Who doesn’t love flowers?
Drew Echols said this thought has crossed his mind as he has watched people of all ages, including “macho men,” walk through Jaemor Farms’ acres of flower fields, happily gathering bouquets.
“Some of my friends in the industry give me a hard time about growing flowers and being able to sell them,” Echols, who co-owns Jaemor, said. “I’m a farmer at heart, anything I can do that helps enhance what we’re already doing and growing is just a win for us.”
The Alto farm first dipped its toes into the colorful side of the agritourism industry in June 2019, when it invited the public to pick sunflowers in 2.5 acres of field.
Carli Jones, Jaemor’s agritourism and marketing coordinator, said the family business keeps to the motto of always testing a new idea at least once. When the inspiration to plant and sell flowers popped up, she said they seized the opportunity.
“You don’t know if it’s going to flop until you try it,” Jones said.
To Jaemor’s good fortune, the risk paid off.
Since its sunflower beginnings two years ago, the farm has now expanded to planting 8.5 acres’ worth of seven different flower varieties including zinnias, marigolds, snapdragons and tulips. During the first weekend of June this year, Jones said around 1,000 people showed up to pick flowers and take photos among the blossoms. She said the popularity of the flower fields likely stems from two reasons: An eagerness to enjoy the outdoors and the influence of social media.
“We’ve got a younger crowd striving for the perfect photo on Facebook or Instagram, and flowers make the perfect background,” Jones said.
While Jaemor does promote its U-Pick Flower Daze, Echols said visitors will do most of the marketing for them via social media posts.
“That’s free advertisement,” he said. “Whenever somebody goes through the trouble to come to our place to pay us to cut flowers, and they’re taking pictures and posting and tagging us, that’s a win for everybody.”
The flower fields draw in people both locally and in the Atlanta area. Jones said the space is also handicap accessible, and people can request additional transportation assistance at the farm’s shed where tickets are sold.
Recently, Echols said one of his favorite memories in the fields involved a young girl who used a wheelchair to move around. He recounts her having “the best time ever.”
“Her outfit had flowers,” he said. “It was just special. It’s (picking flowers) something for everybody.”
With the new addition of tulips in the spring, flower picking season at Jaemor now runs from March to late October, weather permitting. Despite taking up acres of fields, Echols said the zinnias, sunflowers and other varieties don’t compete for space and sales with other products grown on the property.
“I would say that the flowers help enhance all the other crops,” he said. “You get that many more people in the doors and sell more tomatoes, squash and peaches. If anything, it helps sell other crops.”
This year, Echols said Jaemor’s peach harvest proved lighter than usual because of frost damage. He said the flowers helped make up for that loss by diversifying the farm’s offerings.
These colorful blooms also stepped up to the plate in March 2021. Usually during this time, the farm reaches a lull in sales. Echols said he took a risk with growing tulips — something he’d never done before — and ended up reaping the rewards.
“Tulips enabled us to start really early, and we plan to do that again,” he said. “Just those few days did so much for our market in the month of March. I was more proud of those days in March than I am in some packed house (at Jaemor) in October.”
Echols said he anticipates the farm’s flowers will cover 10 to 12 acres next year.
Now fully immersed in the blossoming business, Echols said farmers in Georgia and across the country have reached out to him, asking for help in starting their flower field endeavors.
If he could give one piece of advice to them, he recommends “starting small and growing into it.”
“It doesn’t cost as much as strawberries, but it's still not cheap,” Echols said. “ … It doesn’t matter how many you can grow, it matters how many you can sell.”
The next scheduled U-Pick Flower Daze will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, July 9 and Saturday, July 10, and 1-5 p.m. Sunday, July 11. Admission and picking costs $8 per person. Those who only want access to the field can pay $5 to enter. Jaemor Farms is located at 5340 Cornelia Highway in Alto.
For more information, visit jaemorfarms.com or call 770-869-3999.
This article originally published in our sister paper the Gainesville Times.