by Courtney Llewellyn
BOISE, IDAHO – Cityscapes often bring up visions of tall buildings, cement sidewalks and lots of cars. Rarely does that first imagining include green oases dotted with a rainbow-hued assortment of flowers. But that’s what Dream Farm Flowers brings to Boise.
The Dream Farm began as an old horse pasture studded with trees, weeds and rocks. A vision led to its transformation into a French-inspired kitchen garden in the Collister neighborhood of the city, and then a dream led to it being filled with flowers. The dreamer was Sarah Lunstrum.
Lunstrum grew up on a medium-sized family-operated dairy farm which transformed into a small hobby farm in Nampa, Idaho, where she learned to raise all kinds of livestock and crops on a smaller scale. “Aside from the native knowledge I gained from being raised on a small farm, I learned not to be intimidated by the work involved [in running a farm],” she said.
She and her husband Russ moved into Boise and started their Dream Farm together. “In our location, we have many small- to mid-sized veggie growers and not as many flower growers,” Lunstrum explained. “I didn’t see that I could do a better job of offering veggies to my community, but flowers were a lesser-tapped market. Nobody smiles as much for spinach as they do for a Café au Lait Dahlia!”
Dream Farm Flowers sits on a one-acre parcel inside city limits. Lunstrum said, “My mom teases me that I’m truly not working a farm because my space is so small, but I use many of the same practices other bigger organic flower growers use. And I pump out a lot of flowers.”
The farm came to Sarah and Russ by way of an offer from the previous owner, who had transformed it about 15 years into a small organic vegetable farm. The previous owner is an architect, “so not only does the place function smartly, it is gorgeously laid out,” Lunstrum said. This past year the architect and her business partner designed a flower shop on the property which added to the form and function of the space.
On their website, Dream Farm notes they practice sustainable, environmentally-responsible farm techniques which include crop rotation, biological pest control and the use of organic fertilizers. They are also involved in the Slow Flowers Movement.
“Organic growing has always been a priority for me, both as a consumer and as a grower. I value the land, my health and the health of others,” Lunstrum stated. “I don’t want to add chemical pesticides and fertilizers to the soil, ultimately making the soil dependent on them to be productive. I attribute my plants’ excellent health and low insect pressure to organic methods.
“I first heard of the Slow Flowers Movement when I listened to Debra Prinzing’s Slow Flowers podcast,” she continued. “It’s led me to learn more about the national situation for domestic flower farms, and the mission towards prioritizing safe, seasonal flowers for the good of the environment and the local economy.”
In the Slow Flowers Movement, flowers are enjoyed in the regions where they are grown – no long-distance hauling. Being involved in the movement means customers’ purchases stimulate local economies, reduce environmental impacts, preserve farmland and build a stronger sense of community.
Lunstrum is drawn to flowers that grow at least 18 to 24 inches tall, for design purposes. “I grow mostly annuals but have added more perennials this spring with plans to move more in to the wedding market (roses, peony, woody shrubs),” she said. “For my market bouquets, I grow all the colors, and for weddings I grow whites and blush-colored flowers.”
Dream Farm Flowers offers on-site sales as well as three different bouquet options: wedding flowers, weekly bouquets and buckets of blooms. The weekly bouquets are part a subscription service for either weekly or biweekly fresh flowers for 16 weeks, from June through September, which can be delivered or picked up at the farm. The buckets offer bulk stems for those who wish to create their own arrangements. They offer workshops as well.
Community engagement is important to Lunstrum. “My goal … was first to offer a little slice of farm experience in an urban setting. Since we just completed our flower shop in the spring, I’ve been mentally turning over all of the ideas I have in store,” she said. “For starters, I will be offering flower arranging and wreath making classes during the holiday season, and a Mother’s Day flower arranging class next May.” She added she’s interested in hosting farm-to-table dinners, bridal parties, client appreciation gatherings and more, and she already participates in the Boise Farmers Market.
Dream Farm donates to the community as well through floral donations – specifically to the Interfaith Sanctuary and the local Ronald McDonald House. “I feel that so many people have been positively supported by these two organizations, and I totally admire what they stand for and accomplish for the communities they serve. In my mind, these are the folks who need joy and beauty at a critical time in their lives,” Lunstrum said. “With the strong link between environment and mental health, it makes me happy to think that my flowers might help someone’s emotional outlook be more positive than it would be otherwise.”
Going forward, Lunstrum hopes to keep growing both her flowers and her business by keeping her options open. She knows where she wants to be five years from now but she’s open to new ideas. She said she would like to become involved more with the local grower organizations, such as by participating on the board of the farmers market or forming an urban flower growers’ collective, and she’d like to be more involved with the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, of which she is already a member.
“By growing a quality product, providing excellent customer service and interesting experiences, I feel I’m on the right track to be a go-to flower farm in Boise,” Lunstrum said.