can also sign up to our newsletter that I do every week and take a lot of pride in and borderline threaten everyone to sign up for.
Jessica Hall 39:05:
And if you are searching for us and you are unsure whether you have found the correct Harmony Harvest, be mindful there is really only one, look for the people wearing crazy wigs with lots of jokes. We like to make flowers fun for everybody.
Stephanie Duncan 39:22:
Georgiana Dearing 39:22:
All right, that’s good advice. So we could recognize you anywhere in the crowd.
Jessica Hall 39:28:
Oh yeah absolutely.
Georgiana Dearing 39:31:
Well thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule. I really enjoyed getting to know you a little better and learning your story and I hope our listeners are enjoying it too. So I am sure they will. So thank you so much.
Jessica Hall 39:44:
Stephanie Duncan 39:46:
Georgiana Dearing 39:47:
All right, have a great day. Bye-bye.
Jessica Hall 39:50:
Georgiana Dearing 39:52:
Thanks for listening and if you want to learn more about how to grow your own food brand, then click on “grow my brand” at vafoodie.com. If you’re a lover of local food, then be sure to follow us. We are @vafoodie on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Join the conversation and tell us about your adventures with good food, good people and good brands.