Sunflower season in Toowoomba calls for bright table settings, weekly trips to the flower market and pulling over mid road trip for a quick photograph by the edge of a field.
Young newlyweds Ben and Zoe Choice decided to plant their seed in the industry when they launched Choice Urban Farms, a small-scale cut flower farm operating out of Highfields, near Toowoomba. “At the moment, we farm on about 400 square metres of land which Ben’s parents generously offered to us,” said Zoe. The couple is looking to buy bigger property this year to allow the business to expand and include more flower varieties.
With Ben’s rich background in agriculture and entrepreneurship and Zoe’s experience with wedding and event planning, it seems that starting a cut flower farm would be a logical next step for the hardworking couple. “It was actually a spur of the moment decision,” said Zoe, laughing. “Being so ag and business oriented, Ben has always wanted to do his own thing and one day we just started talking about the idea of a cut flower farm.” When deciding what they wanted to grow first, the young business owners went with the hearty sunflower plant. “We wanted something that was easy to grow and tolerant of the weather conditions around here,” said Zoe.
While Ben and Zoe were excited about their new venture, success has not come easily; much hard work was needed to see their idea flourish. “We had to do a lot of research on what the best growing conditions were and how to get everything set up,” said Zoe. With a small patch of land as a starting point, there was some ground work to be done — literally. “We had to tear up the soil, get compost and mulching done, lay out drip lines and find out where to purchase seed,” said Zoe.
Sunflowers require significant care and attention and are usually bloomed from early November to around the time of Mother’s Day in May. “A big struggle is lack of rain, but we’ve been very lucky so far — every time the tank has looked low it has rained and topped up enough to get us through,” said Zoe.
Ben and Zoe’s hard work and determination is paying off. They have enjoyed a successful first year of business and are creating a name for themselves, as well as a frenzy for their sunflowers in the local community. “We sell at the My Local Feast Markets in Toowoomba at the Cobb+Co Museum,” said Zoe. “We’ve also sold at the Milton Markets in Brisbane and had a stint at the Carseldine Markets.”
Choice Urban Farms also occasionally sells flowers to Toowoomba Flower Markets and delivers bunches to small businesses in town like Ground Up Espresso. “We’ve gotten to know the community really well through the markets — I’m surprised how well they have responded and how quickly the word got out; it’s crazy!”
With more markets lined up and anticipated plans to expand and grow more flower varieties, business is set to continue blooming for the young entrepreneurs behind community favourite, Choice Urban Farms.
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