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Terp’s Bloom

By: Lillian KahlLilli in flower field

I’m a flower farmer now, and I’m proud of it. I hatched into the world of Sustainable Agriculture about two years ago and Terp Farm has been my incubator. I’ve been cared for and counseled in an undeniably considerate way, and today my wispy chick feathers are safely growing into beautiful plumes.

Since 2013 Terp Farm has grown a wide variety of produce for UMD’s dining services; last year cut flowers were added to the array. The first flowers were sown two springs ago at a seed-starting workshop held by Michael Perise, a former student intern from the Institute of Applied Agriculture. That summer, the flower seedlings made their way into a little plot on the farm as a trial to test the potential for bouquets in the UMD dining halls. Guy, the farm manager, quickly saw my affinity for the flowers and cleverly labeled the bit of land “Lilli’s Flower Plot”—from then on out, I was hooked!

We produced some beautiful blooms that year, but the veggies took priority over the flowers, so we got to them when we could; a few bouquets made it onto campus. During the farm’s annual Harvest Fest that year, the attendees were given free range in the plot to pick themselves a bouquet, this was when we realized how positively people reacted to our flowers. We knew we had to continue the floral project, and so began my year-long apprenticeship with Terp Farm—my journey through the ins and outs of agricultural business management.

My winter was spent flipping through seed catalogs and making spreadsheets on Excel. Whoever says farming isn’t for the intellectual, is a darn fool! Last winter’s strategizing brought about one challenge after the next. I was blown away by the intricacies of market research, budgeting, and crop planning.

Then, this past spring, everything went into action. We began to sow the seeds that would bloom into the hands of our very first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members. We had 20 people signed up to receive bouquets each week at the Farmer’s Market at Maryland and others who were promised the opportunity to purchase Terp Farm flowers from our market stand. We had deadlines to meet and customers to satisfy—it was terrifying!

The challenges continued as the project progressed, but the little accomplishments and unending support from our team kept me going. The countless hours I spent hovering over the seedlings with worry were eased with reminders that “the plants want to grow more than you want them to” and “once you have done all that you can for the plants, you must let them be.” It was as if the flowers and I were growing side by side, balancing the ups and downs together. Bit by bit I shifted into a mindset of optimistic acceptance of the awe-inspiring workings of Nature.

One of our market days

One of our market days

Today our flower plot is full of brilliant blooms and my time in the field brings a sense of satisfaction that compares to no other. I learn more each day and I look forward to the unending lessons that this trade provides. I am also pleased to say that we have many happy flower customers –pollinators and humans alike– with many more to come!

The Terp Farm has been the perfect home for me, and now this ole hen is ready to fly the coop and build her own farm.

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