Ducey flourishing in flower business
(Editor’s note: Lauren Finnegan is a specialist with NRCS-New Jersey’s department of public affairs.)
Upper Freehold Township — Even before the sun rises most days, Spring Wind Farm owner Leah Ducey is at her computer gathering orders and flower counts before heading out to pick a mix of the gorgeous flowers that fill her fields.
Her day continues with prepping orders, weeding, preparing beds, watering, and seeding before heading out for a second round of cutting, sometimes till 8 p.m.
And while the early starts are nothing new for the former high school biology teacher, the long days are something she wouldn’t have any other way.
“As much work as there is, I’m happy doing it,” Ducey said. “My heart has always wanted to farm and I’m grateful I’m getting the chance to fulfill a career I wanted to start with. … Finally, at 40, I’m there.”
Leah grew up with a passion for growing flowers and got a taste of the business when she started a cut flower field at the Student Organic Farm at Rutgers Cook College, before eventually deciding to pursue a career in teaching.
“I didn’t have family land or money to invest, so farming was a hard career to jump into,” she said. “My Dad’s a teacher, so it was highly suggested that I take that same route and so I did.”
In 2018 after buying a 20-acre property in Cream Ridge, Ducey decided to start small and try her hand at the business.
After her first season went well, she decided to expand into wedding floral design, which led to her applying for a high tunnel through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
The tunnel was installed last fall.
“With the need to extend our season to provide for spring and fall weddings … the high tunnel has been a huge advantage to meeting the designers and retail customer demands [and] I’ve been able to increase production,” she said. “The local flower movement is growing and many of the New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania designers are looking for local flowers.”
Some of the local varieties the farm produces include ranunculus, anemone, foxglove, cosmos, poppies, and the popular lisianthus, which is always a huge hit because of its striking similarity to roses.
The farm will be expanding to include a you-pick option for annuals this summer and in the future she hopes to create an educational space as well. While Ducey has no regrets, breaking into a male-dominated business hasn’t always been easy.
“Being a woman, there is always someone assuming that I’m not the one running the farm, doing the growing, or making the decisions, but if you know how to produce your product well, be confident, and continue to reach out and learn from others — you’ll keep moving forward.
“Farming is a ton of multi-tasking, which women do every day,” she said.
Although starting the farm has been a constant challenge, especially when it comes to the business and marketing aspects, Ducey said it has also come with a “great reward.”
“’This is what I have been trying to do since starting to work on farms at 16 but didn’t have land or wanted to take the risk to leave behind the benefits of teaching,” she said. “We are finally in a spot … to be able to go for it. I love flowers, they bring people so much joy.
“At my first flower farm job the owner looked at a stem of celosia and said, ‘Doesn’t it make you laugh?’ Yes, they absolutely do!”