Photo by David Perry co-author of  The 50 Mile Bouquet of flower farmer Joan Thorndike in orange shirt and sunhat pointing at peony plants in bud on Le Mera Gardens’ flower field.  Plastic covered hoophouse in the background.

Empowered Peony Picking

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Organic flower farmer, Joan Thorndike is a smart, generous, soft-spoken woman who has been farming flowers organically since the early nineties, which was well before even organic food had become a blip on many people’s radar screens, let alone organic flowers. I recently spent a delightful day and a half with Joan, meeting several of her longstanding customers, her playful co-workers, her delightful husband, and touring the fields and greenhouses where her flowers grow as one leg of a story gathering trip for this book project. In all, it became a five day, fourteen-hundred mile road-trip which took me south from Seattle, through southern Oregon, home of Joan’s beloved, Rogue River Valley, and finally to Chico, CA, where I then met up with author Debra Prinzing in an attempt to capture the blur and essence of California Organic Flowers‘ annual pre-Mother’s Day rush.

You may get a sense from the video lesson above that Joan’s eyes literally twinkle when she’s talking about the flowers she grows, but in truth, they also twinkle when she’s cutting them, when she’s delivering them to the floral shops, restaurants, homes and businesses she supplies, when she’s telling stories of the amazing people she works with, and when she speaks of those early days as a flower grower with two young daughters in tow. Back then she’d head out to the fields to work in every sort of weather and at the end of a long day, need to hand each of the girls to her husband, Dan, to spray them off in their oversized mudroom sink, releasing them from all that play-accumulated field-dirt they’d brought home, before they ran, giggling into the sanctuary and safety of a warm, clean home.

Which means that Joan’s eyes twinkle almost constantly. She’s kind of magical that way.

So please, if you don’t know Joan already, enjoy this first meeting and know that it is just the first. There will be additional opportunities to get to know her here, in time. Promise! And for those of you who already do know Joan, and especially those who were so kind to me during my visit to your most excellent corner of the world, feel free to smile and nod a hearty, “Yep, that’s our Joan” in knowing affirmation. She is indeed the real deal.


Photos by David Perry, Ann Nguyen, Rob Jaffe, Isabella Thorndike Church, Rick Urbanski