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Growing Flowers for Drying with Morey Hill Farm

Growing Flowers for Drying with Morey Hill Farm

Dried flowers hanging in a barn at morey hill farm in craftsbury vermont, flowers grown from farmer bailey plugs starter plants

Dave Johnson and Hilary Maynard first forged a friendship over their shared interest in growing flowers. Today the partners grow flowers, veggies, fruits, nuts and pastured pork at Morey Hill Farm in Craftsbury, Vermont. Dave is in his sixth season growing flowers on the homestead, and Hilary in her fifth. 

A flower CSA, weddings, events, online dahlia tuber shop, and wholesale fresh and dried flowers make up the bulk of Morey Hill Farm's annual sales. Though they aren't Dave and Hilary's primary source of income, dried flower sales serve to bridge a lull in the year.

"Drying flowers seems to be worth the time for the cycle of our farm, because it helps provide income in the months after our frost," says Dave. "When the fresh cut flower season is ostensibly over because of frost, this fills the gap between the end of fresh flowers sales and Christmas. Christmas is the end of the gang rush, and every year we have sold out of most of what we've dried."

Could dried flowers make sense for your business? Read on to learn from Hilary and Dave's experience growing and marketing dried flowers to wholesale customers.  

Why Dry? 

Morey Hill Farm sells dried flowers by the bunch to florists, wreath-makers, artists and crafters via a wholesale price list that customers can request through their website

Dave: "It started for me with trying to grow as a fresh cut, then if it didn't sell, I could dry it and have this way longer window of opportunity to peddle it. The majority of the buyers are creatives who are making wreaths, or favors and installations for weddings. I didn't know much about the wreath industry, or people who make ornaments and things like that, but every year more people were inquiring and I just kept expanding."  

Nearly all of the dried flowers Morey Hill grows are also sold as fresh cuts, with a few exceptions. Capitalizing on dual-use crops is key, as well as observing where efficiencies can be created. 

Hilary: "We have learned over time. For some things we cut off the whole plant, like grasses, and things that mature at the same time. The majority are single stems - but we have evolved toward whole plant harvesting as we learn what is efficient." 
Dave: "They all sort of have their quirks, needs and pests, and what have you. A high tunnel is absolutely unnecessary for this.  Everything we dry can be grown outside. Ptilotus (pictured below) was an experiment this year, we sold it fresh, and we cut it and hung it. 
Hilary: "Celosia loves the heat! We sell it fresh and hang it to dry. Even in a cold climate like ours, you can grow tons and tons of dryable flowers outdoors." 
Dave: "Statice, strawflower, bunny tails, some perennials like yarrow and hydrangea all work. We have experimented with sunflowers. Nigella pods are good drying, pods and greens have limitless options. Are the buyers looking for color, or texture?  Are they making a whole wreath? A moss wreath, or a green wreath?" 

Consider your Creative Customers

In addition to established wreath and ornament makers and other crafters, professional florists are adding dried flowers to their work, and dried flowers seem to be coming back into vogue.  "It's no longer grannie's posies, that's for sure," says Dave. "People are looking for something different in floral design." 
Hilary: "I think about other artistic media, and how they evolved over time. There are limited floral supplies to work with, so people are mixing fresh and dried, or drying things that people didn't know you could dry, like Lisianthus. It just diversifies their medium."
Dave: "Everyone has their own interpretation of the art of floriculture and how they are designing. To one person, dried peony looked like this shriveled-up thing and they want bright yellow or orange. But others think it's the most beautiful thing they have ever seen. Just like the fresh flower market, it's driven by the person creating the next thing with it. Dried flowers serve arbor work, hanging installations, and chandeliers, but you don't have to use a million plastic tubes of water. With the overall effect at rafter height, no one cares if they are dead and dry. They are also going to survive the all-day July wedding in a clear top tent.  
Hilary: "I just saw a photo of a summer wedding, of many sweaty guests under a clear top tent. Y'all... it's a greenhouse." 

Get Curious

Though Hilary does admit to going through a "wreath-making phase" as a teacher who worked at a school with an awesome farm and annual festival, as farmers, their approach has been primarily based on experimentation. 

Hilary: "We ask ourselves, will this retain its color, or shape? Some lose their luster when they dry. Peonies look like an antique cut flower." 
Dave: "If I am going to dry this thing, it can be harvested earlier and open dry, and not just fall apart. Generally speaking, learning when each crop is ready to be harvested for drying is key. We are always looking for something new and exciting and trying experiments based on the past season. 

Hanging Out 

Morey Hill Farm flowers are cut, bunched and hung from the rafters in the woodshop (pictured above). No silica or other drying media are used. Dave calls this "the Upside Down Garden–you look up and all the color is hanging over your head, instead of growing at your feet." 

Dave: "It wants to be as dark as possible, with good airflow. Keep it dry and out of direct sunlight, because the colors will bleach. Hanging outside isn't a great option. They keep the brightness of their color with less sunlight exposure."  

Consider spaces like attics, dry basements, and closets for drying flowers, with a fan added to maximize airflow. 

Price It Right

Just like with fresh flowers, setting a price point for dried products requires considering a number of variables unique to your market, as well as your own time and labor. 

Dave: "People expect to pay less for dried than fresh, but ironically there is more work in dried flowers because of drying and hanging. Trying to figure out a price point that includes the reality of labor and time put into it, is probably the most challenging part.  How do you value your product?  What do you think it's worth?"

Morey Hill Farm has streamlined the marketing process by selling dried flowers exclusively through a wholesale price list that potential customers can request through their website.  Most customers come to them from visiting their website or Instagram, or were referred by word of mouth. Whether someone is buying five bunches or 500, the price is the same.

"I do think that dried flowers are becoming more trendy," says Hilary. "More people want 'everlasting'–even though they don't quite last forever!" 

Dried flowers hanging in the woodshop at morey hill farm in craftsbury vt

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