Every person’s journey to farming is unique, but perhaps none more so than that of Stephenie Chow, owner of Poppies & Petals Farm in Santa Rosa. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she was born in Germany, moved to Canada when she was 10, attended school in Washington State and college in California, worked as a civil servant in Paris and in corporate banking in Hong Kong, before moving to San Francisco to work for a major startup, until the tech bubble burst and she pivoted to her own home accessory business and art gallery. After meeting her husband, David, she finally settled down in Sonoma County. Fluent in five languages (Cantonese, Mandarin, German, French, and English), Stephenie also has an abiding love for motorcycles. Her adventurous and inquisitive spirit translates into her work at her U-cut flower farm, where she is on a mission to create a place where memories are made.
How did you get interested in farming?
I started the farm in 2021. The farm became a reality because of a health challenge, my husband’s TBI (traumatic brain injury) from a car accident in 2011. We moved up here to have more space, to the property he bought in 2001. After we moved to West County, I was searching for a new calling. I tried different ideas but nothing felt right. When Covid happened, I was out in the garden 6 to 8 hours a day. Having grown vegetables for many years, it was an easy and fulfilling hobby. The joy of being able to share the produce with family, friends and the community was its greatest reward. When I started adding flowers to my garden, the “A-ha!” moment struck when a friend came over to help me. She was going through a rough time but went home with a smile on her face after she also picked a bouquet of dahlias. I realized that flowers had the power to heal. Nourishment for the heart.
What do you grow?
We grow hundreds of specialty cut flowers. I try to stay on top of flower trends and grow hard-to-find seeds. It’s a bit like fashion—every year is different and it all depends on what you think will be the next biggest thing!
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I love learning about the people that visit our little flower farm. Everyone has a unique story, and their stories inspire me. It’s like reading a chapter about someone’s life that is standing in front of me and it all happens because of flowers. The flowers are truly special as they evoke emotions, memories, and stories of a life lived.
Occasionally, someone thanks me for creating this place. That’s when I know that it’s bigger than me, that there’s maybe a greater purpose than what I could have imagined. I wanted to create a place where people could escape to, for people who don’t have their own garden or space to grow flowers, perhaps someone that doesn’t have the time or inclination to grow the variety of flowers that we have. I wanted to create the feeling of awe and inspiration from the vastness of different flowers. I wanted bursts of color. Just like I am learning about each flower variety, I’d like to share that knowledge with others. Not in a botanical garden way but more a hands-on, U-cut, and enjoy at the farm with friends/family or later when you bring the bouquet home that it reminds you of the time you spent admiring them and thinking back to the colors, the smells, the birds chirping, the butterflies floating, and the pollinators buzzing around. I pipe in my favorite composers and the musicians that play their work and the classical music takes you to that other level while you’re at the farm.
What do you value about being a member of Farm Trails?
Farm Trails is a great community. Carmen Snyder and Ellen Cavalli are fabulous ambassadors of this nonprofit organization. We are grateful to be a part of this organization.
What are your hopes for the future of your business?
I’m hoping that we can continue to grow this amazing space where beauty blooms and where people want to come and spend time creating memories. Because memories are truly priceless.
What one piece would you give to a new flower farmer?
Flower farming is not easy. Mother Nature is the hardest CEO I’ve ever had to report to. It is not for the faint of heart and this is probably the biggest challenge I’ve ever had to face in my life.