"I love growing flowers for my customers. I am amazed that this gets to be my job." - Ali Appel
Ali Appel, owner and farmer-florist at Small Hands Homestead
When I visited Ali Appel at her farm, I could really relate to the story I was hearing, in some ways. As a farmer-florist (a term that I learned that day from Ali), she wears many hats. Not only does Ali grow flowers on about an acre of land (that is part of a larger swath), but she arranges the cut flowers into beautiful bouquets for her customers. In fact, that is how her business first started to grow – she would offer flowers and simple bouquets and customers would come and request certain arrangements that she could put together right there at the market.
I am not a farmer-florist. But another hat Ali wears is mom. I also balance motherhood with various projects and jobs. In some respects, being a mom implies becoming something of a Jack (Jill?) of all trades. Ali incorporates her role of motherhood into her farm: the name Small Hands comes from the idea that her son is a part of her work. She also offers a summer farm camp for kids at her farm in the month of June.
You can find more information about the camp and all that Small Hands has to offer on the website: https://www.smallhandshomestead.com/
In addition to cut flowers, Small Hands offers a U-Pick season. Four goats on the property provide milk, which Ali uses to craft specialty goats-milk soap. You can find her flowers and soaps at the Coffee Creek Farmers Market on Wednesdays, 3-7 PM, April 20 – November 2, 2022.
Ali greets the friendly goats on a cool day in March.
Here is a little more of our conversation out at the homestead. It was a windy, cloudy day, but the tulips and peppermint were growing and the grape hyacinth blooming, promises of spring during a March going out like a lion.
Field prepped and flowers growing!
What do you like about the Coffee Creek Farmers Market?
My favorite part about the market is the community. It’s a great group of vendors that get together weekly, and the customers are wonderful. They know me, and come over and say hi. It’s great to see people come to the market to buy local. The market is a lot of fun!
What are some of your challenges and joys in this business?
Well, one of the biggest challenges are of course the basic challenges of farming, like the weather. There is always a big to-do list. But I enjoy a challenge – it drives me, and I am very goal-oriented. I like working hard physically, so this is a good job for me.
I always got a lot of joy out of growing vegetables, but I really like growing flowers. I really am amazed that this gets to be my job. I work alone on the farm, which I like, but then I get to also go to the market and socialize with others. I already know so many people there, which is great.
What does growing a local food system mean to you?
I’m a big proponent of local food. It’s important to support our own health, and eating really healthy food is a huge part of that. The healthiest food is what is produced in your own area. I love having a garden, preserving food, eating local meat. And then when you buy food from local producers, you are supporting people just like you to make a living. It’s good for everyone.
What would you like your customers to know?
I just want them to know that I love growing flowers for them. I love that they want me to make something beautiful for their home or for a gift. It’s a creative process for me, which is beautiful.
I get to do a little bit of everything with this job – growing the flowers; arranging them and making art that way; doing the administration and planning of the business.I milk the goats throughout the winter and freeze the milk, which has to be cold in order to turn it into soap.So I can make the soap throughout the winter, and then my inventory is ready for the year. While the flowers grow we can do the kids camp and U-Pick, and also take the flowers to market.
From field to market, to you!