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!
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!
"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?
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!
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.