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Farmer Feature: Stephen Workman of Mountain Man Flowers
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Farmer Feature: Stephen Workman of Mountain Man Flowers


“For as long as I can remember, my dad was always growing vegetables,” says Stephen Workman. “Always, we had something we were tending to.”

Gardening is one aspect of the self-sustainable values that permeate the culture of Stephen’s native Provo, Utah. Stephen’s artistic calling took him to New York City, where finished his master’s degree in painting and worked in the arts. “I took many turns in my career of not being a painter,” he says. “Cabaret performance, makeup artist, photographer, videographer, go-go dancer… and it just wasn’t where I wanted to be.”

Stephen returned to Utah after seven years in NYC and soon established Mountain Man Flowers and Picklinq, a collective of Utah flower growers co-founded with fellow flower farmer Jessie Westover.

Picklinq’s greatest proportion of clients are event florists serving large weddings and corporate events. This means collective members must produce excellent quality stems of desirable varieties in volume.

“I wanted to sell to florists, but I never had enough of what they needed,” he says. “The only answer was to start teaming up with other farmers, to get the volume up.” Picklinq collective has grown from 12 original members in 2021 to 21 today.

Stephen's secret weapon is a keen sense of what florists want to buy.

“My art background comes into my crop selection,” says Stephen. “I can see the florist's vision, and convey that to our farmers in the collective. I don’t wait for the florist to tell me what to grow. I try and project it. The florists get excited about something new, so I just choose for them. I pay a lot of attention to fashion, and Pinterest because brides post what they want.”

Though Stephen occasionally misses the energy of New York City, he utilizes technology to stay on top of what’s next. “I used to feel like Utah was a bit behind, but you can stay attuned to what’s happening because of the internet. Sometimes I miss New York, but I just got married last year, and we want to raise a family and raise them on a farm. I want my kids to have the opportunity to learn hard work. They don’t have to continue farming, but I will have done my part to offer that to the next generation.”

Read on for a candid Q&A with Stephen, including why he believes flower farmer collectives are the key to building sustainable small businesses, and and why he’s drilling down into just five essential crops this year–while leaving a bit of room for fun.


Q&A with Stephen Workman
Mountain Man Flowers

How did you get interested in growing cut flowers?

After seven years, I needed a break from New York. My family was living in Utah, and my parents needed help with ground maintenance. There was not a lot of color, so I would plant flowers from local nurseries to dress up the edge of things. At that time I was also figure drawing with online models–because of COVID, I couldn’t draw people in person. One of my models is a florist, and we were just talking about flowers and how I wanted to grow enough to cut! He had stumbled on the Floret book and told me about her [Erin Benzakein’s] course. That was just a big rabbit hole.

My dad and brothers had a production garden for the farmers market, and I started to take over some space for flowers… then more and more space. Now the whole garden is in production for flowers.

How did you reach your first customers?

At first I sold door service bouquets. I sold out each week, not a lot of them, but people would reach out via Instagram. It was a lot of driving and work because I’m so remote.

The Floret course is really designed for subscription bouquets. I really appreciate what Erin has offered in getting people off the ground, but it’s a hard dream. Unless you have a secondary job to support that, you’re running yourself ragged trying to keep up.

Selling directly to florists is the other option. As much as I like flower arrangements, I don’t like doing them myself. I wanted to sell to florists, but I never had enough of what they needed. The only answer was to start teaming up with other farmers, to get the volume up.

You and your business partner Jessie Westover started the Picklinq Collective to market to these larger event florists. Why does the collective model work for your members and clients?

Everything we grow in the collective outperforms traditional wholesale in longevity, stem length, and overall beauty of the flower. We aren’t trying to grow roses, or chrysanthemums or carnations because we don’t need to. What wholesale doesn’t have is great Delphinium and Lisianthus. Dahlias don’t ship well. Because everything is in season, clients can get a better quality product. Designers have to adjust and design to the season, and those are the kind of clients we attract.

We started with 12 local farmers, and now have 21. We sell three times a week out of Midvale, Utah. Every collective works differently, and has a different buying base.

Our primary clients are event florists who do corporate events and large weddings, and buy larger volumes. It’s so much less work to sell this way, and we have brick and mortar weekly clients as well. We’re in the third year of the collective and people are finally learning seasonality.

This is the only way these small farms can really make an impact and stay in business, I think. We push our farms to grow what thrives in their climate, and what they like to grow. I’m trimming my crops to five. Each farm is finding their niche and leaning into those. One of our farmers in Spanish Fork, Utah is growing three crops.

What are your five essential crops?

Tulips, Ranunculus, Peonies, Delphinium, and Lisianthus. I’m in the mountains, so they come on later in the year. Not a shoulder farm, because I produce a lot of volume, but it stretches out our season.

Of the three to four flower farms growing similar crops, I’m in between their harvests. It’s all about timing. I’m on the backside of the Wasatch Front, about three weeks behind the farms on the front side. I don’t control that, it’s just where I live. Tulips come in just around Mother’s Day, and my Ranunculus brings us into June. We have Delphinium in June when we have lots of weddings.

You’ve been a Farmer Bailey customer since October 1, 2021. Way to be on top of spring ordering! Do you have a favorite Farmer Bailey crop?

You can never have enough blue Delphinium. I have Belladonna in now and they should be producing very well this year. I don’t do fall planting because the season is so short, and I’m so busy by fall planting I don’t have time to do it.

Always Lisianthus. I grow so many Arosa. I love how much variety there are of Lisianthus. I love Celebs, Rosanne Brown, Sabrina Orange, Chateau Blue. I said I’m only growing five crops, but I will probably sneak in Scoop Scabiosa because I love them–Focal Scoop is my favorite. Tissue culture statice come on later in the season. Statice is such a simple crop, but it grows so tall and so full. My Geum from plugs has 18-24” stems.

I have grown Cherry Caramel Phlox from seed before, but I was really impressed with the plugs, and every single plug was plantable. Now I will have an ocean of phlox like I have dreamed of! I will sell every stem of 600 plants.

Tell me about floral trends that are standing out to you right now.

This year it’s peach and pale orange, and not necessarily because of the [Pantone] Color of the Year. The place that local flowers thrive is in transitionary colors. Import colors are bright and primary because they know these will sell to the mass market customer. Our florists are looking for transition tones: pale orange, pale lavender, and pale pink can transition you from one palette to another.

Designers who were doing beige palettes are starting to push a little peach and pale orange, with strong contrasts of burgundy when they can get it.

What do you wish you knew when you started this business?

My biggest stumble was tulip growing, and now I grow them very well. Tulips need a lot more water than they seem. I wish I had known how to grow for a market. Everybody tells everybody to do the same thing their first year–throw a bunch of seeds. It becomes a wasted year. I grow very differently now than when I started.

What are your greatest challenges as a flower farmer?

For me the biggest challenge is a steep learning curve. I hit the ground running. There are lots of farmers with more experience and sustainable practices than me. I’m still learning; I have a high failure rate and success rate at the same time. I’m hitting this so fast because the opportunity was there and I had to take it. Every year I learn I can be a lot more efficient. I can be on top of my schedule with this. It’s a steep learning curve. I’ve only been doing it for four years and have to operate like it’s been 15.

Because I run the collective and the farm I have to find that balance. I can’t just hire someone to run the farm. I am the only one who can sell flowers at the pace that is required. Hopefully, I will find a talented salesperson in the future but for now… balance is the challenge. I learn every year how to get better.

I had a hire ready for tulips season and it didn't work out that way, so I ended up doing the entire tulip harvest by myself. Three weeks of 10-hour days was grueling. Next year I will hire someone just for harvest. I understand growing now, I understand what the plants need.


What would you say to a beginning flower farmer?

Give yourself a lot of grace, because your first year will be really disappointing and really hard, and to keep loving flowers enough to keep going.

Farming is hard, and flower farming can be double hard.

Flower farming is double rewarding. I wouldn’t do this for vegetables. I love vegetables, but I don’t love them enough to struggle. I was laboring over figuring out my tulip profit margin… and I looked over, and there were some poppies. After a moment, I thought, ‘Well, I guess i’ll keep on figuring this out.’

What do you enjoy most, outside of farming?

I enjoy my life with my husband, we have a fun relationship. We like family time and we both have an interest in collectible dolls. We are going to offer custom repaints of collectible dolls in the off-season. I got him a sewing machine. He’s going to make the clothes and I will repaint the faces.

Mattel has been coming out with these intricate, amazing, limited versions of Monster High dolls and I think they are so cool. They push what dolls can look like. I always loved doing knitting in the offseason. Knitting just keeps calling me back. I can watch a movie and knit at the same time.

Are you a high energy person?

Yes, I can’t sit still. I know the word in Spanish, inquieto, I don't know it in English. I am always moving and I’m sure its ADD, I always have to be doing something. It drives my husband crazy, I can’t just sit still. I have to be doing something with my hands or I can’t pay attention. I am learning, now I have a relationship to tend to, to not make my days so long. We were married in December.

Is there anything else you’d like to share that I haven’t asked you?

I could tell you a million things.

Follow Stephen on Instagram @MountainManFlowers and Utah flower farmer collective @Picklinq.

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