Candice Woloshyn prepares her flower beds for the next season at her ‘Dirty Girl Flowers’ farm in Merville. Despite the pandemic, Woloshyn was able to sustain her homegrown business as community members opted for regular deliveries of fresh cut flowers. Photo by Binny Paul/ Campbell River Mirror.

Candice Woloshyn prepares her flower beds for the next season at her ‘Dirty Girl Flowers’ farm in Merville. Despite the pandemic, Woloshyn was able to sustain her homegrown business as community members opted for regular deliveries of fresh cut flowers. Photo by Binny Paul/ Campbell River Mirror.

Vancouver Island flower farmers were blooming as the pandemic wilted everything else

Floriculturists saw increased subscriptions as fresh flowers became a ‘sight for sore eyes’ during isolation

In March when the Dutch destroyed millions of their highly sought-after tulip bulbs, it was evident that the pandemic had sucker-punched the global flower business.

But even as Canadian flower shops shut and flower farmers battled uncertainty, a very different scenario was unfolding for two east Vancouver Island farmers.

Candice Woloshyn’s Merville based operation, Dirty Girl Flowers (DGF), is just a year old but her family kitchen had turned into a “flower hot spot” during weekends as the pandemic progressed. Mason jars filled with wildflowers were lined up for deliveries.

This year was “busier” for the danseuse-turned-horticulturist as she took up a regular spot at local farmers’ markets in Campbell River and Comox and continued with door-to-door deliveries.

“I guess, people wanted something pretty to look at during the period of isolation,” said Woloshyn, as people in her neighbourhood placed orders for weekly deliveries of fresh flowers.

Bouquets of wildflowers, dahlias, sweet peas and heirloom narcissi became “a sight for their sore eyes” and kept Woloshyn busy throughout the season.

When the pandemic began she, like most flower growers, was “terrified” that all the investments done from the previous season would go waste.

“As a farmer you are investing thousands of dollars up front as all the bulbs are purchased the season before,” said Woloshyn.

But the response this season was “overwhelming,” as people responded to to DGF’s Instagram post that they were offering free weekly deliveries.

After moving to the Island from the Lower Mainland a couple years ago, flower farming became a passion project for Woloshyn. She slowly turned it into a business last year. Her clientele now includes young girls from Campbell River as well as upscale families from Comox.

Typically a business year begins in April with tulips and daffodils, then leads to peonies and dahlias and cosmos until the first frost hits in October.

Comox Valley based flower farmer Lydia Jackson saw her business double during the pandemic. (Submitted photo)

Last week, the first frost of the season marked the end of fresh flowers for Comox Valley-based farmer Lydia Jackson, who runs Hazel Bloom Farm & Flowers.

As she turns her attention to dry floral arrangements for the winter, Jackson looks back at 2020’s fresh flower sales and said her business “doubled” after the pandemic.

Early on she incorporated health and safety guidelines and introduced “contactless deliveries” and expanded her subscription program to Campbell River as well.

For people, the delivery of fresh flowers was like having “something to look forward to” during social distancing. A lot of customers were also sending flowers to their family and friends during this time said Jackson. Along with fresh flowers, she also a witnessed a spike in the sales of seeds and tubers as a lot of Island folks took to gardening and attending to their flower beds.

Jackson – who calls herself an “accidental farmer” – ventured into the flower business in 2018 after she earned the reputation of “being the girl who came to parties with fresh-cut flowers.”

“A lot of people began asking me to make bouquets for them and I realized there was a huge market here,” she said. And since then she grew her business from a single 15×4 foot flower bed to 75 of them.

Both the women attribute their successful season partially to the number of customers who opted to shop local.

“People are very well-educated and aware of the organic food movement, and why buying local is very important,” said Woloshyn. “Customers now understand that flowers that are not grown locally and travel across thousands of miles have severe environmental implications.”

The pandemic also changed the monopoly of imported flowers in the Vancouver Island market as more buyers started opting for seasonal flowers and delicate blooms, said Jackson.

According to her, strong, durable flowers that could withstand travel had a monopoly in the market over delicate blooms. But as their supply dwindled during the pandemic, “delicate” flowers began showing up on the shelves of flower shops as the trend shifted to accommodate flowers that were readily “available.”

Buying directly from a local flower farmer also eliminates the price of the “middleman,” making the prices more affordable, said Woloshyn.

“Flowers are something that everybody should be able to afford.”

CoronavirusSmall Business

Just Posted

Aidan See played for the North Island Silvertips during the 2019-2020 season. (PHOTO COURTESY RON HAYES)
VIJHL: Port Alberni Bombers add hometown talent to roster

Junior B hockey club signs Aidan See, Blake Power and Grayson Erickson

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Whiskey Creek gas station destroyed by fire after camper van explosion

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read