More than three decades ago, Linda Chapman started Harvest Moon Flower Farm out of necessity, looking for a way to stay at home with her two young children and still make a living. She’d grown a vegetable garden for years, but realized her true passion was a different kind of plants.
“I found I was filling my veggie patch up with flowers because I loved how beautiful they were,” she recalls.
Chapman hired a local farmer to till up one of the pastures on the 5 acres she owned in Owen County outside Bloomington, Indiana, and that’s how the flower farm began. The first year, she took her blooms to the farmers market – and the business blossomed.
In January 2020, Chapman sold her original farm to focus on 9 acres she bought three years ago, where she’s planted all kinds of perennials, woody bushes and trees (about 3 of those acres are under cultivation). She’s also put down deeper roots, building a contemporary, energy-efficient, rustic home on the property.
While the ground beneath her feet has shifted, Chapman is relying on the same laurels that brought her much success in the beginning with Harvest Moon. Thanks to greenhouses on her property, she’s able to grow plants 12 months of the year. That list includes garden varieties like zinnias, sunflowers, celosias, ranunculus, anemones and more. She also raises woody plants, such as pussy willows and winterberries, to add as filler to her many arrangements.
The gardens and greenhouses are a beautiful sight to behold, but it’s after they’re harvested that their magic shines. Chapman, a self-taught florist, is extra busy during wedding season when her bouquets and centerpieces are in high demand by local brides. Handling as many as 60 weddings a year, she first asks brides to bring her photos and color preferences, then reviews what flowers will fit their vision and align with what’s in season.
“I know what I’m growing and what’s going to work in their color range, so I need brides who will put a lot of faith and trust in me,” Chapman explains.
That’s relatively easy to do, after seeing her work at farmers markets and in the surrounding community. “I won’t let anything leave my barn that I don’t consider really beautiful,” Chapman says.
She currently works with 14 businesses in Bloomington, from restaurants to hotels, who order weekly arrangements for reception areas or tables. Spots like Cardinal Spirits also request individual flowers, such as nasturtiums or calendulas, to be used as cocktail garnishes. Every Tuesday, Chapman harvests and delivers each flower order, removing the old blooms and composting them at home.
Composting is one of many sustainability measures that Chapman implements on her farm. For example, she doesn’t use any herbicides or pesticides; seeds any land not being used for growing flowers in cover crop; and creates organic weed barrier systems made from materials like cardboard, mulch and straw. She controls inevitable aphid outbreaks in her greenhouses by bringing in ladybugs, and with so many varieties of flowers on the farm, the sheer biodiversity helps create a strong population of beneficial insects outside, too.
When wedding season winds down and the first frost hits, usually around November, Harvest Moon Flower Farm is in high demand for its wreaths. Chapman and her team grow some flowers specifically for drying, and also dry any flowers left over from making arrangements – then fashion them into oversized wreaths for the holiday season.
To be surrounded by such natural beauty at all times seems like a dream, and most of the time, it is, says Chapman. The biggest challenge for her is the stress that growing, harvesting and arranging flowers takes on your body – but she remedies that by taking extra precautions with sun exposure (always donning a big hat and wearing SPF 70 sunscreen) and installing a hot tub behind her home.
“It comes down to having the time and inclination to take care of yourself,” she says, “so you get up every day feeling good about getting back to work.” When your work involves giving flowers like dahlias – Chapman’s favorite – a little TLC, it doesn’t feel like work at all.