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WI City Girl Reconnects with Her Rural Roots

PHOTO: Andrea Clemens made the transition from arranging flowers in a floral shop, to growing and selling her own. Photo courtesy of Clemens.
PHOTO: Andrea Clemens made the transition from arranging flowers in a floral shop, to growing and selling her own. Photo courtesy of Clemens.
November 28, 2012

WHITEWATER, Wis. - Five years ago, Andrea Clemens was a city girl, working in a flower shop in Milwaukee. Now, she grows and sells her own flowers as a business, near Whitewater. Clemens is one of the new generation of farmers who didn't grow up on a farm or inherit land from her parents. Instead, she says, her company, "Love Light Floral Design," started with help from the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy.

"I signed up and got accepted into their internship program in 2005. It was just a really great experience: it helped me get reconnected back to the land after being in the city."

Today, Clemens grows more than a hundred varieties of flowers, sells them to a variety of clients in the area, and runs a floral CSA where her members get 12 weeks of fresh flowers in season. She says she still takes courses and attends workshops at the Fields Institute.

"With the Michael Fields program, it really opened me up to all the possibilities of everything that can be grown locally, all the fruits and vegetables, culinary herbs, cut flowers: and I still do participate in workshops there."

Whole Farm Workshops, like the ones Andrea attended, are a collaboration of the Fields Institute, Angelic Organics Learning Center, and Prairie Crossing.

The workshops are funded in part by the USDA Beginning Farmer Program, which is on hold right now because Congress has failed to pass a Farm Bill. Clemens says the program is what helps her and others connect to the earth, and to their own business goals.

"Whether you want to learn about milking goats or making cheese, or growing flowers or starting your own vegetable garden, or CSA, or just other value-added products, they have all different options in these workshops."

Clemens says most people don't realize the majority of flowers sold in the U.S. come from foreign countries such as Colombia or Ecuador. She says running her own sustainable agriculture operation is hard work, but for her, it's also a dream come true.

More about the Institute at MichaelFields.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI