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When Betsy Levy moved to Washington state she knew her sole purpose was to grow and sell flowers.
Originally from Wisconsin, Levy had lived in Washington in the 1980s to finish college and then work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service as an organic inspector. She eventually moved around the states for a while, including in Texas for 15 years while working for the USDA there. It was after living in dry, barren Texas that she realized she wanted to go back to the Pacific Northwest.
“I had been wanting for decades to make a living off of growing things,” Levy said.
She was finally able to make the move in 2012 and hang onto her money until she found the right place to start her business. That place ended up being a 4.5-acre farm on Cooks Hill Road, just west of Galvin. She bought the property in 2013, started selling cut flowers the following year and found out they were a great way to make a living.
“Local flowers have become so appreciated and there’s a really strong interest in them,” Levy said. “Washington state has the perfect climate for a lot of flowers. You can grow things here that you can’t get from imported flowers, which is where most florists get their flowers.”
Some of the types she grows that thrive in Washington’s climate and make really good cut flowers are dahlias, which bloom midsummer through autumn and come in a rainbow of colors; sweet peas, a climbing plant that grows 1 to 2 meters tall and boasts clusters of flowers; ranunculus, which transform from ugly bulbs to beautiful blooms; and the anemone, a vibrant, colorful plant that is popular in weddings.
Echinacea, an herbaceous flowering plant which some believe hold immune-boosting properties, and prairie gentian, which has showy, bell-shaped flowers, are some of the Washington-native plants she has.
“People know them by different names now but some of them are native to Washington,” Levy said.
She also focuses on fragrant flowers and heirloom, old-fashioned types of flowers that are hard to find. In all, she grows and sells about 40-50 types of flowers, and that’s not getting into the separate varieties.
Levy started out selling wholesale bulk flowers to florists in Portland, Oregon and is a member of the Portland Flower Market, where private members provide flowers and plants to florists who then sell them retail to the general public.
Now she’s gradually transitioning into building her own floral designs, such as bouquets, wedding flowers and arrangements to sell to the public. It’s similar to being a painter, she said. If she wants to have all the colors needed for her painting, she’s got to grow them all herself.
She’s taken a bunch of floral design courses recently after being inspired by some of her colleagues at the Portland Flower Market and seeing their designs. One of the courses she took was on floral tattoos, a way to fasten flowers directly to a person’s skin. Levy tried it out on all of Fiddler’s Coffee’s baristas on Aug. 1 and they wore them all day at work.
“There are a lot of neat things people are doing with flowers that are more exciting than what’s been done until recently,” Levy said. “It’s a new thing and it would be great for prom, weddings and all kinds of stuff.”
Levy is currently selling flowers to Fiddler’s Coffee, she has a dropoff spot at Whitewood Cider Company in Olympia, she has a small flower stand on her farm and people also call in and order flowers.
Business has actually been pretty good for Levy during the coronavirus pandemic. In some ways it’s been worse because a lot of weddings have had to be postponed, but overall her sales have been performing well this spring and summer. People are buying local bouquets from her just to help out, she figures, as well as because they enjoy them.
“People have been amazing,” Levy said. “People have an intention to support local businesses and I’ve just been really touched and amazed by how people have been turning out and buying flowers. I’ve got wonderful neighbors.”
Woodbine Flower Farm’s stand is currently open from about 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where customers can drop in and buy bouquets. During a normal year it is open two days a week and she hopes to increase that as things get back to normal. There is no U-Cut option and no tours. If a person does visit the farmstand she recommends being there at 9 a.m.
“Sometimes the flowers are gone within an hour, sometimes it takes most of the day, depending on how much I’ve put out there,” Levy said.