One of our favorite things about our PowerSheets Goal Planners is how versatile they are! Whether you're a stay-at-home momma, a student, or an entrepreneur, the PowerSheets are for anyone who needs a grace-filled system that works.
That's why we're thrilled to introduce you to someone who has become a dear friend of the Cultivate team this year! Kara Brewer, Owner of the Barn at Chapel Hill, has welcomed us into her space with open arms and warm hospitality. When filling out our team's 2018 PowerSheets, we realized two of our favorite memories took place at the Barn: Lara's Cultivate Book Launch Party and the PowerSheets Photo Shoot! One of the reasons those two events shot to the top of our list was because of the beautiful and welcoming space Kara and her team have created.
I'm thrilled to have her share a bit more about how she got to where she is now, what her day-to-day looks like, and some of her goals for 2018! -Jess
Did you always want to own an event venue/farm?
Starting a small family farm has been a dream of mine for quite some time–my husband and I wanted to start a business that our kids (ages 8 and 10) could really be involved in. We wanted to get them away from computers, TVs, games, and have them spend most of their time outside, getting dirty, working hard, and learning about agriculture and basic business principals such as how to package, market and sell our products (we specialize in flowers, chestnuts, and honey). They do a little bit of everything: planting seeds and bulbs, weeding and harvesting, creating market bouquets, mowing the grass, roasting chestnuts and checking on our bees. It’s always all hands on deck, all the time!
What types of events do you host at the barn?
We host on-farm weddings, floral workshops, and children's educational programs, and I absolutely love interacting with all of our visitors. Nothing makes me happier than helping a child dig in the dirt to learn about the importance of healthy soil, or watching the joy of a bride on her wedding day, carrying a beautiful bouquet of flowers that we grew specifically for her.
Tell us about your team:
My team is incredible, and I don't know what I would do without them! Jenn is our Creative Director and Florist, and her floral designs are simply stunning. She's been a floral designer for over 10 years, and she's just so incredibly talented. Gretchen is our Director of Agritourism and Educational Activities. She's a former elementary school teacher, and she's creating outstanding farm programs for kids from preschool through fourth grade–fun, innovative farm-based activities that you won't find anywhere else. Kelli is our Director of Operations (and my sister!), and she truly does it all. From spearheading our preschool story times with Gretchen, to taking care of our pumpkin patch, to helping me package our honey with her beautiful hand-lettered labels, Kelli keeps everything running smoothly. These three women inspire me daily with their talent and creativity, and I'm blessed to have the opportunity to work with them each day.
But I honestly couldn't do any of this without my husband, Chris. He operates all the heavy machinery, digs the trenches, hammers in the T-posts, spreads the compost, builds the deer fencing (and much, much more). Without a doubt, he's the glue the holds our little farm (and family!) together!
Photo of Jenn, Gretchen, Kelli, and Kara by Danell Beede Photography
What was the most challenging lesson you learned as you started? How do you deal with setbacks?
When I first started out, I quickly learned that everything takes time and that it's ok to start small and grow things little by little. You don't have to farm 50 acres of crops to be successful–bigger is not always better. Don't let yourself become overwhelmed. Just get out there and do your best. I started our apiary with two hives in the spring of 2016, and I planted my first few flower beds soon after. It wasn't much, but it got me started. There's always going to be setbacks, but you just have to keep moving forward. Believe in yourself!
What has been your proudest moment as a business owner?
My proudest moment was when I started selling that first crop of flowers in 2016. The well hadn't been drilled yet, so for months, Chris and I would fill up a water tank and bring it over to the farm on the back of his truck, and we would water everything by hand. I was determined that those flowers would thrive, and I was so proud when they actually did!
How do you start organized?
I know this is completely old-school, but in order to stay organized, I write things down in planners and notebooks. I'm always making notes and drawing diagrams, which helps keep me focused and on-track (which is why I love PowerSheets!).
I'm a very visual person, so back in 2015, I had an artist sketch out my vision for the barn, and about a year later I had someone else do a rendering of the farm layout. The illustrations beautifully captured what I was trying to achieve, and I put them on a bulletin board in my house as a daily reminder of my dreams and goals. Fast forward to this year, 2017. As I was going through actual photos of weddings that had taken place in our barn, I realized that my visions, those sketches, had become a reality!
Photo by Kasey Poly Photography
What are big goals you have for 2018?
This is the time of the year when I start planning what we are going to grow for next season, and we have big plans for 2018! We just planted a large field of peonies, and we're getting ready to plant our tulips, ranunculus and anemones. I would really like to expand our u-pick offerings to include a larger selection of flowers, as well as blueberries and pumpkins. I'd also like to put up a high tunnel in 2018 so we can extend our growing season. And we are planning on having monthly flower workshops starting in April of next year.
What does a typical day look like for you as a business owner?
Each of my days are completely different, which is why I love what I do! Today we're digging up our dahlia tubers and storing them in crates, and in the spring we'll divide them and replant. In a few days, we'll clean up the barn, set up tables and chairs, and create flower arrangements for a holiday event. Being able to spread joy and happiness through our flowers and our on-farm events is the best part of my day!
If you could go back and tell yourself starting out anything, what would it be?
I didn't realize that by stepping outside the box of what is seen as traditional farming---I grow flowers instead of vegetables, my farm is small and new, I don't come from a farming background, I open the farm up to visitors and special events, and I'm a woman in what is primarily viewed as a man's profession--that I would I face a barrage of hurtful criticism and backlash. My farm has been vandalized, I've been trolled on social media, and a county official told me that as a mom, I wouldn't have time to farm because I would be too busy taking my kids to and from soccer practice.
If I could, I would go back and warn myself to be better prepared for this, and to just keep moving forward, that it will all work out in the end. And, that yes, I can successfully run a farm, and still be able to take my kids to soccer practice! :)
Are you a business owner looking to set goals for your company? Join our Business Owners Cultivating What Matters Facebook group, and download our PowerSheets Business Owners Guide to use alongside your PowerSheets Goal Planner.