Andrea Bachynsky, founder of Honeysuckle Way Flower Farm & Design, knows the value of hard labor and the joy her blooms create
“ I always thought you had to grow up on a farm to be a farmer,” says Andrea Bachynsky.
Growing up in New Jersey, Bachynsky, 29, dreamed of being a painter or a ballerina— fantasies that felt more accessible to her than becoming a farmer. “In the back of my mind, I was always interested in farming and gardening, but I never spent time on farms. I had this romantic idea of what living o the land would be like. I wanted that simple life, but I didn’t know how to get it.”
Immediately after graduating from Rutgers University, Bachynsky began the search for “outdoorsy jobs.” She ended up landing a position as a trail crew leader with the Maine Conservation Corps, and she spent the next three years working on the Appalachian Trail, hauling rocks and digging roots.
“It gets really exhausting living in the woods all the time,” she says, laughing. “Somewhere along the way, I heard about MOFGA’s (the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association) farming apprentices program and decided to give that a try.” Soon, Bachynsky was working on Broadturn Farm in Scarborough, spending her days weeding and planting and her nights sleeping in an on-site cabin. It wasn’t quite as rustic as working on a trail, but she found the work even more rewarding.
“From the beginning, it was exciting and a little overwhelming,” she remembers. “Broadturn Farm always has so much going on—they grow vegetables and flowers and raise some livestock. For someone who had never farmed before, there was so much to learn and to do.”
Although she enjoyed the various aspects of her work, Bachynsky found herself particularly drawn to the fields of flowers. She loved harvesting the blooms and playing with the brilliant colors, arranging bouquets of red dahlias and pink zinnias for sale at the local farmers market. “I remember the first time I brought a bucket of flowers that I grew on my own and harvested to the market,” she says. “I started crying. I was so proud.”
These days, Bachynsky has her own fields to tend. She owns a flower-farming business in White Field called Honeysuckle Way (named for the street she grew up on in New Jersey). As a young female farmer who moved here from away, she has a unique per- spective on farming in Maine. In some ways, she has the romantic and simple life she always dreamed of—though there have been plenty of surprises along the way.
“Before I started farming, I thought everyone would be these old-timers,” she says, laughing a little now at her misconceptions. “There are so many young families farming. And this might be rare to Maine, but I think there’s some really amazing networking going on.
People are always willing to meet up and share resources.”
“People are able to be so much better connected to each other,” she says. “I think that’s really encouraging.”
Even from the beginning, Bachynsky knew she was signing up for a life of long hours and little pay. She knew she would get ex- hausted, feel frustrated and face challenges. When asked whether she questions her decision to become a flower farmer, she answers quickly, “Every day! This year has been challenging, though I probably say that every year. But there’s been so little rainfall, and the growing season in Maine goes by so fast. It gets really stressful and exhausting.” And yet, she continues to get up early every morning to grow flowers. She makes the drive weekly to Yarmouth, and again to Camden, and again to Belgrade Lakes, to visit each farmers market and sell bouquets. In the off season, she takes on extra work at Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Waterville (previously she worked as a snowboarding instructor at Sugarloaf during the winter). Each summer, she gets burned out from the long hours and financial sacrifices. And each spring, she starts the cycle again.
Why does she do it? Well, there’s the flowers. The deep purple scabiosas and the bright blue nigellas. “When I pick a beautiful bouquet and bring it to market, sometimes I see people stop in their tracks. They smell them. They take pictures,” she says.
“Then there’s the fact that I put in so much time and commitment, that I started them from seed way back in February.”
And then, of course, there’s that good-tired feeling that comes from working in the soil and handling the earth.
“Each night, I get to wash all the dirt o my body and know that I did something good that day.”
Katy Kelleher is a writer and editor who lives in a small house in Portland with two dogs and one husband