Thanks to Alyssa and Allen for sharing their farm story with us! The Ward’s have a 12-acre cut-flower farm in Salem, New Jersey. For more information, please visit: wardsfarmnj.com.
My husband, Allen grew up spending the summers on his grandparents 200+ acre horse farm in Minnesota. That is where he learned how to farm. As an adult, he has always grown vegetables. In 2012, he started to take backyard growing and turn it into farming. I on the other hand grew up in the Poconos in a very woodsy area but never farmed. I was introduced to farming when I met Allen in 2013. I learned how great farming could be when I had my first fresh from the farm asparagus for dinner and I was hooked into farming!
During the week in season, Allen wakes up at sunrise to tend to the farm. That could include weeding, picking flowers for our roadside stand, florist or other stands, making flower arrangements or other various farm tasks. Allen works a full time 9-5 job in banking where he spends the bulk of the day. When he comes home, he spends more time on the farm, whether it’s mowing, tilling, planting, cutting more flowers and hosting our ‘Pick Your Own’ evening events. Oh, and taking pictures for our social media. Weekends in the early spring are spent on the farm all day tilling the fields to be planted and planting the fields. As the season progresses, the weekends are spent tending to the blooming fields and finishing the weekday tasks that couldn’t be completed. This includes cutting flowers, tilling the weeds between the rows and hosting day time ‘Pick Your Own’ events. All year round, he suits up in the bee keeper suit to take care of our 4 honey bee hives. This can include checking for mites/beetles and making sure the overall health of the hives are good. In the winter, Allen spends time cleaning and beautifying the farm to ensure it looks in tip top shape for the warmer months.
I too work a full time 9-5 job in pharmaceuticals. I am the voice of the farm’s social media, posting the pictures and responding to customer questions, requests and scheduling events & farm visits. On the weekends and weekday evenings in the warm months, I tend our herb raised beds where we grow over 18 mint varieties to sell our Ward’s Farm all natural sun teas. During the busy season, I work our evening weekday and weekend day ‘Pick Your Own’ events. All year round, I work on our indoor succulents where I am constantly propagating so we can eventually sell those in the winter months when we don’t have our pretty summer blooms.
We both are so appreciative of our parents who know how busy farm work can get. They spend hours helping us whether it’s bringing food for dinner, spending time with the animals, helping with ‘Pick Your Own’ events or helping cut flowers to make arrangements for the stand.
We both love seeing the things we plant grow and flourish. It’s a great feeling to see something you hand planted thrive, grow and share it with others. It has become a passion and we are both blessed that we have the opportunity to do something we enjoy so much.
We have learned that it is important to go with the flow. We started out as an organic vegetables farm but converted to cut flowers after seeing there were an abundance of vegetable farms but not nearly as many flower farms. As Covid-19 has impacted everyone in the world, it has also changed our business a bit. Due to the cancellation of many events like weddings and parties, florists weren’t in need of flowers from the farm. In turn, we have had to shift our plans to now open our cut flower fields to the public rather than supply to florist. We have taken an obstacle and turned it into an opportunity.
As for the sunflowers fields, we have done ‘Pick Your Own’ events in the past but have seen an increase of visitors. We believe this is due to the fact that everyone has been in quarantine and just wants to get outside! We are so happy that we can bring joy in this tough time. We are blessed to have plenty of acreage so we are able to follow social distancing guidelines all while sharing the fields with others.
Working full time jobs, we have both learned to balance work, life, and farming. It can definitely get overwhelming at times, but as we get older, we see the importance of finding time for things that make you happy and that is farming to us.
In addition to our love for flowers, we have a love for honey bees that help pollinate the world. Not only do they help us create our own breeds of sunflowers, they also pollinate our other flowers (and veggies). Because bees will travel to get pollen, they help to pollinate the surrounding farms too.
It also doesn’t hurt that these wonderful pollinators produce something we both love and enjoy- honey! Between the two of us, we can go through a 5lb jar of honey in a couple months and we are very thankful that in time, our little hard working bees will produce that for us.
Our passion for bees comes from the fact that we wouldn’t have these beautiful flowers or tasty vegetables without the bees pollinating. We got our bees so we can help sustain the bee population. Our plan is to add more hives each year.
Our goal for the future is to continue to share our farm and flowers with our community for years to come.