Blog:Horticulturist

Flowers from the Farm: Gill Hodgson

Carly Bevan Photography, 2018

Carly Bevan Photography, 2018

Gill Hodgson may already be known by all of the floral enthusiasts within Britain and beyond.
With founding the only charity and network called "Flowers From the Farm" of florists who farm, farmers who arrange and creative that express through british blooms she has raised awareness of regional british cut-flowers.
A milestone in the history of importing and exporting cut-flowers through Holland to turn towards natures own beauties and homegrown jewels.

Carly Bevan Photography, 2018

Carly Bevan Photography, 2018

Besides growing a now publicly acknowledged organisation she has been growing her own family run cut-flower farm named  "Field House Flowers" where she provides seasonal and long lasting flowers.

I had the pleasure to ask her a few questions about her career, her background and her future intentions:

Gill Hodgson, 2018

Gill Hodgson, 2018

Have you always had a connection to Horticulture?

I was born into a Yorkshire farming family and school holidays were always spent working in the fields. In those days with little specialist machinery, most of the work – picking potatoes, leading bales, hoeing sugar beet – was done by hand.  Such an upbringing makes for a natural understanding of the seasons, of growing, of hard work, of the weather and of the difficulties every year brings.
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Was farming for flowers always part of your lifestyle?

My mum loved flowers and – although she was disabled by polio – managed to keep an enviable garden. I was 20 when I inherited her garden and had to learn quickly!  I only began selling flowers in 2010 when an excess of garden flowers led me to put out a few bunches for sale at £1 each at the farmgate.
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How did "Flowers from the Farm" evolve from its initial driver to found an association for flower farmers to where it is now?

I thought, when I sent that very first press release to the NFU in 2011, that I was making farmers aware of a diversification opportunity and giving them a forum to talk and meet together about it – hence the name.  I thought it might attract a couple of dozen people.
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Where do you see "Flowers From The Farm"(FFTF) in the future?

I believe that membership numbers, which have grown steadily for seven years, will eventually plateau as the market finds its natural size. 
There’s a very strong, talented team now running FFTF and they’ll continue to steer it in the right direction. FFTF’s raisond’être has always been to encourage and support growers and to promote British flowers thereby improving the market for its members.
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Your own successful business "Fieldhouse Flowers" is selling fresh cut flowers from early March to the end of October with a large diversity of british blooms.
How large is your growing area and do you have any helpers? 

I grow on one acre but have never needed to save space.  I could probably fit all I grow in to half the size.  I work alone but John, my husband of 39 years, cuts the grass.
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What advice would you give a young flower grower besides joining the resourceful network of growers and creatives?

For a start, I like your choice of adjective ‘young’: until a couple of years ago most of our members were drawn from an older group looking for a second career whereas now many younger ones are recognising flower farming as having the potential to create an income and grow a business while also raising a family.  To answer your question – people need to consider their possible marketplace before putting a seed into the ground: to do some research. Over the years I’ve had hundreds of emails saying, ‘OK I’ve got a field of lovely flowers all ready for picking, what do I do with them now?’.
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This year has been the first time that "Flowers From the Farm" have displayed at the Chelsea Flower Show winning a gold-medal for the show stand.
Has it always been a goal of yours to educate people about British Flowers in such a visual and impactful way?

That initial press release I mentioned was seen by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society [YAS]  who got in touch and offered me a stand at the upcoming Great Yorkshire Show.  I went there on my own and set up the first ever FFTF display in July 2011 and, this week, completed our 8th year there.
I did the first four years alone and have been part of team since then.  Until YAS made their offer I hadn’t thought of shows but quickly recognised them as a great shop window. 
FFTF had already appeared every other RHS show and almost every other county and agricultural show in the country and, in 2018, Chelsea was the pinnacle.
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Do you think flower farming has merely become a temporary trend that will decrease in the near future?

Heavens no. Fashions will come and go, styles will alter but British flowers can be perfect for any direction that trends take us and that needs people to grow them.
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How do you think will the Brexit affect the flower industry and the way we see flowers as a luxury product within Great Britain?

Initially after the vote, florists saw a huge increase in the cost of imports although this has settled somewhat.  More Dutch growers are pulling out of flowers and I think the future looks bright for the home market. 
This doesn’t happen by itself though: flower growing is one of the very few industries that has no official trade body. I tried to get the industry to work together back in 2014 but realised I could take a horse to water but not make it drink.  FFTF has become the unofficial trade body.
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What is the biggest misconception of growing flowers and running a successful business?

That, if you buy a trug, some floral secateurs, some seeds and a patterned pinafore, everything else will just happen.
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What are your future plans for your business?

My own plans? I’m 63 and FFTF has been a full-time unpaid job for seven years. I’ve now stepped aside and no longer have anything to do with decision making but will always take an active part and love being part of a team at a show.
I’m going to enjoy my grandchildren, keep growing flowers and running Fieldhouse Flowers and have a few extra holidays.
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What advice would you give a young Horticulturist?

If you intend, one day, to be an old horticulturalist then look after your knees.
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Carly Bevan Photography , 2018

Carly Bevan Photography , 2018

Just maybe if you watch out for "Flowers From the Farm" at your local RHS Show you might catch a glimpse of the magic of British blooms and a the great network that has been established by Gill.
And even though some dreams take a while to bloom it is always worth planting a seed to grow.


If you want to find out more about "Flowers From the Farm" then have a look at their website:
https://www.flowersfromthefarm.co.uk

Or follow the brilliant network on Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/flowersfromthefarm/

And have a look at Gill´s beautiful blooms:
https://fieldhouseflowers.co.uk

 

Carly Bevan, 2018

Carly Bevan, 2018

Find out more about the Photographer capturing Gill´s florals in the perfect light:

Carly Bevan:
http://carlybevan.co.uk
https://www.instagram.com/carlybevan/