John Reynolds went from working an 8 to 5, 40 hours a week job as a pharmaceutical rep to waking up with the sun, spending hours bent over digging in dirt and taking in the beauty of his makings around him.
John Reynolds, 47, and his wife Kate Reynolds, 32, have decided to take the full plunge of trying to make a living off of being farmers. Not just any kind of farmers, but flower farmers.
In December, John Reynolds was laid off from Pfizer, where he was working as a pharmaceutical sales rep, he said. That incident almost became a kind of opportunity, thus opening Blue Horse Family Farm in Happy Valley.
“When he lost his job we felt that that was kind of a providential door opening for us. We felt like it was now or never and we decided to take the risk,” Kate Reynolds said.
They had already been gardening part-time and had a huge passion for making it something more, they both agreed. Both had experiences with gardening that lead them to want it as a lifestyle.
“I kind of feel like it has been in my blood,” he said with a smile. “I remember as a little kid I would go to my grandpas and he had a large half acre garden. I used to love to go out there with him. I was amazed seeing things right there that we could eat. I always loved the idea of farming.”
His wife agreed, adding her first experience; “My sister had just died and it (gardening) was very therapeutic for me. It was part of working through my grief and feeling process. Gardening and farming allows you to experience the fruit of your labor in a very tangible way. You can see it, you can feel it, touch it and taste it.”
Although the two had decided they were going to pursue the farming idea, they were at a loss of what they really wanted to farm, they said. At first they thought blueberries, but that all changed last Christmas morning.
“My Christmas gift from John was every single type of sunflower, seed packets, from two different companies,” she said with a smile. “It was more flowers than I could just tuck into places in the yard. We started thinking ‘where will we put all these?’ and we started joking saying ‘well, we could be flower farmers.’”
That joke turned into a reality when full production and farming started this spring.
“Kate did research and found that cut flowers are one of the most profitable crops per acre. The more research we did the more we thought ‘hey we could try this,’” he said.
The family now has around 10 different types of flowers, with 50 different varieties, including sunflowers, marigolds, cosmos and so on. However, even though they are mainly focusing on flowers the family also farms vegetables, fruits and raises different animals throughout the seasons.
“One of my favorite things is the quiet of the morning being out there amongst the flowers while the bees are buzzing around. I’ve counted at least five different types of wasps that come and do different things either they’re praying on little bugs or whatever. The interaction among nature out there is pretty neat,” John Reynolds said humbly.
John and Kate Reynolds are not at it alone, they have some handy helpers, their two young sons; William, 2 and Matthew, 5. Also every other week they have John Reynolds’ older sons; Owen, 8, Anthony, 13 and Samuel, 17.
“It’s hard to keep them from putting it into their mouth instead of the bowl,” John Reynolds said with a laugh. “They have an appreciation for fresh food and local food. Our kids have a very good understanding of where food comes from. I don’t think a lot of kids have a good understanding of that.”
In fact, spending more time with his children was a driving force for John Reynolds to really pursue working from home, he said.
“I thought if anytime they can be out there working, right alongside me and learning how to grow their own food or growing flowers, it’s such a great life lesson for them but also a great opportunity for me to interact with them and teach them more,” he said.
Although the Blue Horse Family Farm is not “certified organic” they are following all organic practices, they said. They don’t use any pesticides, but instead let nature take its course.
“We really don’t have to use chemicals. If you slow down and observe what is going on out there you will might see an aphid but then two leafs over you find ladybugs that are on their way to take care of it. There is a balance in nature. The natural predators take care of the problems if you let them,” Kate Reynolds said.
The Reynolds family is still working out the kinks of how they will fully support their family on selling flowers, they said. Currently they sell at the Red Bluff Farmers Market and have been contracted out to supply flowers to some local businesses like Moonstone Bistro in Redding.
They are looking towards many ideas, such as providing flower services, supplying grocery stores or even starting a community support agriculture group that supply’s flowers to customers on a monthly subscription, they said. Right now their ideas are growing, but will take time to fully bloom.
“I think everybody has something they were meant to do,” John Reynolds said. “I think this is what I was meant to do. Whether we can make a living at it, it has yet to be seen. I’d rather have tried and failed than not tried at all.”