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 upfront as all the bulbs are purchased the season before,” said Woloshyn.

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

After moving to the Island from the Lower Mainland a couple of 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

Island Health’s acting medical health officer for the central Island says schools are very safe, even after COVID-19 exposure at five schools in Nanaimo-Ladysmith this month. (File photo)
Island Health: Vancouver Island schools are ‘very safe’

Central Island medical health officer answers questions on the heels of recent school exposures

A photograph from July 25, where the Straitwatch team and DFO were out along the eastern shoreline of Vancouver Island to attend to a humpback whale that was reported entangled . (Photo courtesy, Cetus Research and Conservation Society)
Islander launches campaign to help entangled whales

Tristan Ray-Wilks from Quadra Island wants to be “response ready” for humpbacks in distress

In the first nine months of 2020, there have been 23 drug toxicity deaths in North Vancouver Island. Pixabay photo
Vancouver Island’s drug overdose emergency far from over

COVID-19 has exacerbated drug toxicity death rate

Bert Hick of Rising Tide Consultants, specializing in liquor licensing, addresses city council on Nov. 19, 2019. (City of Chilliwack)
Opinion: Your council has a tougher job than you give it credit for

Councillors work hard and for a capricious master

B.C. Special Olympics athlete, Jake Hooper, and his sister Caitlin are concerned about the impact COVID-19 is having on people with intellectual disabilities. (Courtesy of Caitlin Hooper)
Pandemic raises stakes for B.C. residents with intellectual disabilities

Untrained health care workers can jeopardize lives of people with ID

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

This Union Bay beach area shows iron staining at low tide from March 2010. Photo, JET Productions
Commercial marina again proposed for Union Bay

A previous proposal was denied due to sediment contamination

A rendering of Victoria Wonderland, a drive-thru immersive holiday experience coming to the Breakwater District at Ogden Point. (Courtesy of Transcend Victoria)
Immersive, drive-thru holiday light show coming to Victoria

‘Victoria Wonderland’ runs from Dec. 7 to Dec. 31

Juliette Desvaux, left, and gym owner Meaghan Orcutt share a joke during a break in a workout session. (Submitted photo)
Parksville sprinter finds much-needed community support during COVID-19 pandemic

Local gym, former coaches lend a hand with Desvaux’s athletic endeavours

I-Hos Gallery manager Ramona Johnson shows some of the paddles available at the retail outlet. Photo by Terry Farrell
I-Hos Gallery celebrates 25 years of promoting First Nation artwork

K’ómoks First Nation-based outlet has art from all over the country

An Oceana Canada audit of Canadian fish stocks reveals a growing number with critical populations, calling on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to enact existing commitments. (File photo)
B.C.’s declining fisheries the result of poor DFO management: audit

Oceana Canada calls for follow through on government commitments

Most Read