Mill City Farmers Market vendor and owner of Green Light Farm Maggie Sheehan shows us around her farm and shares the zero waste story behind her gorgeous dried floral wreaths.
By Jenny Heck
Dried flowers are having a moment right now.
For Maggie Sheehan, Mill City Farmers Market vendor and owner of Green Light Farm, dried flowers are not about chasing a “cottagecore” design fad but about reducing waste on her flower farm.
With four acres of cultivated flowers on her 120-acre farm in western Wisconsin, Maggie has been growing perennials and annual flowers for bouquets, DIY buckets and wholesale accounts since 2015. A few years after establishing Green Light Farm, Maggie began drying flowers in her basement as the fresh cut flower season came to an end in the fall.
“It started as a way to not have things go in the compost. Whatever ended up drying here, ended up here,” Maggie explained at our farm visit in early November.
Arranging dried flowers into wreaths became a successful way to extend the local flower season and a more intentional part of the farm, now making up about 20% of her annual sales. Maggie now plants some of her fields specifically for dried floral wreaths (strawflowers, dusty miller, celosia), and in 2020, she and her part-time seasonal workers made close to 350 wreaths. The goal for 2021 is 500 wreaths, which Maggie sells at Mill City’s winter farmers markets, to local Wisconsin and Twin Cities florists, at her farm stand and has even began shipping them to customers in 30 different states across the country who found her work through social media.
Above: Maggie shows us the basement of her farmhouse where she dries flowers from her farm for wreaths. Below: grapevine wreath bases, gleaned from a neighboring vineyard.
Local, dried flowers support a zero-waste lifestyle by more than just keeping harvested flowers from being discarded. Local flowers dramatically reduce your carbon footprint by decreasing miles flowers must travel. Roughly 80% of flowers for sale in the U.S. are imported, and of the 20% produced domestically about 75% are grown in California. Additionally, the small, regenerative farms like Green Light support pollinator habitats with the diverse variety of plants they grow—all without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. What’s more, everything in Green Light Farm’s wreaths is cultivated at the farm or wild harvested nearby.
“It’s actually a very small-town story,” Maggie told us with a laugh, “but the grapevine wreath bases we’re using this year are actually from my insurance agent’s vineyard. She told me I could harvest them when they did their pruning this fall.”
Maggie is no stranger to small-town life. She grew up in a wood-heated farmhouse like the one she has now, just a couple states over in Ohio. Maggie went to school for archeology and during the summer in-between undergrad and grad school decided to volunteer and travel at some small farms through WWOOF. That summer turned into a gap year working on vegetable and flower farms in Wisconsin, and now she is finishing up her sixth season owning Green Light Farm.
Maggie stays true to her origin story, and hosts traveling volunteers throughout the summer, as well as hiring three seasonal workers to help with all that goes into managing a flower farm. This time of year, they are busy planting 23,500 tulip bulbs in greenhouse covered trenches (only 6,000 more to go!), cleaning plants out of the beds, pruning perennials and, of course, making wreaths. After the holiday rush, Maggie will focus on repairs around the farm and planning for next season.
Seasonal wreaths with dried flowers, foraged grasses and heritage turkey feathers from a neighboring farm.
When we asked what her goals are for the future of the farm, Maggie told us about her vision to “have someone else, not me” create a partnering full-service floral design company to provide arrangements for weddings, memorials, prom corsages and so-on using local and seasonal flowers from the farm.
Thinking in the short-term, she added, “This year I’ve felt so much more connected to the community around me. My vision is that I want to continue to increase that.”
You can find Maggie and Green Light Farm wreaths at Mill City Farmers Market’s indoor winter markets on November 13 & 20 and December 4 & 18 and again for tulip season in May. Join Maggie’s community by following her on Instagram and Facebook where you will find seasonal farm stand pop-up hours, scenes from the farm and local flower inspiration.
Maggie Sheehan, Mill City Farmers Market vendor and owner of Green Light Farm.
Dried floral wreaths available at Mill City’s indoor winter markets in November & December.