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Taming Wildflowers Book
Hello. My name is Miriam Goldberger and along with my husband Paul Jenkins, we are the founders and owners of Wildflower Farm. Since 1988 we’ve been living the wildflower life. Here’s the story of how we built our Wildflower dream.
A native of Toronto, Ontario, I was raised in the suburbs but spent as much time as I could exploring the undeveloped countryside just north of the city building forts and fording streams. During the summers when I was 13 and 14 years old I hired myself out to a family farm north of Toronto and discovered the satisfaction of working the land and the beauty of rural life. I didn’t know it at the time but my summers on that farm were the seed which would ultimately lead to the development of Wildflower Farm.
I was raised in Nutley, New Jersey in a big Victorian house just outside of Manhattan. When I wasn’t in ballet class I was climbing trees and generally being pretty much a tomboy. After graduating from university with a degree in Dance I moved to Toronto and fell in love with midwifery which inspired me to found Preggae Woman, Canada’s first pre-natal and postpartum fitness and resource program. My fascination with the miracle of birth soon resulted in two momentous events; the birth of my first child and the birth of my obsession with the miraculous and deeply satisfying process of growing plants from seed.
Living in Toronto as a single father in my 20’s I carved out a career in the visual arts as a photographer and graphic designer. When Miriam and I met at our local daycare I was managing a high-end printing company. Before long, we became a blended family best described as yours, mine and ours.
One lazy Sunday in Toronto, I noticed a classified ad, “Huge 3-bedroom farm house near Nobleton: 100 acres.” Our daughter was six weeks old when, in 1986, we moved to that farm in Schomberg, Ontario.
In 1988 my floral obsession soon blossomed into Canada’s first Pick Your Own Flower Farm boasting a gift shop and a colourful dried flower loft decorated with thousands of bunches of dried flowers. For our grand opening weekend the Toronto Star newspaper ran a full page article about us and hundreds of people made the drive to our farm!
At the same time, to support our family and burgeoning floral enterprise I took on a high stress job supervising the art department for a national advertising corporation in Toronto. I was commuting an hour and a half each way, back and forth every day, and working nights and weekends on the farm. Something had to give. Luckily a giant multi-national corporation gobbled up the ad agency where I worked and my position was deemed redundant. Freedom was mine!
Soon after the opening of our store we fell in love with the low maintenance beauty of hardy, perennial, native North American wildflowers. Before long we were producing thousands of wildflower plants for sale at our farm store and we began a wildflower design and landscaping service installing, drought tolerant, low maintenance wildflower gardens and meadows throughout our region and consulting on projects throughout North America.
In the mid 1990’s a friend of mine showed me something very new on his computer. It was called the “internet”. As that time it was only white letters on a screen but the fact that people could communicate in this way was, at that time, revolutionary.
Being visually oriented I told my friend “Call me when it has pictures!”
It was not long afterwards that this new “internet” had images and in 1996 I registered our first domain name – www.wildflowerfarm.com and started to learn about web site design. At first our web site was simply soft promotion about the farm but I saw that very quickly this would change and that the possibility of doing sales online would be the next thing. In late 1999 I began to build our first online shopping cart and on January 20, 2000, it was launched. To my complete surprise on the first day the new ecommerce enabled site was up and running – we got an order!! Since then we have had the honour of serving tens of thousands of people all over North America through our online catalogue.
Then Eco-lawn entered our lives! For some time, our astute customers had been urging us to develop a lawn that was just as sustainable, drought tolerant and low maintenance as our wildflower gardens and meadows. One day, while walking in the forests of Ontario we spotted clumps of rich green grass growing in the deep shade of the northern woods. Perhaps, we thought, these emerald patches could be used as natural grass pathways around and through our wildflower meadows. Three years of research and trials led to the development of Eco-Lawn which has changed the face of lawnscaping across North America for homeowners, businesses and municipalities since its introduction to the market in 1998.
By 2003 our greenhouses, offices and outbuildings were bursting at the seams! Most importantly, we knew North American demand for wildflower and native grass seed was increasing and we needed to respond to that demand. To deal with this we knew we had to move the farm.
In the fall of 2003 we found our “new” farm and in the spring of 2004 we moved to Coldwater, Ontario where we planted over 60 acres of wildflowers and native grasses for seed production, built a gift shop, installed a mature wildflower botanical garden with over 15,000 mature perennial wildflowers that we literally dug up and brought to our new farm and we seeded a 1 acre wildflower meadow. It was a busy year!
For nine years after our move, we were open to the public 7 days a week and during that time the business just grew and grew.
But in 2013, we changed things up! Both Paul and I thought it was high time we discovered what this thing people called a “weekend” was. After all, we’d been working 7 days a week for over 25 years! So, we closed our retail store and Paul retired from the landscape installation work he had been doing. Since then we’ve concentrated our efforts on our online seed sales instead. This has also allowed us a chance to discover lifestyle gems such as “summer vacations” which we’d never had!
This incredible freedom also gave me the time I needed to share my unique wildflower life and knowledge by writing and photographing my book: Taming Wildflowers.
So now, while we are not working as hard as we did when we were younger, we are still harvesting, drying, cleaning, packaging and selling the wildflower and native grass seed that we grow here at the farm.
And we are in our office Monday to Friday to help you with any questions you may have!
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