Amanda Maurmann is a flower farming mother of two living in Ann Arbor, Michigan who brings whimsical inspiration to her company Gnome Grown Flowers and a sense of community to her grower-owned coalition, the Michigan Flower Growers Cooperative.
Amanda first became interested in gardening through the Slow Food movement, earning a graduate degree in environmental and agricultural education from Antioch University in Keene, New Hampshire. While studying, she interned for a Community Supported Agriculture farm and “fell in love with small scale crop production.” While working in vegetable farming and teaching adults and children the value of local food through workshops and classes, she also worked on Vera Flora Farm with farmer-florist Sarah Barkhouse, who sparked Amanda’s passion for floriculture.
When she became pregnant with her first child and moved her family to Ann Arbor, the pieces came together. Managing Zingerman’s Cornman Farms in Dexter, Michigan, introduced Amanda to more women in floristry, and with the birth of her second child, she left Zingerman's and started growing flowers and vegetables of her own.
Today, Amanda runs her wedding and subscription-based floral business and has developed a working collaborative where growers can come together and sell their flowers together, building community and supporting the Slow Flowers movement. I caught up with this engaging woman to discuss her experience and what Summit attendees can expect from her addition to the Farm-to-Florist: Seeding and Growing a Regional Flower Hub panel.
Q. Why did you first get involved in horticulture?
A. “I’ve always been a foodie and a local food advocate, and while I was in graduate school studying environmental education, I began tailoring my studies to agricultural education. I interned at a CSA farm and fell in love with small scale crop production. After graduating, I focused on teaching people and kiddos the value of local food, and then I met my dear friend Sarah Barkhouse who introduced me to floriculture. At first, I was reluctant to give up vegetables. I thought ‘if you can’t eat it what’s the point?’ But then, I was hooked. I grow both vegetables and flowers now. I marry the two.”
Q. How has your career in horticulture developed?
A. “It’s been a winding, twisting, long road to get here to my own business, about 11 years in the making. I went in and out of farming, managing other people’s farms and community garden plots. When I moved with my family from New Hampshire to Michigan in 2013, I started putting the pieces together. I managed Zingerman’s Cornman Farms, and while I was there I was introduced to a lot of amazing women in floristry. Around 2016, I was at a point where I could either job hunt or jump off a cliff and start my own business, so I did the latter out of my home, and now I have Gnome Grown Flowers.”
Q. What about your work with the Michigan Flower Growers Cooperative?
A. “The ball for the Cooperative started rolling at the same time as I was starting my own business. I reached out to local growers who I knew and three of us dedicated the winter of 2016 to starting the Cooperative. I cold-called a bunch of growers because I was new to Ann Arbor, introduced myself, threw out ideas, and there was such a resounding ‘yes’ that the three of us, myself, Alex Cacciari of Seeley Farm, and Trilby Becker of Sunseed Farm, really put the wheels in motion. Michigan Flower Growers Co-op is grower-owned and board operated. ”
Q. Why are cooperatives like yours so important for flower-growers?
A. "Because I am a grower, I believe in using seasonal product. There is no driving to the wholesaler between April and October because there is so much beautiful product here. The Co-op has made it so easy to get amazing product. I believe strongly in the grower-owned cooperative. Growers are calling the shots. I hope markets pop up everywhere.”
Q. Where do you draw inspiration from when you design?
A. “My endless source of creativity comes from the imaginations of my six- and one-year-old daughters. They keep me seeing the little things and the exciting things. I am still working on my ‘aesthetic’. Creativity isn’t a static thing. I really do work with what I have and with what’s available. When I am asked to design an event, I try not to force things. I go out to the garden, take photos of my garden during that time, and I am inspired by the moment and the desires of my clients.”
Q. What advice would you give to those interested in developing their own careers in farming and arranging?
A. “Go slow and take your time, even though that’s hard to do when you’re acting on a passion. It took me 11 years to get to the point where I was launching myself. So, be patient with yourself. Seek out the wisdom of your community and start talking about it. Find local farmers who can teach you to learn from their mistakes. Also, start with that 5x25 foot bed and just do what you can: fail, fail, fail, learn, learn, learn.”
About Mackenzie Nichols:
Slow Flowers contributor Mackenzie Nichols is a freelance writer and experienced floral designer. She writes regularly for the Society of American Florists’ Floral Management magazine, and her work also appears in The Boston Globe, The American Gardener, Canadian Florist, and Tastemakers music magazine. She interned with MSNBC, Donna Morgan, and The American Horticultural Society and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a minor in Music Industry from Northeastern University. Mackenzie worked as a floral designer for Fern Flowers in Boston’s Back Bay Area, and Tiger Lily Florist, the top flower shop in Charleston, South Carolina. She lives in Manhattan’s East Village.