Gill Hodgson is the Honarary President, and founder of Flowers from The Farm. The idea for the organisation took root when Gill started selling flowers at her farm gate in East Riding of Yorkshire. After a couple of years she expanded her growing and took a stall at Driffield farmers’ market. It was there – face to face with customers – that she recognized the immense potential for more and more people to grow cut flowers for their local markets.
People queued up to smell the flowers and to buy them: customers reminisced about gardens they had known and they talked fondly about the people who had grown them. It was immediately obvious that flowers went straight to the heart of everyone who saw them, and who had believed that seasonal flowers were a thing of the past.
Gill wanted to join an association of growers to meet and share ideas with others who were as excited as she was by the possibilities of seasonal, British flowers. She searched without success and one breakfast time, between one bite of toast and the next, decided to form one.
And so, in 2011, Flowers from the Farm was born.
Something must be working, because from that first seed, FFTF has now grown to a network of over 600 members. It campaigns tirelessly on behalf of British grown flowers and aims to get them back in to more vases across the country, encouraging the public to buy fresh, local flowers with no air miles and a minimal carbon footprint, as opposed to those air freighted in from warmer climes in Europe and across the world.
In 2018, we felt the time was right to make our debut at RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
With no sponsor and a shoestring budget, the exciting challenge was led solely by volunteers who not only demonstrated the amazing diversity and astounding beauty of seasonal, British grown flowers but also how, through hard work and determination, a group of like-minded individuals from across the UK can work together to take their cause to the most prestigious flower show in the world.
Members from the far reaches of the Hebrides down to the Scilly Isles in Cornwall and everywhere in between, joined forces to supply and showcase their stunning, lovingly grown flowers to the world's media.
Our stand was right at the heart of the Grand Pavilion - an accolade the group hadn’t expected to achieve for many years. But while the RHS organisers looked favourably on our application, Mother Nature seemed to have different ideas and gave our growers the nightmare that was Spring 2018. The 'Beast from the East', prolonged cold, endless rain and Spring's reluctant arrival was the cause of much anxiety and stress to those who'd volunteered their blooms for Chelsea. The flower season was weeks behind, meaning that much of the bounty growers normally expect to gather up for weddings and florists at the end of May, wasn’t available in time for the show. However, while the flowers varied somewhat from the norm, they were what the season offered and were still just as beautiful.
100 UK growers transported an estimated 14,000 stems to one of 12 hubs dotted across the country where the flowers were carefully packed into vans by local co-ordinators and driven down to Chelsea, where other volunteers began putting the stand together. Our farmer's cart, pulled by our beautiful wire horse 'Flora', was blanketed in thousands of flowers and adorned with three life-size wire sculptures. When the show opened to the Queen, the judges and the World's media, on Monday (Press Day) our stand was always destined to be an attention grabber but it was probably the only display in the entire Chelsea Flower Show where the team had had little idea what flowers they would be using until 36 hours before it opened!
On Tuesday morning, four members walked in to the pavilion to see a Gold medal on the stand. Cue whooping and cheering, and a triumph for British flowers.