Flower farm dream is coming true


Diana Zimmerman

CJ and Emilie Harris of Flower People offer locally grown flowers.

Emilie and C.J. Harris wasted little time when they settled into their new home in the Elochoman Valley last year. Emilie's dream for a flower farm could wait no more.

"Gardening and farming is seasonal," Emilie said. "There is only so much you can do in the winter. If you wait a season because you take a long time to build stuff, you miss out on spring and summer and fall. That's a lot of plants you could be planting, a lot of learning. We'd rather do it quicker and learn from the mistakes than wait and make it all perfect."

"We made a lot of mistakes," CJ said, smiling, "and just underestimated things."

Emilie came to the United States as an exchange student, studied art in college and met C.J., who grew up in Portland. The pair married in 2016 and now have two little ones to chase around the farm.

They lived briefly in Seattle, where Emilie had a small garden, but a call for adventure took them to the desert and to a place called Wonder Valley, in California.

It was beautiful there, but the Harrises realized it might not be a good place to raise children. One day, C.J. came out of the kitchen to find baby rattlesnakes warming themselves in his shoes.

It was also hot and windy, and C.J said, "a bit lawless."

"[The flower farm] has always been on the radar, but you can't do this in the desert," he said. They talked of hauling in dirt and having raised beds, but in the end, it just wouldn't work.

"I missed all the green," Emilie said. "It was a beautiful location, but everything was brown and beige. There were beautiful sunsets, but I needed something fresh."

Now they are closer to family, and while C.J. might miss the desert sometimes, he can't think of a more ideal place.

After their oldest daughter was born, Emilie became a stay at home mom. She wanted to build a family business, something that would allow them to homestead.

"I kept coming back to arranging flowers and working in nature," Emilie said. "I wanted our kids to be outside and work on the farm with us."

"I love working with colors," Emilie said. "When I'm growing I pick out colors that would work together well, so having an array of different ingredients, designing little bouquets, that's kind of my little passion. I started arranging bouquets in the desert. California, they grow flowers pretty much year around. I would go to the farmers market and buy big bunches of eucalyptus and straw flowers and make arrangements."

"I think it's another form of art," Emilie added.

"So is driving tractors," C.J. said.

While Emilie may be devoted to colors, and forms, and flowers, heavy machinery is C.J.'s passion. It has served them well, first in Wonder Valley and now here.

"It's a functional working farm," Emilie said, "but we are also working on making this a space, landscaping. That will be a fun challenge, designing that, and using some of C.J.'s skills."

They have no interest in shipping flowers. They want to produce locally and use local products, growing cut flowers and sell to florists and the local market, whether it's the grocery store or straight to the customer.

Eventually, Emilie and C.J. hope to produce and sell seeds and tubers, and try a little breeding of their own.

"I think there is a revived interest in gardening," Emilie said. "Planting food and flowers after all the craziness the last couple years. A lot of people spending time at home. We want people to be able to grow what they see at florists. All the cool varieties with the interesting colors and interesting petals."

Tulip season and the ranunculus are gone. Emilie has been planting flowers that prefers cooler weather, but is looking forward to sunshine and warmth, if only Mother Nature would get on board. They work while they wait, and they learn. The Harrises are grateful to Kim Howell at Little Island Farm and Flowers for sharing her wisdom and knowledge.

And they are grateful for the person who gave them their name.

"I was talking to some people and somebody said 'You are the flower people, right?'"

That's right. The Flower People.

Follow the Harrises at flowerpeopleus on Instagram or their website, flowerpeople.com.


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