Farmer Bailey customer Heidi Joynt founded Field & Florist with Molly Kobelt in Chicago, Illinois in 2017. The pair operate two retail storefronts in the city, offering flowers grown on their own 15-acre flower farm in southwest Michigan.
Field & Florist's seasonal arrangements (including Lisianthus sourced from Farmer Bailey) are complemented by a curated inventory of plants, garden tools, home goods, fragrances, gifts, and skin care. Heidi's lyrical style caught our eye, and she was kind enough to share a bit of her story. Read on!
How did you get your start as a floral designer?
Heidi Joynt: I was working another job in urban agriculture and started squeezing cut flowers into the program on the perimeter of the farm and having fun selling those bouquets at market. I played around a lot on my own, buying from the wholesale market, and trying to figure it out. I quickly became totally absorbed in the world and sought some more formal training at New York Flower School. I wouldn't say my aesthetic developed from that, but it taught me a lot about conditioning stems, processing, etc.
When did you start farming flowers for your business?
HJ: Immediately. Finding land was the first order of business, because growing/horticulture was more in my background rather than design, per se. I found that having access to my own locally grown materials made the work more interesting to work on, higher quality, and it allowed me to stand out from other florists. I worked to obtain borrowed land both in and outside of Chicago for the first four years of the business. Growing flowers for my own use and to share with other designers was the goal in those early years. Borrowed/leased land is precarious though, and we moved farms 3 times before finally being able to secure our own.
Who are your current mentors, or people who inspire you?
HJ: I am constantly inspired by other growers who fight to keep doing what they love, adapting, and overcoming the many obstacles small farmers/business owners face. I look at the work Jeanie McKewan has done in training new growers, as well as supplying high quality cut flowers to the Chicago market for many years. I also see the work that Northerly Flora is doing in Minnesota, and admire the fortitude it takes to grow in northern climates, while they adapt to and expand their market with an all-women team.
What is your design philosophy?
HJ: The goal of an F&F arrangement is to highlight the best of what each season has to offer through clarity. A good arrangement starts with good ingredients. Like a great meal, the wonder of good floral design is a sense that it came together naturally with lyricism and ease (which is easier said than done). It shouldn’t look like a struggle, or like human hands have spent too much time overworking the flowers. It gives a fluid impression. We aren’t trying to bend nature to our will, we’re trying to see what it’s already doing and respond.
Who are your customers?
HJ: Our customers are all kinds of people. With two retail locations we have lawyers, plumbers, interior designers, art school students, and everyone in between. Predominantly however, our main customers are women between 30-50 with expendable income.
What is your favorite thing about being a creative and business owner? What is your least favorite aspect?
HJ: I get to share my creative vision with others, working with flowers I struggled for and sometimes succeed in growing, and allow employees to join me in doing it, that feels like a lot to be grateful for. There are an innumberable amount of things that make this path super challenging, perhaps not worth doing. Making the farm a financially viable endeavor has been tough, it can be hard to hold on to the love for the work when the numbers and spreadsheets are what it really boils down to in all aspects. I'm trying to find liberation in the data though, because getting a handle on it will allow me to continue to do the work.
What is one piece of advice you would share with other aspiring farmer-florists?
HJ: Find the scale that works for you and the life you want. Growing and scaling up is not always the answer unless you have the labor and market to support it.