Have you ever experienced love at first sight? We have!
It was when we first laid our eyes on Humble Pie's stunningly beautiful flower creations and farmer Jennifer Nelson. Along with her handsome husband, adorable son and talented side-kick Amanda, these incredible people farm earth friendly flowers... and they just happen to be some of the nicest humans you'll meet, no surprise there!
We first ran into Amanda at a champagne and chandeliers party hosted by the Fox, of Bear Fox Chalk. We hit it off right away, sharing our love of flowers and all things arranging. The conversation quickly turned to one about local growing and Humble Pie Farm and we were hooked. Although it was January, we followed along on their blog and Instagram account for signs of flower life and were blown away when we finally did make it for a visit in the later summer months.
In light of some recent changes in the land ownership at Gardens of Eagan, Humble Pie will be growing next season on their own farm they purchased earlier this fall. We can't wait to visit them at their new location next summer, but in the meantime, stay up-to-date via their website, Facebook or our favorite, Instagram:
Name: Jennifer Nelson
Choice of unwinding beverage after a full day’s work in the yard?
Well, I love bubbly water any time. But also, an icy cold hoppy beer does taste so good after a long hot day!
How did you become involved with this work and why do you do it?
I’ve had a few lives, and jobs and a winding path has led me to flower farming. I really knew that I wanted to farm and live close to the earth in 2009 when I started working for an organic vegetable farm. I love being outside, and the satisfaction and tangibility of working in the dirt with the earth, its cycles and wisdom, was like no other I’d ever experienced. I love feeling tired and dirty at the end of the day, and being able to see what I have accomplished. I also love good real food, and the beauty of flowers and natural growing plants.
Our Humble Pie Farm flower tagline is “nourish your spirit”. I feel there are lots of malnourished spirits in the world. Flowers bring joy and also often mark celebration and big event ritual. We love having a little part in that. Also, flowers create a wonderful pollinator habitat and diversity of landscape and soil health.
How many people volunteer or work here?
5 or so. Mike and myself, and 2 part-timers, Emily (our go-to for everything) and Amanda (design and occasional harvest), and a few revolving volunteers.
How to do you select the types of flowers you grow? Any favorite varieties in particular?
We grow annual flowers from seeds, bulbs and a few perennials. We’ve been renting land for our three years of existence so we’ve grown everything as an annual. We just! closed on our own farm in Plum City, Wisconsin, so next year we’ll begin to fulfill my vast perennial dreams! :) As we get to know our new soil, we’ll know better what it wants to grow, or not. I fall in love with a new flower each week. This week I’m in love with zinnias. They just keep coming, and a big, beautiful healthy zinnia is breathtaking. I also love lisianthus, and dahlias, and and...I love them all.
What are you most proud of this year?
Holy moly. This year has been insane. In April we found out that we would have to move our house and business, and find new off-farm income and health insurance. Farming is a long-term investment that requires long-term planning. We have worked really hard to not only triple our flower production and sales this year, but figure out all of the above logistics.
With the support of many, many dedicated and caring people, we’ve qualified for a USDA FSA beginning farmer loan and three days ago, bought a dreamy farm in Western Wisconsin. We’re tired because it’s the end of August and we’ve been working very hard with many late nights and early mornings, BUT, Mike and I still like each other, our son is healthy and happy, and we’ve sold a whole lot of flowers this season. I’m proud of the resiliency and strength of our family to weather this storm. :) The health of our family comes before everything else, and I’m so glad we’ve had the opportunity to test ourselves, and become stronger through the challenge. Also, we’ve made A LOT of beautiful bouquets this year, and I’m so grateful for good employees, mostly great weather, and beautiful flowers.
So much to be thankful for.
What are some of the biggest challenges of this business?
Finding balance between work and life! Work is life during the farming season, so finding a balance between healthy family and individual life, and getting all the work done, or because it’s never done, stopping when it’s enough, is my biggest challenge as a mama and a farmer.
And Education. For myself and consumers. Local, sustainably-grown flowers are a little different, and so much healthier for everyone than the usual flower fare. Education on why choosing to buy local flowers when you can is so so important will be ongoing. The local, organic food movement has grown a lot, and I believe we’re on the cusp of a really exciting advancement of local flowers. Also, I still have so much to learn about growing flowers. I have a mentor that I would like to better use next year, because I’m always interested in upping our game on quality and efficiency. This year we’ve been so busy with our other challenges.
Next year, we’ll focus on improving production and harvest quality and efficiency.
How does Amanda’s background or skill-set add to the operation?
Amanda is a flower child and grew up in her parents’ floral shop. She has an incredible eye for beauty and a wonderful design talent. She adds integrity to each bouquet she touches. She has also been a great support and friend.
What qualities does it take to be a farmer?
Flexibility! :) Resiliency. Problem-solving skills! Physical health, and ability to manage stress in a healthy way. Passion, for sure! A farmer is a small business owner, and so has to figure out how to do many things with many variables. It’s so important to surround ourselves with good people because we can’t do it all.
What has it been like to be a mom and a farmer? Any unique challenges or delights?
Like I said above, balance of work and parenting is a continual challenge. And wanting to include my 2 and a half year old in the work is a challenge and a delight. :) I love that he knows the names of birds, and considers them and insects, his friends. I love that he knows the names of flowers and fruits and vegetables. He and my husband go for farm tours around the vegetable fields, and that is their special time. He loves to munch on heads of broccoli, and kale leaves, and watermelon of course. My joke is that he eats his vegetables in the field with a side of dirt. That delights me to no end! I love that my child is healthy and prefers being outside and doesn’t mind getting wet or sweaty or dirty. I grew up disconnected from the earth, and in my winding path back to connection, have become healthier and happier and more grateful.
I’m so grateful that I get to raise my son close to the earth.
Do you come from farming roots or have a grandparent or elder that has influenced your work?
Both grandparents farmed. My dad’s dad farmed hogs. My mom’s dad had a big garden, and was a horseman. My husband’s grandpa is 101, still alive, and he farmed vegetables with his dad in what is now Maple Grove, and drove the produce in, to sell at the Minneapolis Farmers Market by horse and wagon. We have a rich history on both sides. And, my mom always had a big garden, and my favorite memories of childhood are canning and cooking with her in our yellow kitchen.
What are your sources of energy and inspiration?
I have a strong faith, and that is my foundation. I like to be quiet and meditate, and walk in nature, That gives me the most energy. I also love to be with my family outside. I’m inspired by honest, hard-working people in the struggle. Life is beautiful and grand, and difficult and mundane, and those focused on the positive and doing what we can, each day, inspire me. I also recognize that we are very, very fortunate in the big scope of things, and try not to forget that and get stuck in the everyday challenges.
Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Thank you!!! For buying local flowers, and taking interest in our family farm business and making it possible through your support for us to continue farming. Your choice to buy our, and any local flowers, is so much bigger than just that little bouquet. It’s the healthy earth they’re grown in, less fossil fuels in transport, and community investment. Win, win, win! Thank you, thank you Claire and Olivia for your work in telling our little story. Mwah!