Caswell Flower Co. continues to grow, new services offered | News


Celia Spillman knows how to follow the yellow brick road. It may be called Allison Road on Yanceyville maps, but it’s on the right track. The 30-year-old entrepreneur is the owner and marketing director of Caswell Flower Co. on the west end of town. CFC is in the cut flower business and Spillman has devised many ways to sell its locally grown beauty to area customers and businesses.

“Before I moved here, I was toying with the idea of ​​floriculture. My parents had bought the Foster Road property before I even moved from Asheville. When I got home, I “looked around, did some research, and decided I wanted to try my hand at farming, and flowers seemed like the right way to go. And it seemed kind of really magical,” Spillman explained last week.

“I was born in Colorado and my family moved to North Carolina when I was three. My brothers and I grew up in Greensboro; I’ve spent most of my life in North Carolina. We feel to be from North Carolina and there’s not a lot of connection to Colorado,” adds Spillman.

Her father, Scott, is from New Orleans and her mother, Celia, was born and raised in Mississippi.

“I went to college at UNCG for my undergraduate degree and went to graduate school in Asheville at Lenoir-Rhyne University. Their graduate center is right downtown. It was a very small school with small classrooms, which was perfect for my learning techniques. They let us decide what to focus on and encouraged an “independent journey” for each of us. My graduate degree is in “The Science of Sustainability Studies”. It can go a long way, and they really encouraged us to find something that we are really passionate about.

At Lenoir-Rhyne, Spillman focused on environmental sustainability and narrowed it down to agriculture. His great interest in agriculture and his understanding of how to create a better way to farm took shape in the classrooms. She had never really “cultivated” anything at that time.

“One of my other graduate candidates worked at a flower farm in Asheville, so we would sit down and talk about growing flowers, which was so cool. It really made me want to take the plunge and go for it. I didn’t want to do vegetables and I don’t really know why. It didn’t speak to me like flowers. Flowers seemed more magical or inspiring. They have a different way of “getting you in,” Spillman laughs.

“I started 2019 very small and learned to make all my mistakes, very early. Of course, I still make a lot of mistakes now, but I catch them a little faster. We started with just one walk-behind tiller to prepare the ground and add as much material as I could afford Since we have a lot of other acreage I don’t farm on, there’s a lot of other equipment I can come across, like tractors and bushhogs. My parents are very generous when trying to find ways to help me and most of the farm. If they needed to buy a new piece of equipment, they would ask me how it would benefit me, I think it’s magic for them and they also want to see the farm succeed.

The potential of the Caswell Flower Co. was no more apparent than when this reporter attended a Saturday morning “bouquet workshop” at the Spillman Farm in 2019. Fifteen local residents received small steel buckets of water and strolled around a giant table selecting fresh cut produce. flowers and a variety of “filler” flowers of their choice. Spillman interacted with each “florist” and made suggestions if requested while encouraging creativity. It was a big hit and people were eager to go home and show off their creative skills.

“For a long time we composted our own manure (they have horses on their farm). It’s harder than it looks. You can just throw a pile of manure into a pile, but there are a lot of leeches happening and you have to wait a long time to use it. We didn’t really have a good place to put it near the barn and you don’t want to have a compost pile half a mile away if you’re using a wheelbarrow! So we bought a manure spreader and used it on the rest of the property. We will fertilize pastures and hay fields, but actually with horse manure it brings a lot of weed seeds. I stopped using this for flowers and really focused on soil structure. I use a lot of bagged leaves that I get from people and put them in the fields and let them compost on their own,” Spillman comments.

On the Fresh Flower Subscription: One of Spillman’s marketing ideas was to offer fresh-cut bouquets to customers who wanted beautiful arrangements on a six-week weekly basis. For a prepaid fee, her flower business would have these beauties cut and ready for convenient pickup at their Allison Road address.

“It’s my favorite thing we do. It’s my way of feeling like I’m growing something really special for a specific purpose. This is a limited number of orders, so we don’t have it ‘open-ended’, just to keep it small and manageable.

She explains: “There are three different parts this year, so we call it the Caswell Flower part and it’s our way of sharing the beauty and the best of each season. We do one in the spring, one in the summer and one in the fall. It costs $120 and for six consecutive weeks you get a fresh $20 bouquet of whatever grows best on the farm. In spring you will get peonies, daffodils, ranunculus, poppies and tulips. In the summer you will have cosmos, our specialty zinnias, and I am particular for zinnias. If I want to cultivate them, they will have to be special. We try a few very specific ones that you don’t normally see in people’s backyards. In the fall, you’ll move on to dahlias (added 33 new varieties this year) and young ornamental eucalyptus (“silvery, soft, hazy look of little leaves”) which we keep trimmed and bushy. I also added tons of perennials this year that I wanted to grow before and finally managed to do so this year.

Spillman sources seeds and bulbs from many suppliers. Wholesalers like Johnny’s Seeds (Albion, Maine) require a business ID for purchases and a purchase of 10,000 marigold seeds is not uncommon. Seed volume differs with each flower crop and this has been carefully predetermined to avoid wastage. Spillman starts most seeds in the greenhouse while other seeds go directly into the ground. With some strains, it does both.

“Right now I’ve started a few warmer crops like trays of zinnias, and they’ll stay in a warm environment until the weather is good enough to put them out. After that, we will probably “direct seed” our zinnias. It is a warm, tender annual, so it does not do well in cold weather. We generally wait until after April 15, our average last frost date. Just to be sure, we try to wait. The ones we have planted should be ready for Mother’s Day, May 8th. We aim to sell a ton of flowers. I would love to have a nice big “run” on Mother’s Day flowers this year!” exclaims Spillman.

The young entrepreneur feels that her business is now in a very good position, so she decided to expand. She’s not quite ready to reveal all the details and wants to make the big announcement soon. There will be some changes in the way she grows flowers, which is moving more towards a wholesale platform. This will help her prepare the flowers and take less time to sell them.

This change will allow her to harvest and group flowers in the field. Then they can go into a bucket, rest overnight, and be ready to go “home.” There will now be minimal handling of the product which costs time and money. She thinks this “streamlining” will help her sell her flowers and get them out.

“When I see what happens to my flowers in the hands of designers, it’s just fantastic. We sell on a few wholesale platforms and we sell directly to florists. We are only expanding our wholesale market, but we continue to do our “Flower Share”. We signed up for the Caswell Farmer’s Market and will do as much as we can. I love selling directly to people, but I don’t want that to be my primary source of income,” Spillman says.

“I want people to come learn and be inspired by us, and continue to have that interaction with people, which is always exciting. We’re trying to work on a farm stand because I’m not delivering to people this year. I bring our CSA customers directly to us.

Caswell Flower Co. expects a huge harvest of daffodils, tulips, peonies, ranunculus and poppies to be in late March or early April just in time for Easter bouquets on April 17. There are order and sign-up sheets on their Facebook page.

“It is so exciting to know you that you have played a part in the growth of a beautiful plant and its flowers. In a way, it is like having children, expanding your family and raising children. It’s such a privilege to be able to see something grow from a tiny seed into this huge magical flower.

Celia Spillman lives with her husband, Matthew Hoagland, and their (almost) 2-year-old daughter, Waylen, on their farm in Allison Road.

For more information:

Caswell Flower Co.

1315 Foster Road, Yanceyville, North Carolina


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