Alison Craig and Gary Thorp, owners of Sweet Pea Specialty Flower Farm
The Early 80s: Gary and Alison met in the early 1980’s through mutual friends. At the time, Gary was working for the town of Cohasset, Massachusetts as their tree climber. Alison was working for a friend that owned Mr. Beam, a retailer of lumber, kitchen cabinets and hand-hewn beams. All of these items were the rage back in the 1980’s. Gary also owned a small landscaping company, Harborside, which he worked at on weekends and evenings after work. Alison volunteered to mow lawns at some of his accounts. This is how our adventure began.
The mid 80s and Cranberry Bogs: By the mid 1980’s they were in full swing with Harborside taking on more and more jobs. A friend talked with them about cranberry bogs and they were hooked. They transferred their landscaping accounts to others and by 1987 had purchased a house with a small cranberry bog. Hard work, great times. They were deep into the cranberry world and rode through the hard times and had a few great seasons. They were able to fix up the house and eventually sold it in 2013, then temporarily lived in a “planned” community living in a cottage amongst 30 other cottages. They volunteered to be trustees of the Association.
Working in Boston: Living closer to Boston gave Gary the opportunity to work in Boston for the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, a park comprised of 14 acres of gardens and lawns in the heart of Boston. This was a fabulous opportunity to work side-by-side with other horticulturists. Eight years later the pandemic hit and their plans had to change dramatically.
The Pandemic and a Change of Lifestyle: By this time they were settled into the cottage lifestyle, creating more and more projects to get the other homeowners involved and keep themselves busy. Then, they took a course in Floral Culture through Floret in 2018. This got them thinking again that this would be a way for them to retire and continue doing the things they loved — growing! By 2019 their cottage was listed for sale and by the winter of 2019 they found a property that was perfect to start a specialty cut flower farm. They sold the cottage on March 23, 2020 and moved to 61 Morse Road, Plymouth NH at the peak of the pandemic panic. They have taken the first year to adjust to a different growing season and the area and a slower paced lifestyle. Now, the real planning begins!
Spring of 2021: We are in our planning stages for this upcoming Spring of 2021. With the guidance of Trevor Hardy, PE, and Gary’s many years as an irrigation specialist we have the plans to install our irrigation system in the late Spring 2021 utilizing our onsite well. Our plans include creating fifty 4-foot by 50-foot flower beds, installing two high tunnel greenhouses, utilizing the climate barrier system which captures the warmer earth 12 feet down and brings it up via pipes and fans to the interior of the high tunnel greenhouses. This is an energy savings and allows us to be less dependent on propane or electricity.
Buildings: We will build a potting shed to store the day to day tools needed in creating, maintaining, harvesting and planting the plants. Eventually we will install a large enough barn to house all the larger pieces of equipment, hand tools and a cold storage for keeping freshly cut flowers until we are ready to deliver to farmers markets, florists or sell direct to customers.
Flowers We'll be Growing: The initial plants we will start growing will be hydrangeas, peonies, sunflowers, dahlias, sweet peas, and various perennials and annuals. As time progresses, we will expand on different varieties of hydrangeas and peonies as well as what perennials do well in our area. Another focus for us will be greens. We want to think beyond the standard leather fern used in many floral arrangements. This will be an exciting variation of options for floral arranging whether complex or a simple display of flowers.
Plans to Hire Local Harvesters: Harvest times will give us the opportunity to hire local folks to assist in the gathering, preparing and delivering of flowers.
Into the Future: As time progresses we hope our little flower business will grow and change and turn into the environment we have always wanted, and that we can share with others along the way.