Meet Real-Life Flower Farmer, Danielle White of Crofters Fold Estate, Victoria

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Writing The Memories That Make Us involved lots of flower research and over the months I toiled away at this book, I stumbled across countless amazing flower growers, farmer-florists, floral designers, and flower schools that make up our amazing floral industry. Since then, I've been able to form some special connections with members of the bloom-loving community and for something a little different, I've decided to showcase some of them and their inspiring work on my blog.

The first person I'm introducing you to is Danielle White. She and her husband, Ashley, run their very own Rose & Peony Farm in the region where The Memories That Make Us is set. Danielle is also a founding member of a consortium dedicated to the Australian Slow Flower Movement. (Think Slow Food, but flowers!) This collective of artisanal, small-scale flower farmers, are committed to low-tox, sustainable blooms in-line with a "grown not flown" philosophy. Already, with the book freshly gracing shelves in stores, I've received messages from readers telling me that they never knew flower farming was a thing, and had never really given any thought to where our fresh blooms come from. So it's my pleasure to welcome Danielle to the blog and hope you enjoy this Q&A with her!

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1. Tell us about your work with flowers

My husband and I are micro flower farmers; we farm perfumed paddock Roses and Peonies using sustainable bee-friendly farming methods.

Our aim is to grow consistently high-quality cut-flower blooms for weddings, events, gatherings and everyday flower lovers!

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"It's their unseen beauty that makes the flowers special. They have the power to change the circumstances of someone’s life."

2. What inspired you to follow this career path?

We are lucky to live in a region where local and seasonal are celebrated and embraced. Our climate is perfect for Peonies (hooray!) and Roses. We also produce Sparkling Wine, so Roses and vines are a perfect match as Roses help indicate the health of your vines as they can experience similar disease and pest issues.

3. In The Memories That Make Us, Gracie says: "It's their unseen beauty that makes the flowers special. They have the power to change the circumstances of someone’s life." Do you agree with this notion, and what does this statement mean to you?

Absolutely Gracie; you are spot on! We have to be in among our Roses and Peonies every day - it makes us realise that we are only a small part of a big universe; so in this way they are soul food. When you’re down, sorrowful, elated, in love - flowers have a way of connecting to your very self. Being close to Nature, choosing to be responsible for nurturing something that really is a miracle of life, brings a calmness and purpose and helps put things into perspective for us; everything has its season.

"When you’re down, sorrowful, elated, in love - flowers have a way of connecting to your very self."

4. Were there any elements of the book that particularly resonated with you in terms of your work as a flower farmer or advocate for the "Slow Flower" farming movement?

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As well as asking us to ponder the wonderful question, ‘Do you make your memories or do your memories make you? there were several poignant moments in the book that resonated with us (yes, AJW Esq. and I both read and enjoyed it). As flower farmers, we felt drawn to when Gracie first reacquaints herself with Summerhill flower farm, “Summerhill spans five acres, and currently, most of the paddock space is covered with waist-high weeds, overgrown grass and bare trees with carpets of soggy leaves at their feet that need to be cleared.” When we first moved to Crofters Fold it was overrun with gorse, broom, thistles, weeds and suckering introduced species of trees. It took the best part of the first four years to get on top of it all before we could turn our minds and our bodies to realising our dreams of a Rose and Peony paddock. Six years later, and in our second harvest season, and we feel just like Gracie, “I’m overcome with a knowing that this place belongs to me as much as I belong to it.”

As an advocate for and ambassador of Australia’s “Slow Flower” farming movement, The Memories That Make Us introduces readers to the wonderful world of sustainable, local, flower farming (and the hard work that it takes to help Mother Nature create the best version she can of her inherent natural beauty) and the benefits to the farmer, the community, the giver, the receiver of supporting those who make a mindful living growing beautiful, seasonal, grown not flown and safe to sniff flowers.

5. How have flowers impacted your life and the lives of those around you?

Since having our Rose and Peony farm, and even during all the hard work leading up to creating it, AJW Esq. and I have found ourselves more at peace and in tune with the seasons and our surrounds. We are mindful and respectful that we are not the ‘Master’ here; Mother Nature is and always will be. We have met some truly wonderful folks who share our passion for flowers (including Vanessa) and we really couldn’t do it without wonderful local florists, designers, brides and flower lovers who care about how their flowers are grown and the people who grow them.

If you are on Instagram, you definitely want to follow Crofters Fold. Their feed is GORGEOUS!

Other places to visit: http://www.croftersfold.com.au & www.consortiumbotanicus.com

The Memories That Make Us is now available from all good book retailers or you can purchase a copy online here.

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Dr Danielle White and her husband Ashley produce a small-batch artisanal Sparkling Blanc de Noirs and farm 500 Roses and 240 Peonies at Crofters Fold Estate, nestled amongst the granite hills of Pipers Creek on the outskirts of Kyneton

Danielle is also a Founding Member of Consortium Botanicus – a collaborative initiative to help raise awareness of Australia’s blossoming ‘slow flower’ floriculture.


Prior to farming Roses and Peonies for the cut-flower market, Danielle spent fifteen years at the University of Melbourne, which culminated in the successful attainment of PhD, MA (Women’s Studies), Graduate Diploma (Women’s Health), Graduate Diploma (Health Education and Promotion) and a BA (Honours). Following her academic career, Danielle spent a decade working as a freelance writer for The Age and glossy magazines, most recently she was commissioned to write a local history book, published 2014.
From 2012 – 2016, Danielle was also co-owner of her family’s organic paddock-to-plate beef business which earned Danielle a nomination in the 2014 ‘100 Women in Australian Agribusiness’ (WIAA) awards and a family partnership nomination as a National Finalist in the 2013 Australian Farmer of the Year Awards hosted by ABC Rural.


In 2017, Danielle was awarded an Agribusiness Fellowship by Melbourne’s International Specialised Skills Institute, which will see her travel overseas in 2019 to research, observe and collaborate with best-practice flower farmers. Danielle aims to use her Fellowship to help raise awareness of and celebrate the sustainable, holistic, bee-friendly ‘floral fabric’ of the Daylesford Macedon region and, ultimately, Australia.

Book Club Visits for THE MEMORIES THAT MAKE US!

Have I ever told you that I LOVE book clubs? The Australian/New Zealand release of The Memories That Make Us (in-stores 19th February 2018) isn’t far away and if you haven’t added it to your book club list, now is a great time to do that because I have openings for book club visits from March through to May! I can attend via Skype or in-person for those of you in Melbourne. I’ll even bring flowers and wine! Get in touch via my contact page for more info or to set a date! 

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THE INSPIRATION BEHIND The Florentine Bridge: A Peek at My Pinterest Board.

For those of you who have already started reading or are about to start, you're in for a treat!

Today I'm sharing the Pinterest board I used for inspiration while writing The Florentine Bridge. I find Pinterest to be a really helpful tool when writing. I've added in some short descriptions for the photos which relate to some of the scenes and locations in the book.

Many of the locations featured in the book are real, many of which I have personal connections to, such as the Fattoria di Maiano which is a place I lived and worked while living in Florence. In the book, Mia and Luca visit a restaurant there, as well as a secret lake. and the stores Mia passes on her journey in the city centre, are actual shops that throng Via dei Calzauoli, one of Florence's most elegant streets. In coming weeks, I'll be sharing some blog posts with a bit more information on the locations featured in the book.

Just a warning: I will not be held responsible for anyone wanting to jump on a plane and travel to Tuscany! Check out the pictures at your own risk! ;)

View the board here!

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I Never Set Out To Write A Love Story

I often talk about how writing a book requires a certain degree of trust and today I'm going to share with you how trusting myself to write the book I never really thought I'd write led me to where I am today.

It was the summer of 2014 and even though I'd been dreaming of one day writing a book I hadn't really done all that much about it. While I'd enjoyed writing the occasional freelance article, and had dabbled in writing for children in those years where all I seemed to be reading were picture books to my little ones, I kept putting off writing a novel until I just couldn't ignore the strong desire to write any longer.

 

For two years, I couldn't shake the feeling that I knew I was going to write a book, or that I wanted to write a book. The only problem was, I had no idea what it was I actually wanted to write. It was as if I was waiting for inspiration to drop out of the clouds along with a fully formed idea for a story. After having interviewed lots of authors for the podcast, I know now that things rarely happen this way. Sometimes, they do, but for me, all I had going for me was an intense pull to write something. 

So one Saturday afternoon, I sat down and decided to start writing. That was it. I would write something, for the pure pleasure, for no other reason than to appease that desire to write. Years earlier, in my early twenties, I'd lived in Florence - this is where I met my husband, got my first full time job, learnt to ride a scooter, and had an all round fabulous time living la dolce vita. Because I'd always loved writing, during my time overseas I'd kept notes about what it was like to live life in a foreign country. The culture, customs, anecdotes about life. I'd written about 10,000 words and done nothing with them, but I had sent them to my mum for safe keeping.

That afternoon when I sat down to write, I called my mum and asked her if she'd kept the file (around 15 years had passed) and in true organised fashion, she sent it to me within the hour. Flicking through those pages, I was transported back to Italy, as I remembered lots of things that had left the forefront of my mind and become distant memories. As I relived what it was like to walk those cobblestone streets, or enter that bar for the first time conscious of my accent as I ordered a coffee, I realised I had the setting for my book. And that's when I created a fictional character by the name of Mia who was an an aspiring artist who had lost her motivation to paint after having spent time being treated for cancer. Only, while she'd been given a new lease on life with the news of remission, Mia was yet to fully come out the other side free of problems.

Like so many unexplainable things when it comes to the creative process, I don't quite know why I chose to look at what it might be like to deal with the aftermath of having gone through a traumatic event in one's life, but that's what I did. 

I never set out to write a love story, though. That happened by complete accident. To my surprise, the ever so charming Luca appeared shortly after I finished writing the first chapter and made it very clear that he was meant to be there and wanted to stay. 

I wrote the first draft of The Florentine Bridge over a period of six weeks. Weeks where I was totally consumed by the story and the characters. I didn't plan, I didn't plot, I just followed the pull and let the characters lead the way. I didn't question or censor or overanalyse. I just went with it, and here we are.

The Florentine Bridge was the first adult novel I ever wrote and will be published January 1st 2017 - almost three years to the day since I sat down to start writing it. And it didn't really start from an idea at all.

It started with the desire to write something, coupled with a tiny degree of trust.

Writing a Book: A Matter of Trust

I was reminded recently of just how much trust is involved in writing a book. I'm now revising my second novel. Looking back on the completed draft, where thousands of words are all strung together to form a story, it's easy to forget how all of that started with just an idea.

When I start with an idea, I don't fully know the entire trajectory of the story. I know the question I'm wanting answered, I know the conflict, and I have a sense of the setting, but I'm yet to get to know the supporting characters of the story, and I don't have a clear handle on the main characters either. I cement some knowledge about them before starting to write, but then I try to let their personalities come alive on the page. I like them to surprise me. In knowing some parts of the story, but not knowing others, a great deal of trust is involved in letting the characters and the events in the story unfold for 80,000 or so words. When I'm writing the beginning, it's sometimes hard not to fret about the middle. When I reach the middle, it's hard for me to trust that everything will come together for the ending.

What I've realised, is that in order to reach The End, that point where you can look back on your story and tie up loose ends, strengthen character actions and motivations, bring out the setting and emotion a little more, while getting a grasp on the themes of the book (some of which you might have never intended to have there in the first place), an enormous amount of trust is involved.

 IMAGE CREDIT: KABOOM PICS

IMAGE CREDIT: KABOOM PICS

HERE ARE MY TOP FIVE TIPS.

HOW TO TRUST YOURSELF TO WRITE A BOOK.

// Follow the idea, no matter how silly it might seem. Nudge the box open, peek into the dark corners, fumble around and sooner or later you might find something special in there.

// Everything is revisable. This is something that the perfectionist in me has had to work very hard to embrace. It's comforting knowing that you can always make things better in a subsequent draft. You can see things much more clearly once you have a full draft in hand. As tempting as it is to pause midway, just keep going. You'll be able to fix things later.

// Trust that you will reach the end. Even when THE END feels far away and so far out of reach you begin to question whether you'll ever get there, know that you will get there in your own time and at the right time if you keep showing up. Showing up is key. 

// Trust your characters. Often when I'm writing, I don't have all the answers. I don't know why characters appear in my story or what role they have when they show up. Which can be especially frustrating because anyone that shows up needs to count, be heard, or earn their place in the story. Trust that you will find a way to tie up the loose knots and plot holes at some point, even if during revision or a rewrite. Often, I'm surprised at how things seem to slot in at the end, as if I've been building the foundations for things to go a certain way without intending them to. 

// Trust your voice. Avoid comparisons, and let the words come out without censoring. To find your voice, you need to be able to give yourself the space to write the way you write. The more you practice, the more you'll feel comfortable with it.

I'd love to know about your experiences. Leave a comment below or join the discussion on Facebook!