By Kansas Living on May 9, 2022
Osborne County wildflower farmer thrives on family tradition, new marketing
It’s a cool evening in early July when Glennys Doane moves through rows of red and orange zinnias, sweet William, three hues of sunflowers and rows of green fillers in her farm garden.
Although the variety of flowers may be similar to what Glennys’ mother and mother-in-law grew in their yards and gardens, what Glennys does after the blooms are cut is relatively new — selling the blossoms through her business, Prairie Field Flowers.
Amy Doane, Glennys’ daughter, says the subscription-style business model is attractive to all types of shoppers.
“Younger people are used to buying things on subscription with Netflix, meal kits — we buy all kinds of things on subscription,” Amy says. “And it’s something that is starting to catch on with older generations as well.”
Glennys explains the subscription model keeps things simple for both the business and the customers.
“Customers can sign up for either a small or large bouquet to be delivered once or twice a month,” she says.
Each monthly delivery is unique since Glennys has spaced out the growing and blooming from May to September.
The business has been going for three years, and in those three years the subscription model has blossomed. Glennys used to attend more farmers markets to sell the fresh flower arrangements.
“I decided after the first year of farmers markets that I needed to change my marketing model a little bit so I had a consistent place to go with the flowers,” she says.
She turned to online research and found other flower growers who were tapping into the subscription market.
“You tie into that, and you’re committed, your customer is committed,” she says. “Everyone is happy that way.”
Prairie Field Flowers enjoys a loyal subscriber base with growth in new sign ups. Most subscribers renew and new subscribers sign up at a rate of 50 percent each year.
Wildflowers blooming in Kansas
The business is a true family affair, with Glennys handling the planting, cutting, arranging and delivering. Amy helps with marketing, and Gary Doane, Glennys’ husband, helps with the soil and agriculture side. The family has been living on the 10-acre property since 1977 and they grew and sold sweet corn until about 20 years ago. Gary still farms in the area.
“It’s been a pretty productive 10 acres,” Gary says. “We were always surprised how far people would come to get sweet corn. We aren’t close to any big cities — and the closer you are to them, the more opportunities you have to sell. It takes a little more work to get people to come from far away.”
Glennys says that’s where the marketing comes in. She has turned to Facebook and Instagram to connect with other growers across the U.S. for education and networking. She took an online course from a woman in Virginia who has been a flower farmer for 20 years. Those in the online course now all participate in a private Facebook group where they connect and bounce ideas off one another.
Although Glennys uses social media and a subscription-model business, the foundation of the business is a family legacy: growing flowers.
“Growing up, my mom grew flowers,” Glennys says. “Gary’s mom grew flowers. In 4-H I took flower arranging, and my mom always had unique things to work with and a real creative sense. Growing flowers just seemed like a good way to honor what she taught me.”
“She had a lot of plantings there that weren’t being appreciated, and now they are,” Glennys says.
Gary points out the use of the land changes as the family does.
“We had a garden for a number of years here, and it had gotten smaller,” he says. “That’s when Glennys developed the idea of using that garden for flowers. We rotor it up, she begins her plants in tiny square pieces of soil, and then transplants them to the garden, except for a few varieties started in the ground.”
Preparing the flowers
Gary said the soil in the area has made the farming and gardening ventures successful.
“This area is known as the Solomon Valley,” Gary says. “It starts out around Colby, goes all the way to Kansas City and becomes the Kaw Valley when you get east of Junction City. It’s good, productive soil. And that makes a lot of difference in what you can grow. In fact, I think you can grow almost anything here.
For Glennys, the product of the flowers is a culmination of legacy, opportunity and hard work. In addition to growing the subscription business, she would like to offer more flower arranging workshops. It’s something she learned at a young age, and she wants to share her skill with others.
“We did a workshop here where an extension unit came in and we all made a bouquet for their program,” Glennys says. “I would like to do some of that as a social event that you might have, or a wedding shower activity where everyone makes a bouquet around the table.” Glennys continues to offer workshops on the farm for groups.
Glennys also does arrangements for her church in Downs. She does take individual or occasion bouquet orders, but doesn’t want to be a typical florist.
“I just grow, admire and sell what’s in season,” Glennys says. “I emphasize that my flowers are seasonal, farm grown, local flowers. I can’t promise what kind of flowers you’ll get, but you’ll always get a beautiful, colorful, blooming bouquet of what is in season that week."
When asked what her favorite flower varieties are, Glennys says she likes them all.
“They’re like children,” she says. “You care for them and nurture them, and when they bloom, they’re so pretty.”
Kansas sunflowers have a special place in her heart. Glennys grows three different varieties specifically meant for flower arrangements, so they don’t drop pollen.
Making Kansas wildflower bouquets
To make the bouquets, Glennys takes her shears and walks around her garden adding different colors and plant fillers until they’re just right.
“It’s crazy what you can come up with when you take a little bit from here, a little bit from there, and put all of the colors together, '' Glennys says. “That’s what I love — presenting beauty that’s right in front of people in a different way.”
Glennys says the best part about her business is seeing people’s reactions to receiving bouquets.
“It’s definitely the smiles for me,” she says.
For more information and to contact Prairie Field Flowers, visit www.prairiefieldflowers.com. To see if there's a flower grower near you, check out this map from the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers.