Female Entrepreneur Spotlight: Meet Bethany of Field Five Flowers
- Mata Traders
- 26 May, 2023
As a female-founded, women-run business, our radar is always up for other like-minded companies. When we heard about Bethany and Tracy at County Rail Farm and Field Five Flowers, we knew we had to connect with them, and it just so happened to be the perfect setting for a spring photoshoot! Located in Huson, Montana, just west of Missoula, County Rail Farm has been operating since 2011, with Bethany running Field Five Flowers since 2020.
They grow fresh, high quality, certified organic produce and flowers for their community, and spend their spring adapting to the ever-changing days with both flower and vegetable crops and a lively 1-year old daughter, Imogen. Bethany may look familiar - she graciously agreed to model some spring styles in the farm shoot! After a really lovely day taking photos, we checked in with Bethany to talk about the excitement of growing seasons, the need to stay humble when confronted with unpredictability, the importance of visibility as queer entrepreneurs, the boundaries needed for working parents, and creativity's evolution as the business grows.
Q&A with a Floral Designer and Female Entrepreneur
How did you come up with the idea for Field Five Flowers?
Field Five started in 2020 when I transitioned away from my career in restaurant management and was looking for a fresh start, something grounding and more creative. When I joined County Rail Farm I was new to growing and started small with a few dried flower varieties. I soon fell in love with flowers and floral design, expanding to a large-scale cut flower production including over 250 varieties. Field Five started in, you guessed it, Field #5 and has since expanded to at least 5 of our production fields plus two high tunnels. We grew 40,000 tulips this year and will be harvesting from 300 peony plants this spring.
I love that cultivating plants is one of the oldest crafts - there's so much history and grounding energy, planning and organizing and it takes a lot of work (plus earth wisdom and luck!) for just one plant to bloom. It's also humbling because it's so seasonal: those plants don't bloom all year and it's an extensive cycle of planning and work but then decompression, breakdown and rest for us and the ground. A physical, mental, and emotional rollercoaster! And when you think about it, you only get the number of chances to succeed in farming as the number of years you farm-since the growing season is a year long commitment!
I get such a high from the summer - it's gorgeous and exciting - and the growing season is intuitive in a lot of ways. I love spending time outside and being at the whim of nature's turns. Every plant has its own personality and specific needs so I've learned so much about all our flowers over time; it is a steep learning curve though!
Bethany in the Ruffle Strap Dress (left), Tracy in the Eve Top (right), Bethany in the Nico Short Sleeve Mini Dress
Working from home is such a blessing - we spend all day, most days, with Imogen and most of those days, outside. I also get to share the farm with friends and family in the same way that I loved sharing food and ambiance when I was in the restaurant industry, but now it's space and flowers.
I really love creating and designing with the flowers we grow. They are ingredients to a recipe; starting from raw materials; from seed to seedlings to seeing them bloom in the field, and then ultimately creating an art piece for someone to take home. The process of design is really fulfilling and something that continues to thrill and inspire me.
What do you love most about running your own business?
Running a business is so dynamic. There's so much potential in where it could go and how we can accomplish our goals. It could stay small and focus on one aspect of the business or we can choose to run wild with another part of it. When you're in a 9-5 and working for someone else, there's not as much flexibility. But it also means we have to practice boundaries and learn our limits... which is hard for me. I'm a dreamer and creative/time/financial limits are challenging when I get excited about big (expensive, exhausting) projects. Tracy helps with that - haha. Farming is endless and you can always be doing something to make it better or more abundant or productive, and I love the challenge of all the variables. We wear so many hats and manage so many pieces: marketing, content creation, accounting, botanist, customer service, florist, harvester, designer, PARENTS! ..etc.
What's something you wish you had known before starting your own business?
I think one of the beauties of farming is that there are so many ways to grow plants and flowers. Every piece of land and even each part of our farm has different needs and wants. Everyone does it differently and there's no streamlined way of doing anything. There's always micro-climates, soil health, pests to consider, and also limitations that we set for ourselves - for our bodies and our finances. I didn't understand that in the beginning. I thought I could just learn how to grow perfect flowers - from workshops or from other growers. But the truth is that you just have to learn what works for you and your specific situation. And that can change over time, too. It's a beautiful thing, and also frustrating sometimes.
Camp Shirt (left), Jules Dress (left), Serenade Dress (right)
How has motherhood shaped your experience as a business owner, if at all?
I think timing has been the biggest challenge. We don't have the luxury to plan and execute the business things in our downtime. Having Imogen created some boundaries for our business and for us. Which was hard at first, but I also really appreciate it. We've had to adjust our mindset and our attitude - we have to just go with the flow and be ok with a loss of control over our own time. In the past I might have carried some animosity or resentment for the loss of focus or freedom, but motherhood has changed that perspective. I can let it go and not dwell on things we miss or don't do, it's just part of the whole package that comes with the softest cheeks and the brightest eyes and the best snuggles. Ultimately we are creating this space for her!
We're a woman-founded business as well! What has the experience been like for you?
Farming is notoriously a "man's-world/boys-club" but flower farming is pretty woman-centric. There's a weird dynamic between the two, and honestly I feel lucky to be in the flower world and skip the "man-splaining" of the industrial farm space. Tracy has a little more practice in dealing with this power dynamic. But really, 'woman' can mean so many things. Tracy and I both identify as women and fill different roles on the farm. I think the visibility of us as two women running the farm is pretty exciting, and as queer women that visibility is important. We hope humans of all genders can reference images and stories of people being themselves, whatever that looks like (femme, butch, in the middle, non-binary); making our dreams a reality in a pretty harsh world.
Brea Wrap Dress, Billie Jumper Dress, Sohla Mini Dress
What are you excited about in the near or distant future for yourself and your business?
I feel like I've only scratched the surface of farming - varieties, techniques, things to try, and there are endless ways to create and design with flowers. I'm excited to discover as much as I can in the limited years I have to farm! Witnessing the growth from a tiny seed to then creating an immersive space on the farm or other floral-scape that has the ability to change moods and someone's day or week... farming is kind of a power trip. Part of owning a farm and this kind of business is wanting to share our passion, and part of what we do is curating spaces for other people. We've built a guest house on a small corner of the farm (featured in the photoshoot!) that we hope to open as an artist space in the future. We're creating space for others to create. We acknowledge that we take from the farm all the time - we consistently harvest flowers and crops and remove beauty and food from the soil. Hosting a space for creators and artistic energy is one way that we can nourish and replenish the space. To bring energy back to the land, to support other artists and give them space to make art... I don't know if that makes sense but we're really excited to (someday) finish it and meet new artists, and host family and old and new friends.