South Shore Breaker
‘I attempt to touch all the senses’
South Shore woman finds her sweet spot beside the ocean
Melanie Macfarlane likes to get an early start to her workday.
That’s because when she steps out her door into her garden workspace just before dawn, she is embraced by the smell of salt air as the light shoos away the fog from the glassy surface of Marriott’s Cove. Colour is omnipresent. Vibrant greens, pinks, reds and yellows coalesce with just as many muted tones. Two resident Monarch butterflies do their flutter dance around the milkweed as bees gently interrupt the morning hush, busily darting in and out of the blue lavender lining the walkway.
“It’s my sweet spot. My little happy place on Earth is right here at home,” Macfarlane said, describing Sweet Spot Oceanside Farm in Chester Basin, established seven years ago after she left the stress and pressure of competition in the world of corporate sales when her daughter was two years old.
“I had had enough of travelling and being away from her and working many, many hours a week,” Macfarlane said. “There was no happiness on that treadmill.”
Without previous experience in farming, Macfarlane put the legacy of her family’s love of gardening to use, creating several large garden plots, including 700 square meters of mixed vegetables and 700 square meters of flowers.
“I love where we live. I love our land. I like the connection with the people. I like the trust people have in me. I like the lifestyle it provides.
I don’t have to leave to go to work. I can roll out of bed at 4 a.m. and start working right away,” Macfarlane said.
GROWING A BUSINESS
“My volumes have increased each year. I haven’t gotten any bigger. I just got more productive,” said Macfarlane. “I do a lot of succession planting which means some rows are planted three or four times each season.”
Macfarlane starts each year with thousands of transplants in a small greenhouse before planting in the garden plots, including herbs and mixed
vegetables. Eventually, she began focusing on vegetables that didn’t need constant attention so she could focus on growing flowers.
Macfarlane markets her wares through an email distribution list of available products. She has cultivated a following of loyal customers who drop by her home garage retail space from as far away as Halifax. They leave cash or pay by Etransfer.
“My flower business started small but has grown to account for about three quarters of my business. I love vegetables. I really like producing and feeding people. But I really, really, really enjoy flowers,” Macfarlane said.
A TOUCHY-FEELY BUSINESS
Macfarlane also sells her products at the local farmers’ market every Friday.
“People come and hang out by my market stand just for conversation and tell me how their transplants are doing and their garden is doing. I get pictures every day of what people are doing and how they use my products …,” Macfarlane said.
“So, it’s very touchy feely. It’s very emotional. I have had people come up to my market stand before and a flower reminded them of a relative or a friend who had passed on. We have had tears at the market stand. It’s not just a sale to me.”
Macfarlane’s concern for her community extends to donating flowers weekly for special celebrations and funerals.
“Oftentimes I will take flowers to the person who is affected by that event. Flowers … everyone appreciates them. They change the feel of the room. If you are happy, they make you feel even happier and if you are sad, hopefully they can bring a little bit of comfort.”
THE FLOWER LADY
Janet Creaser of Chester
Basin said her next-door neighbour is becoming known in the community as the Flower Lady.
“She is getting really well known for her flower arrangements. She has done several weddings this summer already,” Creaser said of Macfarlane.
Creaser recommended Macfarlane to provide flowers for a relative’s wedding recently.
“They were over the moon with the flowers,” Creaser said.
“I don’t grow boring flowers. I have a lot of different colours and textures,” Macfarlane said.
“I attempt to touch all the senses.”
That strategy works for Laetitia Gonthier, owner of Sensea Nordic Spa in Chester. She’s decorating her spa with flowers from Macfarlane’s garden from May to September for the second season. Gonthier said she is impressed with the arrangements and Macfarlane’s emphasis on customer service.
“Each time it is a surprise,” Gonthier said. “We never know what she will bring because she always has new flowers growing. It looks like fireworks. For me it is a piece of art. To me she is an artist.”
Just as the dawn signals the beginning of Macfarlane’s workday at Sweet Spot Oceanside Farm, the setting sun often signals it’s time to call it a day.
“I feel exhausted, but good when I have had a good day’s work. There is no problem sleeping at night. It’s a really good feeling to know you have put in a good day’s work. That you have made someone happy, content or have done something nice for someone. That really means a lot to me.”
Sweet Spot Oceanside Farm is located at 222 Marriott’s Cove Rd. in Chester Basin. More information is available on Facebook or by email at email@example.com.