ASHEBORO — Lynn Baker hops on her bright orange utility task vehicle (UTV) each day and drives to work. Her route winds through the woods, splashes into large, deep puddles and ends up in an open air field, once home to grazing and galloping horses.
Her office is flanked by large deciduous trees and tall, wispy white grasses, often seen blowing in the wind. The floor is dirt, dotted with weeds and pieces of shining white quartz.
Baker is a fresh-cut flower farmer. She wholesales her flowers to local florists and wedding and event planners. They have used her fresh-cut flowers in wedding bouquets, commercial photography shoots and baby showers.
She has a small retail stand, at her parents’ house, at 4235 New Hope Church Road, located off Exit 66 on I-73/74, between Asheboro and Seagrove.
She comes from an agriculture background. Her dad, Bruce King, grew the collards that the downtown Asheboro restaurant Magnolia 23 served this past fall and winter. This summer, he will use that stand to sell his produce, too.
She uses the honor system. Buckets of fresh-cut flower bundles are $10.
It’s truly a family business.
Her office companions are often her small children and a bunny. Well, he’s more detriment than help. She’s had to plant some sunflowers for him to eat.
“I’m in charge of shovels and wheelbarrows,” announced her husband, Brandon. He is the public information officer for Troop D of the N.C. Highway Patrol. He is using his skills and knowledge to help promote his wife’s flower business.
He’s also pretty knowledgeable about horticulture and flower design. He helps get the flowers ready for sale.
They learned about plants together in the Future Farmers of America horticulture program at Southwestern Randolph High School. From 2002-04, Lynn and Brandon studied agriculture, students under the instruction of Kenneth Rogers. The two students competed with one another on teams, where they were tested on their ability to identify plants, show basic horticulture knowledge, which included landscaping, and nursery knowledge.
“I became Mr. Rogers’ assistant,” Lynn recalled. “I looked after his poinsettias and other plants. It was through that experience that I knew I wanted to teach agriculture.”
But there was a twist in her plans.
After graduating from N.C. A&T University in 2008, she did teach, most recently at Uwharrie Middle School. But, as she says, she got into the field just as teachers were being laid off and leaving. By 2015, her passion had switched to growing flowers and being a stay-at-home mom.
Lynn methodically set out to learn as much as she could about growing fresh-cut flowers.
“There isn’t a local flower farmer here, but I found one in Clayton. She has been a huge mentor to me,” she said.
Lynn started with a test plot by her home and sold her first sunflowers last fall. She experimented with various seeds to see which develop a flower the quickest. She planted some directly into the soil and incorporated the high tunnel type of production, which allows the dirt to warm more quickly and helps seeds germinate faster. The heavy duty clear plastic, which forms the tunnels, holds warm air inside to help the plants grow faster.
“I’ve had several harvests so far this year from the ones I grew under the plastic,” she said.
It may be a while before the ones she sowed directly into the soil, without the warm protection of the plastic, will bloom.
The land she is using for her farm was once a horse pasture. Tilled dirt brings the natural fertilizers closer to the plant roots. She uses “fish poop,” too.
This summer, her bounty includes three different varieties of Black-eyed Susans, stock, gladiolas, heirloom carnations, a small sunflower, strawflower, marigolds, ageratum, calendula, snapdragons, dahlias, sweet pea, Queen Anne’s lace, larkspur, Bachelor buttons, honeywort, anemone, ranunculus, bells of Ireland, corn cockle, nigella, zinnias and peonies.
Flowers range from vibrant to pastel colors, in pink, yellow, purple, lavender, red, orange and blue. Some have delicate, soft fragrances.
The stems of the flowers sold on the cart are bound by a simple rubber band with flower food. Even if you are not skilled at flower decorating, you can just stick the bundle in your own vase and the flowers will last for more than a week. Just be sure to keep them watered.
For more information, contact Lynn Baker at 336-963-2885 or firstname.lastname@example.org.