GTPulse: From Businesswoman to Flower Farmer, A Journey in Bloom

I secretly love the end of summer. Fall always feels like a new beginning, more so than New Year’s to me, and I think that’s because it’s always when school started. I guess as a kid at some point I felt that I had gotten enough out of summer and now I could return to school to be the best student. I was almost never a stellar student throughout public school, but having that beacon of hope cycle through again every year was nice. In college, I felt the same. The air gets thinner and easier to breathe, home feels cozier, and the evening being brought out earlier through a tired sun gives me more dark hours where I can feel hidden. The season feels like a new sheet of paper. Clean, crisp, cold, sharp lines. It makes me think of the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote, “We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

Starting all over again sounds terrifying, and it surely is, but it’s something that Alissa Thomson has done with success. She left the rat race of corporate culture for a simpler life filled with sunshine, outdoor air, and a whole lot of flowers.

Indie Grow Flower Farm is Alissa’s flower and apothecary business currently located in Lake Ann, but to know how Alissa came to be a flower queen, it’s necessary to go back to Washington D.C. 

Alissa was working at an architecture and engineering firm.

“I’m a project manager at heart. I just want things to run efficiently,” she said.

But after 10 years, and no change in her role at the firm, things got boring. She wanted to make a garden out of her backyard to soothe stressed nerves, to surround herself with beauty, and as an outlet for creativity.

“That’s really when I became passionate about gardening. We had a six by twelve balcony and you couldn’t see off of it because I just had vines and stuff growing everywhere and that became my obsession. Then we finally got a townhome and I had my first yard. I was going to plant all of these flowers, and then the trees filled in. I didn’t realize the whole backyard was going to be shade. They ended up removing a tree from our front yard so I asked my landlord if I could turn that area into a garden and he was all about it.”

The little punchbowl of color in the concrete neighborhood stuck out. As more young couples and families moved into the neighborhood, Alissa noticed more tiny patches of lawn being turned into sidewalk gardens. 

“I wanted a lot of creativity so I just threw a bunch of stuff in. We Lived at a dead end with stairs at the end of our street that went up to the metro soo tons of people walked by every day. People would just stop. I would have never done that, but it just looked so neat. They weren’t used to looking at a garden that looked the way mine did.”

Everything becoming beautiful just as she was about to leave. She and her husband hadn’t planned on staying in D.C. for 10 years, but after the recession, they needed the security of their jobs. It wasn’t until her husband’s grandmother passed away that they had enough money to move back home to Michigan.

“It was enough to at least have a start. And get out of the city and figure out what we’re going to do.”

They moved to a house in Lake Ann that they had only seen photos of, and Alissa knew she didn’t want to return to office life, and what better way to learn than to hunt for a job where she could spend time with plants and flowers.

She called local flower farmers and landed jobs with the Garvey family, Field Of Flowers, Darling Botanical and learned a variety of techniques for flower arrangements, and gardening skills to grown flowers of her own.

“At the Garvey Barn, they already had a gardener, but they had a big fenced in vegetable garden right in front a lavender field. So he asked me to make it look good, that was my project for the summer, and it was so fun. I’d get up in the morning, get on the gator and drive around this field…I was smiling more than I had ever smiled before. Like, this is my job! But Field Of Flowers, we planted everything. That’s where I learned how to make a boutonniere, bridesmaids bouquets. The next thing I knew I was working weddings every weekend.”

Alissa is kind of like the Karate Kid. Indie Grow started simply because it was time for her to start her own garden and her own business. After being gifted a bunch of tubers to start dahlias of her own by Christina Pfeufer, owner of Field Of Flowers, it was the perfect opportunity to begin her own garden.

“I started selling to local florists and that’s really how this all started. I definitely knew I wanted to grow my own flowers.”

She had been waiting to grow her own for a while, but she had been learning to create beautiful arrangements in the meantime. As her work with weddings went on, she developed an Instagram following. Through social media and word of mouth, she’s turned a little D.C. garden surrounded by concrete into a thriving business.

Her big plans include turning Indie Grow Flower Farm into a garden event venue in somewhere in Leelanau. 

“Fingers crossed, it’s going to happen soon.”

Although it was a quieter season for floral designers this summer, Alissa still was able to create for elopements and smaller weddings. As the season winds down, she’ll spend a quiet few months paging through seed catalogs, browsing through floral blogs, and getting plans ready with brides-to-be for hopefully a better summer next year.

“I’ll start in February in my basement, sweet peas, and some of the hardier annuals. As soon as I can move those out, I’ll start everything else. After Memorial Day weekend everything goes into the ground and all of the craziness starts all over again.”

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Categories: GTPulse