KEESEVILLE — If gardening was a genetic trait, Jackie Wheelin is confident she would have it.
“Growing up, my mother and my grandmother were avid gardeners,” she said.
“It’s in my blood.”
Mossbrook Roots Flower Farm evolved from that passion of gardening.
IN THE BEGINNING
Jackie, with her husband Jim Wheelin, began Mossbrook Roots Flower Farm, located at 614 Mace Chasm Rd. in Keeseville, in 2017 with the idea of becoming wholesale flower growers.
After acquiring additional property on Mace Chasm Road in 2016 and reshuffling their current landscaping business next door, Mossbrook Landscaping, they were left with 115 acres of pristine property.
“We asked ourselves, ‘We have all this growable land, what do we want to do?’”
“And I've always wanted to grow flowers,” Jackie said.
At first, the duo focused on growing flowers for local florists before discovering they had talents for other niches.
“I think the original thought was wholesaling to florists and then also doing farmers markets and offering our own CSA and just doing cash-and-carry bouquets,” she said.
“It was something I always liked to do.”
“But then we realized that Jackie was very good at weddings and designing bouquets,” Jim said.
From there on, Mossbrook Roots Flower Farm moved away from wholesale and more toward a full-service florist.
“We quickly found that weddings and florist services have been a big niche for us because a lot of people like local,” Jackie said.
“They love local, and we love local. We love being here for the community.”
This year, the flower farm has done floral services for more than 25 weddings and is booking into the 2020 season.
“Word kinda got around, and it's been great. We've had great positive feedback,” Jackie said.
Being a full service, they also offer arrangements for other events like graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, proms, festivals and much more.
TRIAL AND ERROR
Jackie’s love for gardening has given her the patience to make it through the ups and downs of taking on the task of growing hundreds of flowers.
“Farming is a lot of work,” she said.
“It’s a lot of experimentation and a lot of trial and error from one year to the next.”
The flower farm had been awarded a Natural Resources Conservation Services grant last year for a high tunnel, a type of greenhouse made from steel and a polythene cover that warm plants and soil inside the high tunnel and prolong a growing season.
“This year was the first year growing in it. Some plants did well, and some plants didn’t thrive in there, so we’re experimenting with that a lot,” Jackie said.
The flower farm is also preparing space for a second tunnel, thanks to another grant.
Jackie’s experimenting has also led to other discoveries that she uses to her advantage, especially for brides who are looking for that special flower that may not be in season during her wedding.
“Succession planting is a really important thing,” she said.
“We can offer offer flowers that might have peaked in June but would like them to peak again in August.”
They experimented with succession planting using one of their most popular flowers, sunflowers.
Jackie admitted this year was a little difficult due to the weather.
“It was such a wet spring, everything was just wet.”
“We started (some flowers) very late in the season, but of course everything is starting to bloom past Labor Day,” she said.
“But that's okay, we’ll still use it.”
With her knowledge of gardening and through years of observation and learning through her mom and grandmother, Jackie knows exactly when she wants to pick her flowers.
“Things are picked at different times, for certain textures and colors through the season,” she explained.
Some flowers change color or have a different texture through the growing season.
“Flowers have a lot of different characteristics to them based on when you pick them,” she said.
“We have that luxury of being able to pick things at certain times because they look different at certain times.”
“That’s the perk of having your own flower farm.”
‘STARTED FROM SEED’
Everything grown at Mossbrook Roots Flower Farm has started from seed and they practice organic farming.
“We order our seeds and bulbs on a yearly basis,” she said.
“All of the bulbs this year we started in the new high tunnel.
“We don’t use any insecticide or herbicide practices.”
Jackie thinks this is an important practice for many reasons, but also because they do a lot of edible floral arrangements on cakes.
‘If we put something on a cake, people don't have to worry about whether it has been sprayed by a pesticide.”
Jackie said the fields are flush with flowers, but there does come the case where they do need to outsource for flowers during special events.
“We don’t grow roses, but we make sure to get the brides what they want.”
The flower farm likes to keep to their practices and outsource flowers they don’t have from local places and try to stay in America.
“We look to make sure everything is American grown if we can. We try to support that as much as possible.”
Jackie said they’re fortunate that a lot of their brides allow them to use a lot of design creativity and are always open to suggestions of different flowers or substitutions, based on what’s growing during the season.
“They really trust us.”
Due to continued success over the years, the Wheelins have upgraded many aspects of their floral business, including the purchase of a flower delivery van.
“With everything taking off, we needed to build more space,” Jackie said.
The Wheelins constructed a new addition to a building this past winter, complete with space to build and design bouquets, as well as retail space to showcase and sell items made from local vendors.
“It gives the area a place to sell local items,” she said.
Jackie credits her success to her helpful staff.
“I’m very fortunate because I have a wedding consultant, amazing floral designers, a great field grower and someone who does the books.”
“We’re so fortunate in that respect that we’re able to cover a lot of ground.”
In response to their growth, they have also added other many other services to their business. One of these services includes something for the do-it-yourselfer; a price-per-stem or bucket of flowers option.
“If someone wants to do a sunflower wedding but doesn't want us to design for them, they can come in and buy buckets of flowers or buckets of fillers,” Jackie said.
This has been a popular option for people who like to create their own arrangements or people who want to use this as a way to get together with friends.
“It’s fun for them and their friends,” Jim said.
The flower farm is also looking into developing a u-pick section, where people can come and pick their own flowers, starting with sunflowers.
“Eventually, I'm thinking of doing large rows of single stem sunflowers for people to come and pick,” she said.
Among other services that have gained popularity, Jackie has added small sitting fees to accommodate photographers.
“We have had a lot of photographers this year coming in to do mini-sessions, family photoshoots, maternity shots and birthdays,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity.”
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The corner where Mossbrook Roots Flower Farm currently sits has taken many different looks over the years. Jackie believes this and the added benefit of other farms and a winery in the area adds to the charm of the farm.
“When my parents bought the property, there used to be a huge barn with a flag on the corner, and everyone noticed the flag,” she said.
“When we started the landscaping company here, it was just a parking lot.
“Now people can come down and see 15-foot-tall sunflowers.
“So people have kinda seen it progress over the years.”
Jackie said she is thankful to be located among other businesses that have attributed to making the Keeseville area grow.
“We’re very fortunate to have a piece of that.”
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