Feature Friday | Ali From Paradise Valley Orchard
Happy Friday! Over the past month and a half, we’ve had the privilege of meeting so many great people - growers, wholesalers, other florists, the list goes on - and we want to tell you a little bit about them. We asked Ali from Paradise Valley Orchard a few questions and you’re going to want to read every. single. word. If you’ve ever met her you know how amazing she is.
Ali grew up in Montana in a large, loud family. Her passion for cooking was apparent at a young age when she would create strange after school snacks for her siblings and spent her birthday money on strawberries so she could make jam. Her sort-of patient mother allowed her to make giant messes cooking and crafting. She learned how to shoot a shotgun, drive a stick-shift, and garden from her father (who had a bit more patience). Summers were spent at Grandma and Grandpa's house in the Flathead Valley, hiking, swimming, huckleberry picking, and Be-dazzling jeans. She learned the art of canning and preserving from Grandma.
Your business keeps expanding. How did you get to this point?
HARD WORK!!!! Not being afraid to work harder than I have ever worked in my life. Because I know my hard work will pay off. It already has. The ability to never give up coupled with unstoppable optimism. Serving others. Serving and giving until my eyeballs fall out. Because at the end of the day, it's not about how much money I make or how successful I am or how good I look on Instagram, it's about serving my customers and putting them first. Having an attitude of service and generosity has gotten me farther in my business than anything else. Give generously. Serve wholeheartedly. Love unconditionally.
What made you start growing flowers on the farm?
Whoo boy, this is a story! Here's the short version. I've grown flowers for years, mostly because I enjoy them and I loved taking farm bouquets to the farmer's markets when I sold veggies and produce. For several years, I hosted small events and weddings on my farm, Paradise Valley Orchard. I would actually custom grow flowers for the brides. We would sit down in January and pick out seeds together for the flowers I would grow for their wedding in August or September. It was with my friend and business partner, Lindy Bankhead of Paisley Flower Farm (who had been growing and selling flowers for years) that I actually started selling flowers to florists. She came out to my farm and saw all my excess flowers in my garden and said to me "I can totally sell that!" And that's kinda what started us on our flower growing and selling journey and with her, starting our flower farm co-op, Florage.
What has been your biggest roadblock along the way?
Oh man, there's been so many little setbacks and roadblocks, but nothing so major that we couldn't work or get past. Time, money, labor shortages, weather, bug and disease infestations, and many more things. As a farmer who's income depends on healthy beautiful crops, you learn early on how to problem solve and get really good at it. Our livelihood kind of depends on our problem-solving capabilities and a good attitude to brush yourself off and move on. I once read a great quote that I repeat to myself almost daily: "If a door closes, grab a brick and smash the window."
What is your favorite flower and why?
I think my favorite flower changes all the time! This year, I grew the most insane crop of Icelandic poppies. They were unreal. They looked like paper or silk. The soft colors and their sheer size, some of the blooms were over 6 inches across! The florists couldn't get enough of them. I would probably say that was definitely one of my faves this past season.
Five things you can’t live without?
- COFFEE! I must have copious amounts of coffee, always. I'll sleep when I'm dead.
- My noise-canceling blue tooth earbuds. When I'm out working in the fields, I listen to hours and hours of podcasts and audiobooks. It helps me focus, and I'm also learning as I'm working.
- My flannel work shirts, Carhartts, trucker hat, and leather tool belt. This is my work uniform every day. Having comfortable and durable work gear is a MUST for farming.
- My walk-in cooler on my farm. We were lucky enough to buy a farm with a walk-in cooler! It's because of the walk-in cooler, we have been able to grow the flower business exponentially.
- My sweet, patient hubby, LoLo (his name is Lorin but the millennials named him LoLo and it stuck). Without him, our farm and business wouldn't exist. He is so knowledgable with all things farming. He has an amazing green thumb and can grow things that most people find very difficult or impossible to grow in this climate. He's successfully grown sweet potatoes, fresh ginger, eucalyptus. He does tons of tractor work, puts up fences, takes care of the apple trees, and 1.5 million other daily things he often doesn't get credit for. He works tirelessly behind the scenes to keep our farms running. I credit most of our success to him. He's the smartest human I know I was lucky enough to find him and call him mine. He also didn't divorce me when I brought home an alpaca in the back of my Subaru. Or the time I brought home a sheep in a dog kennel in the back of my old truck. Or the time I painted the living room orange. Or my freakishly large collection of vintage Pyrex. Or the time I backed over an irrigation riser with the tractor and flooded the yard. Or when I hit a deer in our brand new SUV. He's a keeper.