Doell jumps into growing bridal industry with Little Big Farm Flowers
BLAIRSTOWN — There isn’t a sign on Heller Hill Road when you leave Hope Township and enter Blairstown, but as soon as you cross the town line, there is a small, red barn with a large sunflower logo for Little Big Farm’s Flowers.
Patti Doell has owned and operated the farm since 2006. Before that she worked at the New York Botanical Garden and then, in 2002, at The Good Hand Farm in Andover.
She and her sister also operated a landscaping business in Bergen County. All this experience plus some courses toward a certificate in horticulture helped her learn the flower business.
She decided to grow flowers when she and her husband, Kevin, bought the 6-acre property 13 years ago.
“Everyone has a vegetable farm,” she said.
The bulk of her business is weddings, she said. The wedding season is no longer just spring and summer, she said. “September is the new June.”
Doell offers three options for brides: She can do all the arrangements, some of the floral work or just provide flowers for the bride to do it herself. Some brides have Doell make the bouquets and boutonnieres but do the table arrangements themselves.
She said the average cost of wedding flowers in New Jersey is $2,000.
There are four wedding venues that make up a good deal of her business: Perona Farms in Andover; The Inn at Millrace Pond in Hope; Jack’s Barn; Waterloo Village in Byram Township; and Jack’s Barn in White Township.
She said she has thought about moving farther afield, possibly to Morris County, but then she would need a team.
“It’s just me and a couple of high school or college kids,” she said, noting that wouldn’t be enough staff for the large weddings that are common closer to New York City.
More and more people come out to western New Jersey for weddings, she said.
She also sells flowers to businesses, such as restaurants.
The farm offers various sizes of buckets for bulk flowers.
Doell is considering creating a CSA for flowers as well.
About two acres of the farm are devoted to the flowers.
The original plot is at the bottom of a slight slope and is cooler than the newer field which is on the slope. The fields have cover crop planted now, including a mustard cover.
The original plot now has perennials: Peonies, hydrangeas, bluebell, yarrow, Joe Pye and others. The upland fields hold zinnias, sunflowers, dahlias, cosmos and other annuals. Doell practices succession planting.
“We don’t plant once and walk away,” she said, “so we can do a lot on a small piece with no tractor.”
Patti and Kevin Doell also built a hoop house for other flowers.
She doesn’t grow bachelor buttons, although she used to. She gave up because there are not many flowers for all the greenery. She does plant gonfreena in many colors.
“Tastes change,” she said. Dahlias are big now and they are versatile and tough, but other flowers may come into vogue.
The flowers are organically farmed. Deer fencing and Buttercup, the farm collie, keep deer damage down.
Buttercup also handles groundhog control. Smaller rodents are the work of Noodles and Clementine, the barn cats.
An 1850s dairy barn is Doell’s workshop, including a large workbench and a cooler that can be heated in winter for bulbs, plus two heated cat beds for the rodent control team. Kevin Doell rebuilt the barn for his wife.
Before selling from the farm or doing many weddings, Doell was a founder of the Blairstown Farmers’ Market. She worked with the Foodshed Alliance to get past the township’s recalcitrance to allow the market.
Doell was just elected to the North Warren Regional Board of Education.
Her two boys, Henry and Lucas attend North Warren and are active in its award-winning marching band.
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