Wentworth blossoming with floral arrangements
HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Nov. 14, 2017) — Two acres turned out to be the right size for Priscilla Wentworth to get her first year underway at Anchored Roots Farm, LLC in St. Mary’s County.
She said the first year has been an important learning experience with a few unexpected surprises.
“I thought I was going to be growing more vegetables, but the flowers took off. I didn’t expect to love growing and arranging as much as I have,” Wentworth said.
Despite being a first-year farmer, Wentworth wasn’t inexperienced. She’d worked on other farms over the years, primarily growing Certified Organic vegetables.
During that time, she gained experience with farmers markets and CSAs, both of which she incorporated into her own business model.
Even with those two outlets though, production outpaced sales and she needed another marketing channel.
“I was driving one day and I had a thought to teach a floral workshop,” Wentworth said. “I didn’t even realize it was something other people were doing elsewhere, but it’s been a good business opportunity for us.”
Wentworth has hosted a handful of workshops in her first year and they typically sell out quickly, she said.
The last one she offered sold out in just a few hours.
“I love it and people are responding really well. It’s also allowed me to partner with other businesses,” she said.
Eventually, Wentworth said she’d like to host workshops on the farm.
Anchored Roots Farm has views of the Patuxent River.
Wentworth currently grows on a small parcel of the 22-acre farm but has plans to expand.
This fall, she broke ground on a building that she’ll share with her father’s construction business.
It will house cold storage and a root cellar as well as a workshop for arranging florals and produce.
Wentworth also has plans to install a high tunnel, which is partially funded through the NRCS EQIP program.
“If I could make this farm have everything, I would, but that isn’t the answer. Staying diversified and finding niche pieces of the market is where we’re looking to grow,” she said.
Wentworth said she expects that she’ll always work off the farm too. She said she enjoys working as the Food Programs Coordinator for the Southern Maryland Agriculture Development Corporation and thinks it provides important stability for her own business.
“I hate hearing the phrase hobby farmer because it doesn’t really apply, especially in Maryland where land is expensive,” Wentworth said.
She said there are a lot of farmers like her who balance off-farm jobs with a farm operation in innovative ways.
“It’s important to not always think of yourself as a farmer, but also a business person,” Wentworth said. “You need to look for opportunities that are embedded in the community.”
Wentworth has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Maryland.
She said it’s given her a foundation in business but didn’t fully prepare her for her own farm business.
“Even though I’ve written business plans for other people, it was really hard to write my own,” Wentworth said. “I’d definitely recommend it, but with farming the market changes so quickly and so often it comes down to just responding to what the customers want.”
Right now she said the farm is small and nimble so she’s able to respond to changes quickly.
But as she becomes more established, she said she can see that those changes will become more difficult.
In many ways, Wentworth said the process of starting a farm has been a process of closing the circle. Her family owns a nursery business and that has given her an opportunity to take advantage of certain resources.
“There’s a quote I like that goes, ‘start where you are, use what you have an do what you can,’” she said.
The nursery is always a connection she’s had, but not one that she had seen as an opportunity. Now, as she’s looking toward future growth, she said she sees the potential to benefit two businesses at the same time.
Wentworth has spent a lot of time in the greenhouses this year and has made note of when they’re empty. She said she’s considering ways to utilize that space for her business which in turn will offset the cost of the nursery business.
“Small is good right now…it’s hard to plan ten years out when the market changes so quickly,” Wentworth said. “Our goal for next few years is to continue to grow, to have a lot more in production, and to use mechanization over time.”