Andrea Clemens, incubator again at Michael Fields, growing local flowers.
May 14, 2013
Michael Fields changed Andrea Clemens’ life in different ways. This young flower farmer found the inspiration and the clear idea of growing flowers after her experience as an intern at Stella Gardens, the outdoor classroom program for beginner farmers at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.
For some years, Andrea lived in East Troy, where Michael Fields is located, but she moved away to Milwaukee when she was 12. After high school, she worked in a flower shop for a while where she got a more broad knowledge about the flower industry.
“I sold flowers from across the world. Most of the flowers that are purchased in the United States have a large carbon footprint and high pesticide residue. They are transported in refrigeration, often dry systems packed in boxes and the transport can take several weeks. The flowers are revived or “woken up” by adding chemicals back into the water. This shocked me a lot. But I just loved making bouquets and I knew my heart was growing flowers and I wanted to grow them locally. I couldn’t picture how the plants grew in the garden and I just really wanted to learn about that. So I just looked back to my hometown of East Troy and I applied to the gardens program at Michael Fields”.
Andrea was an intern at Stella Gardens during 2005. She learned how to grow vegetables and flowers as well. She found the direction of her life at Michael Fields.
“That year changed my life. I met Charlie, my husband. He was also studying as an intern at Stella Gardens. We started dating during the growing season and now we are married and we have two children. Meeting my partner through farming and agriculture has been really important for me. We discovered the importance of organic farming revival and Charlie and I just knew we wanted to be a part of this movement”.
Andrea didn’t grow up on a farm. Although her grandfather raised turkeys and had a vegetable garden, Andrea’s parents weren’t involved in agriculture. This young woman farmer acknowledges that as a child, she was never interested in farming and growing flowers. The interest began when she started working in a kitchen during her teenage years. She was preparing fresh food, chopping up the vegetables and dreaming about how the plants grew and in general, The Farm, where food comes from. She yearned to then get her hands dirty in the ground and applied to Michael Fields Garden Student Program when she was 21 years old.
After this internship, Andrea was still involved with Michael Fields as an incubator flower grower. She rented a half-acre in the gardens, and the institute provided her the infrastructure, the land and the tractor work to do the tillage. She was really grateful for the help she received from the Michael Fields’ staff for giving advice to her.
Andrea had operated her flower business for two years but she was still involved with Michael Fields when Charlie and she decided to get married in the installations of the institute.
“I got married in 2008 at Michael Fields. It was a beautiful wedding and shortly after that I gave birth to Cedar, my first child. Then I started working at Uriel Pharmacy, where I prepared natural remedies with flowers and plants”.
Andrea considers herself an artist and she just really likes creating flower designs with ‘fresh products’ from the gardens. This is her passion and for this reason, she decided to start again her own business, Lovelight Flowers and become a farmer and flower designer. Andrea also just started working as the Customer Service Manager for Fair Field Flowers. Fair Field Flowers is a group of flower growers from southern Wisconsin, that collectively sell their flowers off of their refrigerated truck on a route that spans from Madison to the greater Milwaukee corridors.
“With Fair Field Flowers, I have the flower availability at my fingertips. I now have the knowledge of what to grow each month. I have kept journals of all the different flowers that I have seen blooming. I learned a lot in the gardens at Michael Fields thanks to Janet, the garden manager in that time. It’s really unique what kind of flowers come up in Wisconsin. I want to grow local and organic flowers. The local community is supportive of the local agriculture movement; they care about the environment and if they can buy local flowers from their farmers, they will do that”.
During the last years, this young farmer has taken several business courses, some of them at Michael Fields. Now, she asserts to be more confident to start again her own company. She will become again an incubator and she has rented half-acre of land close to the institute to grow more than 50 varieties of flowers. Andrea wants to sell the flowers in the Community Supported Agriculture, a farm marketing model used by farmers across the United States where people receive weekly a box of fresh locally grown fruit, vegetables and / or flowers from a regional farmer. With this idea, she will deliver bouquets every week at homes in East Troy, Milwaukee and Madison. Besides relying on the CSA model, Andrea will do also weddings and will be part of the East Troy Farmers’ Market.
“For me this is my hometown and I want to connect with my community and with Michael Fields in particular. I am starting to grow my flowers again and it will be great to see how this season develops. I hope this will be the first of many years in East Troy selling local flowers.”
Buy organic and local flowers:
East Troy, Wisconsin 53120