STANLEY – There’s a riot of color at Hawk and Sparrow Flower Farm in Stanley, with blueberries fresh for the picking on the horizon at the companion Raceway Berry Farm.
Spring came much earlier for Lis Murray, who owns the farm along with her husband, Tim. Much of the flower production is done in high tunnels or greenhouses, but there’s also herbs, eucalyptus and greenery for winter arrangements growing outside.
The farm was purchased in 2013 and the couple planted 900 blueberry plants. There’s about 500 remaining.
“We’ve been taking some out on purpose,” Lis Murray said. “About five years ago, we started growing flowers. We lost our whole blueberry crop to frost two years ago. Blueberries are like peaches. They bloom the beginning of March and if you have a hard frost, you lose them.”
Sure enough, the frosts in March did considerable damage to Murray’s blueberry bushes.
“I think we’ve lost 60-70 percent,” she said. “The peach growers probably really suffered unless they had sprinklers going.”
The addition of flowers is a means of diversifying the farm. Many years ago, Murray started selling flowers she grew in her front yard at a local farmers market flowers. She arranged them in mason jars.
“We sold them for $5 a jar and I sold all eight of them,” she said. “I thought I was rich.”
Growing flowers is not without difficulties either. One of the high tunnels at the farm was severely damaged by straight line winds three years ago. Murray applied for and received a grant through the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, with funding provided through the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission to retrofit the tunnel and level out the ground inside of the tunnel which was a safety hazard.
“We haven’t lost anything in that tunnel even with the frosts,” she said. “We’ve even been able to keep tropical plants out there. There still isn’t enough heat to start seeds so I start them inside under lights.”
Murray sells cut flowers and arrangements as well as live plants at the Davidson Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. The beauty of buying flowers and arrangements from a local grower is they last a lot longer, plus it eliminates the transportation costs and supports a local business.
Murray hires local people to help during the busy season. Of the 36 acres, 10 are cleared and five are in production. In addition to the plants, the farm is rich with local wildlife. Instead of trying to deter them, Murray plants extra for their consumption.
“I could grow five times as many flowers as I do now because I have the space,” she said. “A lot of farmers don’t have that. I don’t want to get bigger.
“Our goal for this year is to grow better, not bigger. That included the greenhouse and getting a roof on our covered porch so blueberry pickers can sit in the shade in the summer. The blueberry picking goes from the second week of June through the first week of July and it gets hot. It’s really a morning-orientated farm. You’ve got to cut flowers in the morning when it’s cool. Luckily, we’re morning people.”
For more information on the flowers visit flowersandberries.com.flowers For blueberries, visit Facebook and search for “Raceway Berry Farm” and watch for picking dates.
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