Lady Farmer Spotlight
Knowing that everything I do in the garden is all connected, all leading to witnessing that bloom, is what keeps me going.
Caitlin Robinson is co-owner of Moonflower Farm and co-founder of Sungold Flower Co. They are (also!) located in Montgomery County's beautiful Ag Reserve, about an hour outside DC. She and her husband grow flowers, veggies, and raise chickens on their 2 acre property, with their 4 children (ages 2, 3, 5, and 7).
Last year, in collaboration with Anna Glenn, she formed Sungold Flower Co. which is based out of Rocklands Farm in Poolesville, MD. Using their own seasonal blooms, as well as foraged and locally sourced material, they create arrangements for 30+ weddings and events from April until November. They also sell at market and operate a small flower CSA.
I always loved having my hands dirty. Growing up in the suburbs of DC, I spent most of my childhood in our little back yard making potions or in the woods identifying different trees and plants. I've always been fascinated by watching a seed grow, and by the changing of the seasons in general.
In college, she started working in the produce department at an organic market, learning every day about sustainable farming and local food. A few years later, she and her husband Tim bought their property, a 1930's Cape Cod with just over 2 acres of blank slate. They did a "practice garden" that first season and welcomed their first child. For the next few years, they ran a small CSA with about 12-15 families. They decided to take a break after their third baby was born, growing on more of a "homestead" level, sharing the surplus with friends and family but without the pressure of having to deliver a certain volume each week to shareholders. Tim has always worked a full-time job so they were farming in their spare time.
In 2016, along with a few other local growers, they helped start a farmer's market here in our small town as an outlet for all of the extra goods. Around that time, Caitlin began helping Anna with her wedding flowers at Rocklands Farm (another local farm, winery, and wedding venue) and she completely fell in love with growing and arranging. When they decided to team-up full time, she felt like she had landed exactly where she belonged.
The combination of science and art is the most energizing thing for me.
Why do you do what you do? What is your inspiration? What keeps you going when the going gets tough?
BEAUTY. Plain and simple. I love how flowers look at every stage of growth, but when they finally bloom and you then get to share that with others...I mean, there's nothing like it. I'm inspired by the changing of the seasons, and how the landscape and the garden is never exactly the same from one week to the next.
Knowing that everything I do in the garden is all connected, all leading to witnessing that bloom, is what keeps me going. You can't cut corners. If you don't plant the seed, if you don't water it, if you don't make sure it gets ample sunshine, if you don't prep the bed, if you don't support the flower...you don't get the flower! Its kind of like motherhood in that way (or any relationship, really!). All the time and effort you put in is an investment in a beautiful thing. How could you possibly give up on that?
Farming is hard. Every day, you're using your mind and your muscles and at the height of the season, there is something to do from sun-up to sun-down and you're constantly moving. A lot of the time, you're working by yourself.
Being a farmer is something I'm super proud of. Its a term that I wasn't always comfortable using early on, I think because I felt like it needed to be earned. Farming is hard. Every day, you're using your mind and your muscles and at the height of the season, there is something to do from sun-up to sun-down and you're constantly moving. A lot of the time, you're working by yourself. But I feel like we have such a great community of like-minded farmers here in the Ag Reserve (and beyond). And every farmer I've ever met has always been so generous in sharing their knowledge, their experience, their processes.
As far as my role in the community, right now I'm so proud that I get to feed people's souls with beautiful flowers. Anna and I are privileged to share what we love with couples on their special day. We have plans this season for sharing flowers with people who might enjoy them most...people in our community who might need some extra love in their days. In the future I hope I can teach and inspire others, but with all that I have on my plate, its not a major priority for me at the moment. I hope to leave a healthier Earth for my children though. We all must strive for that.
Thoughts on Slow Living:
Real talk: "slow living" often feels like the exact opposite of what I'm doing right now. I have 4 small children, a fledgling flower business to run, thousands of tiny plant babies, a home that I prefer to not be in shambles...so many things demand my attention all day, every day. So in order to not feel like I'm failing at "slow living", I've begun to re-frame it for myself.
Slow living is mindful living. How you manifest that within the framework of your lifestyle is up to you. For me, that means that I try to feed my family whole, locally grown foods. It means that I try to be informed about the consumer products that we bring into our home. It means that I'd rather my kids play outside in the fresh air and build forts in the woods. Do they know their way around the Netflix menu? You bet. Do we eat cereal for dinner sometimes? Of course, I'm not Superwoman. I'm just looking for balance. And giving myself grace along the way.
Slow living is being present. Sometimes, all I get is one minute to feel the sun on my face and feel gratitude. But I grab that minute and I hold it in my heart. I'm always reminded of this Kurt Vonnegut quote:
“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.”
It truly is as simple as that. Its accessible to everyone. It has to be.
And who knows...maybe someday my version of slow living will include spending the entire day in my hypothetical, sun-filled back yard pottery studio whilst sipping sustainably sourced chai lattes...today is not that day. And that's ok.
Advice for Aspiring Lady Farmers
If you're thinking about going into farming, seriously go for it. Start a little garden where ever you can. You'll be surprised at how much you can grow in a small space! Read all the farming books you can. Make friends with other growers. Look for workshops and volunteer opportunities in your area. If you've got the time, try to apprentice under an experienced farmer. Part of me wishes that Tim and I had been able to do that early on, but on the flip side, having our full-time jobs after college is what enabled us to be able to buy land here in Montgomery County and I'm really proud of that.
For everyone who wants to support farms as much as possible, just remember that you always have a choice! Whether you're shopping for ingredients for a weeknight dinner or the flowers for your wedding, YOU HAVE A CHOICE. What a gift to be able to use your dollars to vote for the kind of world you want to live in. When you support local farms, makers, and doers, you are helping to shift the marketplace to something more sustainable, authentic, and accessible.
Who inspires you?
I admire anyone who is bold enough to follow their dreams.
Thank you, Caitlin! Follow along for more of her story at @sungold_flower_co and check out their website!