COMMUNITY | From Teacher to Farm Florist

There is absolutely nothing we love more than a story of someone finding their passion, falling in love with it and letting it consume them. It's so rare in this lifetime to fall in love with a hobby or job, so when you find it...do not let it go. 

Michelle of Michelle Lea Photographie contacted us a few months ago and began to tell us this beautiful story of Linda, once a teacher, who later in life fell in love with flowers. This is her story.

"Spending time with Linda was an amazing experience. Her look on life is inspiring. I love that she only uses the flowers she grows on her farm located in Blountville, TN. She makes unique pieces with her blooms, and you know they belong to her when you see them. I asked Linda what made her decide to become a farmer florist. She replied with the sweetest story. She was a teacher for many years, and she was at a place where she was retiring. She talked about their fields and the wildflowers that grew in their pastures. One day she decided to start picking the wildflowers, she made an arrangement, and to took it to church with her. After that, people started telling her she should sell her arrangements at the local farmers market. She decided to do just that. She was hooked after the first day. She never wanted to pursue wedding floral design. That was never her intention until a close friends daughter was getting married and she said she would do their flowers. She grew to love weddings after that." - Michelle of Michelle Lea Photographie 

1. HOW AND WHEN DID YOU START YOUR BUSINESS?

We began selling cut flowers the summer of 2005. We also have cattle on the farm, and when we used to mow the hayfields, Roy would mow the fields with the first tractor, and before I ran the Tedder with the second tractor I would gather the daisies, black-eyed Susan's and butterfly weed and put them into a pitcher and set in the shade. Then I'd make bouquets and take them to church. My neighbor suggested I sell them at the farmer's market and so we did. We made $32 the first week, but we were hooked. I loved the design side of making market bouquets, and that's where I practiced. Making 50-60 bouquets/week taught me so much about color, texture, and design in general.

2.WHAT MADE YOU START WEDDING DESIGN?

We sold at the Kingsport Farmer's Market, and I said I would never do weddings! One of my first market customers said, "You're going to do my daughter Anne's wedding." I assured her I wasn't ever going to do weddings. She said not to worry as Anne wasn't even dating anyone. But, when Anne was married, we did all her flowers. From then on, I fell in love with the brides, and that keeps me going.

3.WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING THING ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?

I think the most rewarding part of wedding design is getting to be a part of a young woman's most special day. My favorite moment is handing the bride her bouquet after arranging flowers grown on our farm, especially for her. We take that responsibility seriously and have formed many friendships through the years with not only the bride and her family but the photographers, event owners, cake bakers, and caterers. 

4.WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO TEACH FLORAL WORKSHOPS?

We have a lovely run down old farm that dates back to the 1700s. When we began growing flowers, we said we would let the farm decide where our business would go. So many people wanted to visit the farm and one way to allow that was to do workshops. We have the Homeplace built in 1870 that provides great work space and Aunt Willie's house built in 1939, that is perfect for serving a meal in the little brick bungalow that looks and feels "just like my Grannie's house." As I became more comfortable with design, I was anxious to teach folk how to use their flowers in more creative ways as they enjoyed our farm. 

5. IN YOUR OWN WORDS, DESCRIBE WHY YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO. 

Well, I, first of all, love the people this farm had put in my life. My husband, who happens to be the kindest man I know, and I get to work outdoors just about every day, and that's a very good thing. We have had such wonderful young people working with us on the farm, and we appreciate that so much and work hard to develop those relationships. We love the relationships with clients and with other workers in the industry. And I guess pretty importantly; I love flowers - I love sowing seeds and anticipating their growth. I am anxious to drive down the driveway in the morning to see "what's coming up." This is very hard work, and as I age I depend more and more on young people to help with the heavy duty jobs, but I hope I am able to harvest and design for a good while longer. It's in my blood by now I do believe. 

Photography: Michelle Lea Photographie | Florist: Aunt Willie's Wildflowers | Bride's Dress: Hayley Paige | Film Lab: Photovision