Bloom Spring 2018 - Page 14

12 Bloom | Spring 2018 In 2013, Erin Benzakein (pictured above) was a moderately successful flower farmer in Washington’s Skagit Valley, about an hour north of Seattle. She and her husband, Chris, met in high school and had come to the valley a dozen years before, as young urbanites in search of a rural dream, and bought a house on an acre of land. Surrounded by modest farms, the place wasn’t much to look at: vinyl siding, an old garage out back. By then, the couple had a daughter. (A son was born 19 months later.) While Chris found work as a mechanic, Benzakein, who had been a landscaper in Seattle, looked for ways to earn money at home. She tried candle-making, growing baby vegetables, a rainbow- egg business with a hundred chickens. But, she said, “I didn’t make any money, and there was poop everywhere.” The flower idea came five years later, in 2006, when she saw an article by the floral designer Ariella Chezar on arranging clematis. This totally blew Benzakein’s mind, because she’d always considered it an extravagance to cut garden flowers like clematis and bring them inside. They were for display in the garden. Which is largely why almost no one in the Skagit Valley would buy her flowers once she started hustling them. Her total profit the first year was $1,400.