Hello dear friends, neighbors, and loyal farm supporters! I hope you are well and staying courageous in this tumultuous world. There have been quite a few new sign-ups to the newsletter over the winter. Welcome aboard to new folks and thank you all for your interest in staying engaged with Winnowburrow. If you would like to be added to the email list, please send me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org Not all newsletters get posted to the website.
For those that are new to the Winnowburrow Farm & Florals newsletter, I would like to introduce myself:
My name is Bonnie Warndahl. I wear many hats and have gazed upon life through a variety of lenses. My journey started as a nature-loving kid growing up in Kentucky. I have weaved through careers in music, teaching, farming, floral design, and freelance writing/editing, eventually landing in western Wisconsin. Most recently I began work as a Farmland Access Navigator, helping beginning farmers secure land tenure. It feels good to be giving something back.
The journey to my own farm has been long and challenging. I started with almost no capital and little experience, but determination (along with a great deal of community support) goes a long way.
On February 28th—after four years of rental properties and three years of fulfilling a land contract for our home and farm—my husband and I refinanced to a traditional mortgage and gained the title to our house. It was a huge relief and a definite occasion for celebration!
This spring sees Winnowburrow into its 8th season. It’s truly hard to believe that many cycles of the Earth have passed, but here I am, starting seeds and working out the logistics of planting and business strategies for the year.
When I started farming I was passionate about a business focused on heirloom vegetables, but in recent years, I have pivoted the farm focus to cut flowers.
I love flowers. I love growing them. I love looking at them and smelling them, and I love designing with them. I also love how much joy they bring others. The way someone’s face lights up the first time they see one of my bouquets or step into my flower field is what keeps me doing this work. It’s a way for me to help the world smile, which is definitely something we need more of right now.
Growing also enables me to continue doing another thing I am passionate about—land regeneration and ecosystem preservation.
Where Do the Flowers Go?
Flowers from Winnowburrow leave the farm in a variety of ways, but mostly via weddings, bouquet subscriptions, and farmers markets, although, at this time, there are no plans to do a farmers market in 2022—more on that later!
I often get small orders for birthdays, anniversaries, or “just because” gifts, as well as occasional funerals or memorials, and am happy to create something on short notice if I have flowers on hand.
I love doing wedding and event design, I’m not gonna lie—especially when folks are open to non-traditional design ideas and using color!
Photo Credit: Brittany Olson, Photography by Berglane
Most of my wedding clientele are based in the Eau Claire/Colfax/Elk Mound/Durand area, but I have delivered wedding flowers as far as the Twin Cities (1.5 hours away).
Last year the uptick in weddings was significant, as Covid restrictions started to ease up and people could be outdoors again. Most of the wedding parties I worked with did very small “micro weddings” or elopements.
I am open to any amount of wedding design, whether it be a single bridal bouquet or a full-blown event with table centerpieces and arbors. I don’t have a minimum, but rather work within each party’s floral budget.
In the summer months, most of the flowers I use for weddings come from my farm and other local flower farms. In the off-season—or if clients have a specific flower they want that is not available locally—I work with wholesalers to fill floral orders.
Also, I am a foam-free floral designer. That stuff is icky and there are other, safer ways to secure designs.
As of now (March) I still have summer and fall weekends open for wedding and event bookings!
Learn more about wedding and event design here.
For the last two seasons, I have delivered weekly bouquet subscriptions (flower CSA), to the Twin Cities, Menomonie, and Eau Claire areas. Each week, while flowers are in season, subscribers receive an amazingly fresh bouquet, which can be picked up at the farm or a local drop site.
This is a lovely way to bring colorful joy into a home or business week after week. It also makes a unique gift for someone who loves flowers. The journey through the Wisconsin flower season is truly something to behold!
Last year, the customer base for this enterprise naturally narrowed itself down to the Eau Claire and Colfax/Elk Mound area.
Subscriptions are broken down seasonally to make them more accessible, but a full-season subscription is generally the most popular. This runs weekly, July through September. I also offer a short spring subscription when the specialty daffodils start to bloom (usually early May) and am considering adding a small peony subscription in June this year!
Just Local Food, a small co-op in the downtown Eau Claire area, was immensely supportive of our subscriptions last year and are excited about hosting again this year, however, they merged with Menomonie Market Food Co-op (MMFC) and are now operating under that name. The goal is to grow the number of bouquets that go to MMFC each week. MMFC in Menomonie is also offering to host subscriptions.
The Colfax Public Library has agreed to host as a pick-up site once again, and Vino Cappuccino in Elk Mound will be a new pick-up site for customers this year. (Vino Cappuccino also purchases weekly flower arrangements to adorn their amazing coffee shop/art gallery/wine bar space).
Learn more about floral subscriptions here.
What’s New at Winnowburrow in 2022?
The most substantial change at the farm this year is the shift away from farmers market to focusing more on wedding work, and on-farm events and activities. It was a really tough decision to leave the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market, but one that needed to be made for the viability of the business and my mental health.
New goals for the year are increasing bouquet subscriptions, getting more week-day and winter bookings for the Farmstay, and opening up the farm more regularly for pick-your-own (u-pick) flowers, semi-regular events, private parties, photo sessions, and small weddings or elopements.
Last July I realized my long-time dream of opening a Farmstay. Thanks to Airbnb, this is an easy task if you have a good space for it.
As with launching any new business enterprise, I was nervous that the investment in the space wouldn’t pay off. (What if it didn’t get booked)??? Well, that concern was rapidly put to rest. Ginkgo House booked nearly every weekend from early July through October, and even a few weekends over the winter!
It’s been delightful meeting so many interesting humans while providing a space for rest and healing. Nearly every guest who has stayed has left a 5-star review and some have even re-booked
already in 2022. Folks adore the quiet, secluded location of the farm, the breathtaking views, and opportunities to simply be in nature and pick flowers.
Ginkgo House itself is charming and cozy. So far, no one has minded the lack of plumbing. It is set up efficiently and someone is almost always around to help out when needed. I do have plans this year to build an outdoor shower, which should help book longer stays.
Learn more about staying at Ginkgo House here.
U-pick Flowers and On-Farm Events
My long-term goals for the farm have always been agritourism-centered and this is the year for those goals to manifest.
Last summer, when flowers were in abundance, I opened up the farm on a few occasions for u-pick flowers. It was a great success! This year I want to make u-pick by appointment a regular weekend activity on the farm. Our limited space for parking makes it challenging to just open up the farm for designated hours. It’s also tough to staff if we don’t know how many people to expect. I’ll be updating the website soon on u-pick details, but it’s safe to say that it will be happening!
A new monthly event coming to the farm this year is Snip ‘n Sip Thursdays. On the first Thursday of the month, July through October, folks will be able to pre-register for an evening of flower-cutting, socializing, learning floral arranging basics, and sipping on tea, wine, beer, or other beverages of choice. I’m still working out the details of possibly adding a food vendor, but there may be some locally-made cheesecake involved. Music is likely also going to work its way into this flower field dreamscape.
More possible events: Pizza nights or other food-centered dining experiences in the flower field; floral arranging classes; private parties; candlelight hikes and/or snowshoe hikes; and small weddings or elopements.
I am always open to ideas/suggestions and love working with other businesses/vendors. If you have an idea for an on-farm event, are interested in collaborating, or would like to chat about booking something special for a private occasion, please don’t hesitate to reach out!
I really hope to see you this season, either here at the farm or out in the community!
Last Order of Business
All of this new business growth is wonderful and exciting, but it’s also maxing out my capacity to continue as a one-woman show. My part-time farmhand from last season is excited about coming back, but the farm needs more attention than one part-time employee can provide. It’s time to start thinking about a partnership!
This idea has been floating around up in my noggin for years now. A business partner would provide me with the necessary labor and support to move the farm business to a place of profitability, rather than just sustain itself. (I’m going to just be frank here—for as much as I work, I do not pay myself a wage. So far everything has gone back into building up the farm business). For the right person, partnering with an already established farm could provide access to land, an opportunity to become an entrepreneur, and the ability to realize a dream.
So, I’m putting it out there! I’m looking for a potential business partner. Ideally, someone who will put in at least two full days per week on the farm, to start (or the equivalent).
I think there can be options for profit-sharing, some paid work (assisting with weddings/events), and barter/trade for flowers and veggies. Perhaps Winnowburrow could return to doing farmers markets once again! ;)
If you know someone (or are someone) who may be a good fit, I’m ready to chat with you!
Email me at email@example.com or call 612-462-9311.
Tootles everyone! I’ll be in touch soon about spring bouquet subscriptions!