FLOWER FARMER DOM PIC

Becky Bridges walks through her flower garden she maintains in the backyard of her Utica home on U.S. 431. Bridges has found success as a fresh-cut flower farmer and her business she calls The Pink Poppy.

Becky Bridges used to grow flowers for her own pleasure.

But over the past year, Bridges discovered that the fresh flowers blooming in the backyard of her Utica home have a broader appeal.

That prompted her to explore the fresh-cut flower business and create The Pink Poppy, which specializes in “cut flowers for bouquets, weddings, special and not so special occasions.”

“I came across an article about small flower farms for cut flowers and it piqued my interest,” Bridges said. “I thought, ‘Hey, I can do that; I’m already growing stuff — just expand it.’ I did have to learn more about how cut flowers are different from landscape flowers.”

And since she began last fall, Bridges has gone from four flower beds to seven, and has become a regular vendor at the Owensboro Regional Farmers’ Market.

In her 4,000-square-foot flower garden, the warm season flowers such as zinnias, sunflowers and phlox are currently decorating her beds.

Bridges said balancing the flower business along with her full-time job as a diagnostic medical sonographer has been an adjustment for her.

“I’m still learning what I can handle; what’s manageable; what things to plant more of and what to plant less of — a real learning curve this year for sure,” she said. “…If it wasn’t something I really loved, it would be difficult. But it’s sort of my therapy getting out there and digging around in the dirt.”

Bridges’ fresh-cut flower farm is an ag business that’s trending in the state.

According to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, there are more than 90 cut flower operations within the commonwealth, an industry that has increased by more than 30% in the last five years.

“Cut flowers are a rapidly expanding industry segment in Kentucky horticulture and can be quite profitable for growers,” said Cindy Finneseth, Kentucky Horticulture Council executive director. “Most of our growers sell directly to consumers, with an increasing number of farms selling through retail sites and wholesale markets.”

Bridges looks for perennials that will meet fresh-cut flower standards but most are annuals that have to be replanted each year.

“There are just not as many perennials that make great fresh-cut flowers,” Bridges said.

Along with growing the flowers, there is also the floral arrangement that requires an artful touch.

Bridges said she was nervous at first about “putting herself out there” with her flowers.

“I guess I had a little bit of a knack for it,” said Bridges about the floral arrangement side. “And I’d look at pictures and try to imitate those.”

To complement the flowers, Bridges also grows the fillers such as the shrimp plant that she adds to a floral arrangement.

Bridges said kale, ornamental cabbages and herbs such as mint and oregano, which would seem unlikely as filler pairings in floral arrangements, are trending as a “different type of texture.”

“It’s amazing; you could put 20 blooms together and it just looks like a mass of flowers,” Bridges said. “But if you stick some filler in there and spread them out, the filler disappears and enhances the flowers.”

For now, Bridges said she’s relishing the unexpected success as a fresh-cut flower farmer.

“I didn’t go into this with any huge expectations of what it could become,” Bridges said. “But the response has been overwhelming. So I really am in a constant state of how can I grow this.”

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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