Location: Wysall, South Nottinghamshire
Region: East Midlands
Caroline Onions was inspired to start growing flowers after reading an article full of beautiful flower farming pictures and trugs (however, she skimmed over the bits mentioning early mornings and hard work). In late 2016, she found herself mulling over what to do with her extra time after her youngest child started school and it was around this time that she and her sister were discussing ways to diversify their arable family farm. Flower farming kept coming back to the fore as a possible means to do this, as well as being the perfect way for Caroline to make her floriferous daydream a reality.
So in 2017, Caroline - a former project manager with no formal horticultural training - started to practice flower growing in her garden with the help of a few courses to guide her along the way. That August she decided to take the plunge and turn part of the family business into a flower farm. She began by kicking some sheep off a nice paddock that was perfect for her flowers and shifting more compost over the ensuing winter than she ever thought possible to move.
Caroline now occupies about a third of an acre on the family farm, which she mananges alongside her sister, being the 4th generation of the family to do so. The farm, interestingly, has always been passed down from mother to daughter. A third of her crops are perennials, with the remainder consisting of annuals, bulbs, tubers and so on. She says, ruefully: “ I haven’t got any specialisms yet, although I do seem to be rather good at seed shopping.”
She adds: "I started out intending to just supply florists and have been really lucky to meet a few very loyal florists early on who have been so supportive. Word of mouth and the wonders of Instagram have then meant that I have been lucky enough for this part of my business to take off really well."
To her surprise, Caroline was thrilled to discover that albeit small, there was a local retail demand for her flowers too. She's also loves making bouquets and developing her new-found creative skills.
What’s been good about being a member of the FFTF network?
I found FFTF in 2017 after hearing about it from a florist I was using as a sounding board for my ideas about flower farming. As someone who enjoyed knowledge sharing and co-operative working in my previous role as a project manager, I felt that FFTF was the perfect fit for the way I like to work. I love how generous other members are with their knowledge, and the fact that everyone is genuinely supportive of other businesses, whilst growing their own.
I have relied on my local East Midlands FFTF group quite a bit during crises of confidence and for general friendship. I love working by myself, but being able to mull over decisions with people who know what you're talking about is invaluable. I wouldn’t have got through this first year of hellish weather without them.
What’s been the highlight of your membership so far?
Being lucky enough to work on the stand at Chelsea, spending the day basking in the glory of the design team’s hard work and spreading the word for British flowers.
Is there anything you’d like to see FFTF doing in the future?
I'd love us to crack the problem of getting our flowers out to florists more easily via some kind of market/transport system, but that’s going to take some serious investment and blue sky thinking.
What hopes do you have for your business next year?
To become a more efficient grower, to grow the retail side of my business and to hopefully spend less time swearing about the weather (although I know from growing up with my dad, that this will probably never happen). I’m also taking the RHS Level 2, so I'll hopefully grow better flowers as a result.
You can follow Caroline's flower farming progress via her Instagram: www.instagram.com/wysallflowerfarm