At Magnolia Roots, supporting our local farmers is something that is near and dear to our hearts. In the coming weeks, we will be sharing a small, but growing movement of farmers who specifically grow flowers. It is our hope that with this series, we can be an encouragement to their businesses and show our thanks for all that they give to their communities. We loved getting to know Dawn Cosgrove and couldn't wait to share her story with our readers. We know you'll fall head over heels - check out her story below!
Tell us more about who you are, what you do and where you are located.
My name is Dawn Cosgrove and I am a farm wife, a mom of 2, a lifelong gardener, a photographer and a 2nd year flower farmer living in the wide open prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada.
How did you get started? How long have you been farming? What was your career previously? Is farming your full-time income?
I met my (now) husband back in 2010. He lived and breathed his family’s grain farm in Saskatchewan while I lived in a city 2 1/2 hours & one province away, working on the stock exchange and had just closed the deal on my first home. I grew up in a family of gardeners and could not wait to start one of my own. I may have inherited a green thumb but I had still never grown a garden on my own.
By our 2nd date, I knew Adam was the man I was going to marry and just 8 months later we were engaged. The Summer of 2012 was when I planted my very first farm garden. It was 2,000 sq ft and filled to the brim with homegrown produce, rows of beautiful zinnias, a 75ft fence of sweet peas and my first ever dahlias..I was hooked. It was also that summer that I found Instagram and, most importantly, Erin Benzakein of Floret Flowers. The world she opened me up to was unlike any I had ever known before and the beauty she showed that I could grow with my hands was something I never before thought possible. While our grain farm has always been our lifestyle and main source of income, I always knew I wanted to create a niche for myself here too - I just didn’t know how.
Last summer, after a photo session that involved all of the flowers I produced here on our farm, I donated the cut stems to the funeral of a man whose daughter had truly taken me in to this community all those years ago and made me feel welcome. I felt silly doing it but my husband encouraged me that it was a thoughtful gesture..and he was right. The look on the faces of the recipients of those flowers changed everything for me. I realized then and there how powerful flowers could be.
The following week I received an email wondering if there was any interest in attending the local farmers market (of course it was exactly what I had been wanting) but trust me - the self doubt and nerves took over. I showed up to that first farmers market with a truck full of flowers, doubting I would sell a single stem. But I walked in and ladies were waiting for me. Their faces lit up when they saw the bundles of gorgeous dahlias I had brought in shades of blush, crimson and ivory and within 10 minutes, I was walking out of that farmers market, empty buckets in hand and the biggest grin on my face. I had finally found my place here.
Tell us more about the reasons behind why you do what you do.
I love what I do. I love the challenge of tearing open a packet of seeds as tiny as a grain of salt and making them grow into something so beautiful it takes your breath away. I love being outside from the moment that prairie sky turns lavender to the time it turns golden that night. I love the feel of dirt between my fingers and that feeling you get when you’re walking next to a row of fragrant sweet peas you planted yourself, one seed at a time back in April. Or the way the butterflies flutter amongst the zinnias and the bees bumble along in the patch of scabiosa. I love the look on the faces of those who come to our farm to see the field of dahlias in full bloom - an experience that will never grow old to me.
I love that I am providing my community with beautiful, fresh flowers to enjoy in their homes or that they can share with loved ones. I love knowing that I am producing these gorgeous blooms sustainably and mindfully - the way they were always meant to be.
What are some of the challenges and hardships you face as a farmer?
As with anything in life, there are always challenges. Two years ago, my sunflower crop was a bust thanks to the birds who would come behind me and eat every single seed I planted, no matter how many times I tried replanting them. Or the herd of deer who have made our farm their winter refuge and will be sure to visit again when the tulips began to bloom in May.
There are also the challenges of living in a remote area and not having access to bigger events or markets that may help get my blooms into more hands. Or the challenge of having to price your flowers in a way that pays you for all of your hard work when grocery stores are selling imported blooms for a whisper of the cost. I remember last March, I came across stems of lilacs in a grocery store cooler and I brought them to my face to inhale their heavy scent..and there was nothing. I was dumbfounded. How have we accepted this to be an acceptable reality? Are we really that far removed from the most basic, simple luxury in life of enjoying flowers the way they were meant to be? Tangled, crooked stems and a smell so powerful it can bring back a memory you almost completely forgot existed? It's something I definitely hope we as growers can bring awareness to and change!
What are some of the positive rewards and benefits you have come across as a farmer?
I’m healthier now that I’m working so hard chasing this dream of mine. I’m outside in the fresh air and raising my children to appreciate it too. I’m constantly learning new techniques, new methods, new varieties and challenging myself almost daily to know better, grow better and be better. I’m meeting other like-minded growers and having conversations that really affect me now and I absolutely love it.
What are your goals for your farm? What is your vision, your hopes and dreams, for the future of farming?
This year, I am moving my dahlias to a new 1/4 acre section of our yard and its exciting, yet terrifying. I am a one-woman show with two very small children, but it's been a dream of mine to do this for so many years! I want to see gatherings here at our farm, people coming together who love flowers as much as I do and harvesting the fresh stems while chatting and learning from one another. So I hope that could be something in the works soon as well!
Do you have any advice for those who are interested in farming?
You just have to start! Don’t be intimidated by what others are growing or by how much space they might have in comparison to yours! Use what you have and grow what you love. This is by far not the easiest lifestyle - farming is very hard work! But if you are willing to do the work then trust me, you will be rewarded tenfold.
What are some of your favorite resources (books, podcasts, websites, organizations, etc)?
I purchased the book The Flower Farmer by Lynn Byczynski back in 2014 and it has become such a treasured resource for me as well as The Cut Flower Garden by Floret and Cool Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler. Every time I have a question, I turn to these books over and over again! I am also a member of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers and the community there has been amazing!
You can find more information and follow Dawn here:
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/farmgirlsk/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/thefarmgirldiaries/
Website (coming soon) - www.dawncosgrove.com