For Vermont farmers who face a shorter growing season than their southern farmer counterparts, summer is their one shot at success. At Mountain Flower Farm in Warren, farmer Walt Krukowski is already preparing for the growing season and the long days of flower picking that lie ahead. “Planning for the future is a big part of farming, especially in Vermont when you have a short strong growing season to get it all right,” said Krukowski. “It’s like orchestrating this grand play.”
As the growing season begins with budding tulips, lilacs and peonies, so begins the long days of outdoor labor. At Mountain Flower Farm, Krukowski and his team, which includes his wife and daughter, pick flowers by sunrise, transition to flower bunching by the afternoon, and ship flowers away by evening. “Daily life on the flower farm is a string of sunrise to sunset workdays without a break, without a single day off,” said Krukowski.
But Krukowski finds joy in those long days. “There’s a lot of quiet early mornings at the farm. Those mornings are filled with complete beauty. The scenery, being up in East Warren, looking out at the view toward the mountains in the morning light, it’s amazing.”
This season, however, gazing at the sunrise over the farm will be bittersweet, as Krukowski expects the farm to take an economic hit due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mountain Flower Farm ships 90 percent of its flowers to events nationwide. “But as you know, events are canceled,” said Krukowski.
With events canceled due to coronavirus, the farm is focusing on local sales, selling flowers at their roadside farmstand on Roxbury Mountain Road, contributing to CSA programs and asking Mad River Valley residents to subscribe to their weekly bouquet program. But even an uptick in local sales won’t cover the revenue the farm usually generates from events.
The farm’s primary customers are high-end floral designers for weddings. While there is no typical price for one order, Krukowski said that people spend anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000 on their wedding flowers. “Maybe not $100,000 in the Mad River Valley, but, you know, there’s plenty of mega yachts in the world. That’s an extreme example, but the underlying principle is that people spend a legitimate amount of money on their wedding flowers,” said Krukowski.
Ultimately, no weddings means the loss of most of the farm’s revenue. “We expect to have a really hard year. I’m anticipating we’ll be 80 percent down in sales this year compared to last,” said Krukowski.
Still, Krukowski is hopeful that things will brighten up by the end of the season. “I know that April and May are canceled, but I’m hopeful that before the season’s over things will return to a new normal.” Krukowski’s clients seem to share his optimism. Many who have canceled spring weddings and events have already rescheduled for August and September.
For now, Krukowski and his family are running the farm in complete isolation, heeding obediently to the practice of social distancing. “Our way of dealing with coronavirus has been firm social distancing. We don’t see anyone. We just try to tackle the day with purpose and focus more than ever on being in the moment,” Krukowski.
During this crisis, Krukowski is grateful to possess the planning-oriented farmer’s mindset. “I think that more than ever now that planning process is really helpful. It takes the focus away from the next three weeks or the next three months and puts it into the frame of the next six months,” said Krukowski. “There’s a lot of hope in that.”