Joan Ewer Thorndike took to farming flowers at Le Mera Gardens in 1992, when her daughters Camila and Isabella were tiny little girls aged 5 and 3. Joan was born and raised in Santiago, Chile in a family and a culture where flowers were ubiquitous, everyday companions. After she married her husband Dan and moved to Southern Oregon she was surprised to find there was no flower culture in the Valley despite its generous growing season and agricultural landscape. Flowers in the 90s were reserved for special occasions, they were primarily sold around Hallmark holidays, they were treated as a luxury, and underappreciated or misunderstood for their impermanence. Joan set about to change that culture, to make fresh flowers widely accessible, a necessity not a luxury, a source of simple joy. A couple of decades later, to farm locally has become a movement and Oregon grew a big and appreciative love for seasonal fresh flowers farmed close to home.Through the nineties Joan farmed Le Mera Gardens on an acre and a bit at the outskirts of Ashland, raising her children among flowers, bees, bugs and dirt in all weather conditions. In early 2000 she was invited by Suzi and Steve Fry to join forces with their remarkably diversified Fry Family Farm, a marriage and partnership which has allowed her to vastly expand the diversity, quantity and quality of flowers and foliage for her clients in southern Oregon and northern California.These days Le Mera Gardens’ seasonal fresh flowers, foliage, branches, berries and ornamental herbs are sold to local florists, designers, do-it-yourself weddings of every stripe, local businesses, homes and charities in southern Oregon and northern California, from mid March through late October. The Le Mera Gardens team is small and mighty. Isabella Thorndike Church, Joan’s youngest daughter, is a crucial player bringing her keen eye, indefatigable strength and good cheer to the long day’s work. Isabella made her first bouquet from mixed weeds when she was 3 years old. These days, aside from harvesting at inconceivable speed, she builds beautiful installations and designs many a wedding bouquet through her design company Jacklily Seasonal Floral Design. A close second to Isabella’s harvesting skills are Cheli and Laura, 2 sisters whose uncanny eye and inexhaustible kindness make everything possible. Of course it takes the large crew of field workers from the Fry Family Farm to get millions of seeds germinated in the spring, transplanted into the fields or into protected houses, tended to during the flowering season, and kept semi-tamed till frost takes over in late autumn. Joan was educated in the business of flower farming by the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, by mentors near and far, by her florist clients who demand a premium flower, and by simply doing the work of farming.Le Mera Gardens is an early proponent of growing for your local market and an advocate of the Buy Local movement, premium member of Slow Flowers USA and a featured farm in The 50 Mile Bouquet by Debra Prinzing.
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