GOSHEN — A local couple is making a living from a small parcel of land while providing a beautiful product that brightens the lives of their customers.
Singletree Farm, founded in the fall of 2018 by married couple Kate Friesen and Scott Kempf, is a small acre of land nestled about seven miles southeast of downtown.
The property consists of their small home, two unheated hoop houses and about three-fourths of an acre of bedded flowers. In 2020 they received a generous grant from the USDA, which allowed them to add more than 200 feet of native hedgerow and a third hoop house.
“I started farming in college on my cousin’s farm in Idaho, Friesen said. “I was helping with the vegetables and the community supported agriculture program (CSA) … I was studying English but thought this was what I wanted to do. I met Scott who also wanted to farm and we kind of hopped around until I got a cold call from a woman who had started a farm in Goshen. She asked me if I would head up the farm.”
Similarly, Kempf found himself quickly falling in love with agriculture. At first, Friesen was doing the majority of the work, but three years ago, things began to ramp up, and Kempf also became involved 24/7 in the farm’s operations.
A LOT OF WORK
Growing flowers can be demanding work. The couple believes flower farming is often romanticized or not viewed as actual work. People often question what they do during the colder months, but at Singletree Farm, there is work to be done year-round. It is the patterns and rhythms of work that make the job exciting and enjoyable for them.
“It is a lot of work during the summer and then it kind of ramps down a bit,” Friesen said. “I love being in the fields in the evening and morning and hearing the birds. I like the balance of the physical work with the mental work of learning how to market and how to run a business. With flowers it’s cool because there is also the creative work of actually designing the arrangements as well.”
As much as the couple enjoys the rhythm types of farm work, many people do not realize what the term farm work means. Some of the most difficult parts of the job are tied very closely with the most challenging aspects.
“As a small farmer you have to know how to do so many things: farm, book keep, market, social media, and how to use different tools,” Friesen elaborated. “Just jumping into that is difficult and takes a lot of capacity.”
They currently plant almost year-round because they use their greenhouse spaces. The couple usually harvest the last plants from their greenhouse at the end of November and early December. The fields are more barren at that time of year since their goal is more for fall and spring crops — however, the bedded flowers are quite vibrant during the rainy months.
Singletree is primarily run by the couple with the help of a neighbor and a few volunteers. Some of their volunteers sign up as part of a work-share program. They work a few hours and get a bouquet during the warmer months from the CSA program.
The CSA program is just one of five main market streams for Singletree. The program has 90 members as of this year. Members purchase a farm share during the off-season and then choose a bouquet from displays at the Goshen Farmers Market during the rainy season.
“It is a way for us to space our income, have guaranteed income and try new varieties with people who love flowers and get honest feedback,” Friesen said. “It becomes our core consumer base.”
Long-time customers and members of the CSA program Lynn Diener and Zuri Que both adore Singletree’s work in every bouquet they create.
“Last year I was given a CSA for the summer and every two weeks I would go to the farmers market and choose a bouquet,” Que said. “They always had a huge variety. One time I saw another one I liked that they let me choose even though it was worth me. All of my interactions with them have been so lovely.”
Diener seconds Que’s reflections on the work that Singletree does for the community through the CSA program.
“I got her CSA shares and she recently made a memorial bouquet for my family,” Diener said. “It was lovely to see her bouquet; it was like having a friend there. That care communicates through the flowers like a little work of art. I just think it is neat to support someone locally who does so great.”
Being able to impact the lives of their clients in such a beautiful way is another rewarding aspect of growing flowers for both Kempf and Friesen. It is a part of what makes the art of arranging flowers so alluring in the first place. Creating the perfect bouquet can’t be taught and is learned over time with a careful eye and practice, according to the couple.
“When I am thinking about arrangement, I consider color and how it affects mood,” Friesen explained. “I also think about shape, like maybe it is wild for a party or maybe it is more contained for a smaller event. I like to think about how art and nature and all these elements in our life blend together.”
As much as Friesen likes creating stunning floral arrangements for others, she believes her favorite bouquets are those she makes on quiet Sunday afternoons just for herself. This is where she can experiment with color and shape without the time or stress that the usual arrangements might carry.
As she works on arrangements, she likes to think that her favorite flower is whatever flower is currently in her hand. However, she does love the first tulips that bloom with warm colors in the spring. Kempf adores the boldness and warmth of sunflowers.
All of these flowers and more can be grown using their bedded flower area and greenhouse spaces. They have plans to expand their flower-growing area within their property. They intend to tarp that area next summer and prepare it for use or cover crop rotations.
Singletree Farm also aims to be a sustainable and balanced operation. Sustainability can take on many different meanings to different people. Still, it comes down to learning to find balance, cultivate community, and be healthy for Singletree Farm.
“Sustainable for me means to be healthy,” Friesen said. “I know what it feels like to be healthy, know what healthy soil looks like, etc ... so really focusing on trying to get each plant as healthy as possible to create a healthy workspace for Scott and me, figuring out how to make boundaries within our business. Choosing not to use certain chemical sprays or things which are not always helpful to parts of the environment.”
“We try to help cut down on plane miles that otherwise would be required to transport flowers by keeping it local and building those relationships in our community,” Kempf added. “We also power all our work here off of solar, including our delivery vehicles.”
While the couple is most proud of their work with Singletree, they also find great pride in maintaining healthy family relationships and carefully navigating being a couple and business team simultaneously. It takes a lot of work, but they said those efforts are all worth it in the end.
“Flowers do their best when they can make a lot of little differences,” Friesen said. “I think people need to have beauty in their life no matter their age or gender. It is what makes our presence in our life and it reminds us we are human.”