Alongside the weekly farmers markets and online, our flowers can also be found at Market Organics stores throughout Brisbane, as well as Southport.
Last year, we were interviewed by the team at Market Organics and asked a series of questions which they chose to feature in their Spring edition of their quarterly magazine. The article takes a deeper dive into our origins, our purpose and our vision for the future of our brand.
We hope you enjoy reading it below and learning a little more about the background behind our family-owned business!
When did you launch Farmgate Flowers Direct?
I officially launched in 2019 as a weekend passion project, while still working in my corporate job. I felt as though many people had never really experienced what it was like to have exceptional farm-fresh flowers in their homes each week. Growing up on a flower farm gave me so much pleasure and I was determined to somehow offer this same experience to others. So, I convinced my siblings, who now own the family flower farm, to supply me with flowers and I rallied a small team to do mid-week and weekend markets for me while I managed the supply of stock. We gained a small and loyal following, but in early 2020 Covid-19 hit, and I was faced with a whole magnitude of additional challenges, resulting in temporarily closing our doors (or in this case gates)!
When I found my corporate role being restructured in mid-2020, I saw this as an opportunity to leave the corporate world and reconnect with my roots. I had studied Ag Science at university and had drifted away from what I felt was enormously important to me, so I saw this as a pivotal time in my life to follow what I was truly passionate about. It was in early 2021 that I took the leap of faith and relaunched Farmgate Flowers Direct as my sole focus.
What inspired you to establish your own flower business?
Over 5 years ago I read an article that unveiled that 1 in 4 flowers that are purchased here in Australia are imported from overseas. It was quite alarming how rapidly this statistic had grown over a very short amount of time. For me, it brought to light multiple crucial issues, including bio-security risks, chemical over-usage, the distance flowers were traveling and their carbon footprint, the war on waste, labour standards and not to mention quality! Even the supply chain of the locally grown flowers was convoluted, and an enormous number of flowers end up as waste. I believed that our family farms quality was never truly realised by the end consumer because it took so long for our flowers to reach them. I knew that we could easily reduce and even eliminate some of these crucial issues if I got my business model right. I also knew that my brother and sister were able to grow exceptional quality flowers year-round, which gave me the confidence that I could have a continuous supply of flowers which was very reassuring and one of the most important factors in establishing the business; without them, it would have been very challenging.
Where is your farm located and why did your family start growing flowers?
It was my parents who started growing flowers in Flowerdale on the northwest coast of Tasmania. It is a beautiful part of the world that is agriculturally versatile and blessed with abundant water, volcanic soils, and fresh air. Attached to this verdant land are major vegetable processing companies producing peas, beans, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, and the lion’s share of Australia’s onions. Also spreading across the paddocks are opium poppies for medicinal use, pyrethrum and tucked into all of this, a thriving dairy industry which is what the farm originally focused on. Wanting to diversify beyond growing vegetables and dairy farming, in 1982 my parents chose to grow flowers. As serious growers of Carnations and Gypsophila for about 10 years, they also dabbled in Statice, Lily of the Valley, Mini Roses, Tulips, Chrysanthemums, Sandersonia and Peonies. They narrowed their focus and spent the next 30 years toiling and mastering the art of growing Lilies. My brother Rob and sister Pip, now own and manage the family flower farm, which is where I source most of my flowers.
How has Farmgate Flowers Direct grown and evolved since its inception?
Relaunching in early 2021, with a vision to expand beyond the Farmers’ Markets we were fortunate to be approached by Market Organics who have supported our small business tremendously and have allowed us to sell our flowers in their retail stores throughout Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan, and the Gold Coast. There have been many developments in our various sales channels with the execution of a loyalty program, a click and collect service at the Farmers’ Markets, and the launch of our gift boxes direct to people’s homes throughout Brisbane and beyond.
How have the growing conditions been so far?
Rob and Pip have a very innovative approach to farming. When taking over the family farm Rob had a vision and a strong desire to be one of the best growers. Roughly 7 years ago he constructed a 2 hectare state-of-the-art glasshouse which provided a major production boost for the farm. This was the beginning of being able to consistently grow exceptional quality cut flowers and supply the market year round. The climate-controlled glasshouse is heated using a boiler and fuelled by wood waste from the Tasmanian timber industry. To enhance this system even further, Rob implemented a hydroponic growing system, helping to boost overall quality and production. Growing hydroponically has given Rob much greater control over the nutrition of the flower crops and reduced issues with soil-borne diseases.
What is your philosophy at Farmgate Flowers Direct?
My mission is simple. I want to give people access to beautiful, fresh Australian-grown flowers. I want to educate, connect, and delight. My aim is to educate by sharing with people just why we are doing things a little differently, thereby empowering and informing people’s decision-making when it comes to purchasing their vibrant blooms. Secondly, I want to simplify the process and connect the consumer to their local Aussie flower farmers, so people can understand their stories, and learn what it takes to bring you such beautiful flowers. Finally, we aim to delight every single time with extraordinary quality, fragrance, and longevity.
As our community becomes more attuned to the global importance of sustainability, what are your contributions?
We strive to be sustainable at Farmgate Flowers Direct, however, with any business, it is tough trying to do things a little differently. It is a challenge to ensure all our farmers supply us with flowers that are in sustainable packaging. Our Lilies, Freesias, and Alstroemeria are packed on the farm in a sustainable eco-wrap that challenges the normal packing process. Instead of wrapping each individual bundle, they are eco-wrapped into bundles of 5 bunches. It is a little more cumbersome and costly because efficiencies are challenged, but there is a saving on the amount of wrap used. We are grateful that these farmers are on board with our plight to do it differently. All our flowers are sold using eco-wrapping which varies from kraft, tissue paper, raffia through to hessian, re-usable ribbon and recyclable cardboard boxes.
Our Tulips at the farmer’s markets are sold in the same bucket of water and crates that they travel in from the farm, and our cardboard boxes that the other flowers travel in are all repurposed. The boxes are collected each week for a regeneration project in my local community called the Brisbane City Council’s Community Bushcare Volunteer Program. They have been restoring native habitat along Moggill Creek on their properties, as well as a piece of council land along the creek. Their primary role is weed removal, planting of native plants and maintenance of the area. They are using the cardboard boxes supplied by Farmgate Flowers Direct to create access paths as well as weed suppressants.
Any plastics in Farmgate Flowers Direct supply chain are recycled via Red Cycle. Our flowers are all transported by road, and because all our flowers are locally grown in Australia our flower miles are low compared to those you find in other retail outlets where a sizeable portion is imported. There is still work to be done in this area but being sustainable is at the core of our decision-making and growth plans.
What inspired you to focus on sustainable flowers?
I believe that if we have the capacity to make a change to improve our environment, then we should consciously make decisions in our businesses to support that. It gives me peace of mind knowing that we are striving to build a business that is kind to mother nature. There is still work to be done but it is also what makes our flower bundles that much more beautiful; knowing we are aiming to do what is in the best interest of the planet.
What would you say is the hardest thing about running a sustainable flower business?
Nothing is consistent or easy when selling a perishable product. Every day Farmgate Flowers Direct is faced with seasonality, perishability, fragility, quality, waste, and operational and logistical challenges. There is an extremely elevated level of risk, but our customers are loving what we have been able to do and frequently share their gratitude and appreciation which motivates us to keep going, which is lovely.
What sets your flowers apart from others in the industry?
Our consistent quality. Lilies and Tulips flourish in cooler temperatures. But even for Lilies, Tasmanian winters are a bit too chilly! That is why the climate-controlled glasshouse is a game changer. The glasshouses that the Lilies are grown in use close to zero chemicals and use very efficient levels of water and fertiliser.
Do you have anything new and exciting in the pipeline to look out for in the future?
We have incredible flowers that come into season at various times of the year. Some knockouts are our Oriental Double Lotus Lilies and Peony Roses. You can subscribe to our newsletter on our website to stay up to date. We are also looking at ways to grow our Farmgate Flower Gift Box delivery service.