Words and photos by Olivia Bauso
Jill Bower, owner of Erie Way Flowers, is no stranger to hard work.
As a Christmas tree farmer of thirty years, Jill has had quite a bit of experience growing plant life, but shifted her focus to flowers about five years ago. After designing floral arrangements for years in small quantities for family and friends, Jill found she was drawn to the process. She took a class from a local florist in Brockport which sparked her interest in doing more and more of this work. She says, “After doing some more research I found that there was really this flower farming movement going on in the country. People are trying to push locally grown, locally purchased flowers and I realized… we could do that right here!”
With hours and hours of research under her belt, Jill eventually made the leap to go all-in on a farm and design studio. She says, “I started with a small field, just growing your basics and getting my feet wet. We had no drip irrigation— just used a well on the property and really relied on nature to help out.” The following year, Jill “bumped things up a bit” and started really working to make the farm more productive. Last year, she received a grant from the USDA (after many prior attempts!) to build an unheated greenhouse, which has helped her output tremendously during this season.
Jill serves as the brains and full-time hands behind the studio, but is grateful for all her helpers. She says, “I have my little elves that come and help, especially since we’ve grown tremendously. I could not have done everything I’ve accomplished this year without them.”
In addition to her helping hands, Jill has been supported by local educators, the Association for Specialty Cut Flowers, fellow flower farmers and local gardeners in this venture. She explains, “This community is fantastic and you can learn so much. I think it’s really important to educate yourself and to continue to educate yourself, and not even just in the farming aspect, but in the design aspect too.” Jill is continually expanding her knowledge and pushing the boundaries of her education.
On the farm you can find plants like basils, roses, dahlias, sweet pea, carnations, lilies, grasses, trellising flowers and much, much more. Erie Way Flowers offers everything from specialty bouquets and vases to full service weddings and anything in between. She also sells stems wholesale or to customers for DIY designs. Moving forward, Jill hopes to expand her design services and continue growing relationships with florists and grocers in surrounding cities.
Erie Way Flowers is located on the corner of Ogden Rd and Million Dollar Highway in Holley, NY, where you can find a self-serve stand for last-minute bouquets. Jill’s bundles can also be found in Hart’s Local Grocers in Rochester's East End.
See where all of the flower magic happens! Tour the Erie Way farm yourself with Rochester Brainery on Monday, August 20th. After the tour, you will be able to pick flowers and put together a beautiful bouquet. You’ll even be supplied with a vase for you to bring it home in!