Episode 565: Petals and Alpacas at Gholson Gardens in Walla Walla, Washington (Encore Edition)
July 6th, 2022
Greetings, friends. Here at the Slow Flowers Society, we have experienced a whirlwind several weeks, including producing our fifth and largest Slow Flowers Summit conference ever, celebrating American Flowers Week, and publishing our debut Summer issue of our Slow Flowers Journal e-zine quarterly. Add to that 10 days of me traveling away from home and honestly, I’m just beginning to recover from all the festivities.
So today, in what is an entirely rare occurrence, you will hear an encore installment of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Petals and Alpacas at Gholson Gardens in Walla Walla, Washington, originally aired as Episode 395 in April 2019, and it is one of my very favorite shows.
I mean, alpacas AND flowers — what could be a better pairing? The people behind this fiber and flowers enterprise are an equally great pair — Slow Flowers member Elaine Vandiver and her husband Mike Vandiver.
Gholson Gardens is a small, 10-acre farm located in southeastern Washington state, in the quintessential rural community of Walla Walla, in the southeast corner of the state. Mike and Elaine are both U.S. Army veterans turned first generation farmers. As they share on their website, Mike and Elaine purchased their farm in late 2013 as a way to start anew after learning a traditional family wasn’t in the cards for them.
Ten acres seemed sufficient. It had a big old red barn that reminded Elaine of the ones she saw growing up in Indiana. Plus it had a handful of outbuildings. And of course the farmhouse. A two-story folk-victorian number, with a wraparound porch. The whole place had charm, potential and good bones — If you could look past the peeling paint & tatters of time. In other words, it was a lot like she and Mike.
The seller told the couple it was “an old homestead” and that “those two llama come with the place.” As city kids, Elaine and Mike were unfamiliar with both homesteads and llamas. But they were in a place in life where they weren’t going to question things. So a homestead with llamas it was.
The first spring arrived, and the once sad-looking pastures sprang to life. And their two raggedy llama (LeRoi & Loretta) could not keep up with their grazing tasks. As Elaine writes on their website: “With all our resources tied into farmhouse renovations, we couldn’t exactly get a tractor. So naturally, we got the next best thing: alpaca. You know . . . the cute, smaller, softer version of llamas. They were supposed to be nothing more than cute little lawnmowers. And they were. But it sorta took a whole gaggle of them to keep up with the grass. And then they needed to be shorn. And that pile of raw fleece had to go somewhere.”
Ultimately, they started having it professionally spun into yarn . . . and then launched Old Homestead Alpacas, with a line of knitwear made exclusively of the alpaca fiber, manufactured entirely in the USA.
Elaine had begun to grow dye flowers, so in the summer of 2017, she decided to start selling them as cut flowers? She began by planting 100-row-feet of zinnia, cosmos, sunflowers and celosia.
I recorded this episode in March 2019 when I was in Walla Walla to speak (along with Elaine) about the Slow Flowers Movement for the Washington State Farmers Market Association.
Hers is a very personal, inspiring story and I know it will inspire anyone who views growing cut flowers as a new way of life, perhaps as a catalyst for all sorts of change. To learn how this story unfolds, I’ll let you hear from Elaine.
Learn More; Find and follow Gholson Gardens
Subscribe to Gholson Gardens’ newsletter
For Elaine and Mike, growing flowers is the latest chapter of their agricultural lifestyle, one that began with a llama and too many adorable alpacas for me to accurately count, continued to a flower and herb garden to grow plants that produce natural dyes for the wool, skeins and garments made with the alpaca fiber, and expanded just over a year ago to become a full-fledge cut flower farm.
Slow Flowers in the News
We’re always thrilled when members of the media ask to learn more about the Slow Flowers Movement — and I have a new story by journalist, writer and editor Karin Vandraiss to share with you. She recently profiled Slow Flowers for Avocado Magazine in a feature titled: “How to Support the Slow Flowers Movement.” The story is illustrated with so many of Missy Palacol’s gorgeous photographs and it’s a great piece you’ll want to read and share with your customers and clients. I love how Karin wrapped up the piece with 4 tips for making Mindful Floral Purchases.
Thank you to our Sponsors
This show is brought to you by Slowflowers.com, the free, online directory to more than 850 florists, shops, and studios who design with local, seasonal and sustainable flowers and to the farms that grow those blooms. It’s the conscious choice for buying and sending flowers.
Thank you to our lead sponsor, Farmgirl Flowers. Farmgirl Flowers delivers iconic burlap-wrapped bouquets and lush, abundant arrangements to customers across the U.S., supporting U.S. flower farms by purchasing more than $10 million dollars of U.S.-grown fresh and seasonal flowers and foliage annually. Discover more at farmgirlflowers.com.
Thank you to Details Flowers Software, a platform specifically designed to help florists and designers do more and earn more. With an elegant and easy-to-use system–Details improves profitability, productivity, and organization for floral businesses of all shapes and sizes. Grow your bottom line through professional proposals and confident pricing with Details’ all-in-one platform. All friends of the Slow Flowers Podcast will receive a 7-day free trial of Details Flowers Software. Learn more at detailsflowers.com.
Thank you to CalFlowers, the leading floral trade association in California, providing valuable transportation and other benefits to flower growers and the entire floral supply chain in California and 48 other states. The Association is a leader in bringing fresh cut flowers to the U.S. market and in promoting the benefits of flowers to new generations of American consumers. Learn more at cafgs.org.
Thank you to Store It Cold, creators of the revolutionary CoolBot, a popular solution for flower farmers, studio florists and farmer-florists. Save $1000s when you build your own walk-in cooler with the CoolBot and an air conditioner. Don’t have time to build your own? They also have turnkey units available. Learn more at storeitcold.com.
Thank you for listening to the Slow Flowers Podcast!
Thanks so much for joining us today! We’ll be back on our regular schedule with new episodes starting next week! The Slow Flowers Podcast is a member-supported endeavor, downloaded more than 864,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for listening, commenting and sharing – it means so much. As our movement gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of our domestic cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too.
If you’re new to our weekly Show and our long-running Podcast, check out all of our resources at SlowFlowersSociety.com and consider making a donation to sustain Slow Flowers’ ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button in the right column.
I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Show & Podcast. The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more Slow Flowers on the table, one stem, one vase at a time.
by Blue Dot Sessions
Acoustic Shuffle; In The Field