Gather Fresh-Cut Flowers + Create Your Own Bouquet at PepperHarrow
As a Greater Des Moines (DSM) native I am always looking for fun, exciting and new things to do. As I recently took over my new role as the Downtown Farmers’ Market Manager, I have gotten the opportunity to make some incredible relationships with the vendors we host every weekend. My team and I had the opportunity to take a private tour of PepperHarrow Farm and create our own floral bouquets. I would love to share this experience with you.
For any frequent Marketgoer, you are probably already familiar with PepperHarrow. They are at The Market every week and always have a variety of gorgeous arrangements. Adam and Jennifer O’Neal host some events on their farm that allow people the chance to break away and experience a floral farm. (A beautiful experience if I say so myself!)
PepperHarrow is located in Winterset, Iowa, a 35-minute drive or so from Des Moines. I took a group of seven from my office and we were off. We knew we were close when we pulled onto the gravel road leading into the private drive where we saw endless acres of flower fields. We learned later that PepperHarrow is 20 acres! When we got out of the car, we were greeted by my new best friends, Chewy and Missy.
Behind the Scenes at PepperHarrow
Jennifer and Adam gave us some great background on the history of their farm and what got them into farming in the first place. The name PepperHarrow especially had a good story:
“We had been dreaming of having a farm for about 10 years, keeping a dream journal. Adam was working in Alaska in the oilfields as a mechanic and would travel up there for two-week periods at a time. He had a lot of time on his hands, so he spent quite a bit of time reading. He picked up a book while there and was reading it when he saw a reference to Peper Harow, a small rural village in England. When he saw the name in the book he was reading, he immediately thought of our first little dream home we bought together in Nashville, because it was located on Harrow Drive. It was the home where we first started gardening together and where we nurtured our passion for growing flowers. It was in this same home garden that Adam also developed a love for growing hot peppers. When he saw the name, it clicked almost immediately that this was the name of our farm. He called me over the phone and excitedly told me that he came up with our farm name: PepperHarrow. It was an immediate 'click' with me when he said it and I was in total agreement. Yes, this was our farm name.”
Our group could tell there was a large amount of love put into this farm as we listened to their story and continued with the tour.
After learning all the amazing things the farm has been doing the past 11 years, our excellent leaders Missy and Chewy led us to the lavender fields. Jennifer and Adam distill lavender and even offer lavender distilling classes! Seeing the number of plants in person was wild!
We also learned about their special Dahlia’s. Jennifer explained to us what they do with this special breed, and they even dig them up, wash them and store them in the winter! It’s safe to say these flowers are very loved.
“Dahlias are a very beautiful flower that come in many different shapes, sizes and colors. They bloom starting mid-July with their heaviest bloom times happening in September until the blooms end at first frost, which is usually around mid-October. Although they are technically an annual flower for Iowa if left in the ground, if dug up out of the ground and stored throughout winter, they can be treated as a perennial. Dahlias produce tubers, which is a type of bulb if you will. The dahlia plants produce a clump of tubers, which we split up in winter to sell all over the domestic US from our website.”
After we made our full loop of the property and returned to the barn, we were let loose. We were like dogs without horses. We were given a bucket and a pair of snips and told to be free. You couldn’t even see the end of the flowers. The possibilities were truly endless. So, we did what any rational human would do, and we just started cutting. Thankfully Jenn had shared some tips with us about the best kind of flower to cut, where to cut and how to cut it. Otherwise, we would have been a complete mess.
We slowly but surely made our way around the vast lands and filled our buckets. Taking lots (and lots) of photos along the way. (It doesn’t count if it’s not on Instagram, right?)
The buckets became packed full, and we couldn’t even see each other. We were yelling at each other across the fields about the beautiful flowers we found and how full our bucket was, yet we kept cutting and kept walking. After we were very sweaty, our buckets were very full and we were very thirsty; we made our way back to the barn.
Here, a cute vase awaited us along with some instructions on the best way to organize our flowers and what would make them last longest. Once again, we were set free. What a freeing, creative escape. To make something so full of happiness and joy and love. We all spent about 30 minutes putting together our bouquets and we had so much fun. Each bouquet had a unique vibe, and each one turned out beautifully. I have never been so proud of something before, and we all came back to the office bragging about our floral arrangements.
I must mention that Chewy and Missy were very helpful during the arrangement process. They were emotionally supportive and really let us know we were doing a good job.
My team was talking about this all night and the next day. What a fun activity for any occasion. Supporting an amazing local business and farm is always great, and when it’s an interactive experience it’s hard to match. I asked Jenn what one thing she wished more people knew about Flower Farming and she told me this:
“The wonderful benefits of supporting local flowers. I'm not sure folks think about this enough, but it's growing in awareness, slowly, but surely. Like the local food movement, local flowers have so many advantages: the economic impact to spending money locally, helping rural communities, reducing carbon footprint, to getting the best, most fresh product available to put in a vase in your home. There are so many reasons to support local flowers!”
PepperHarrow is one of our incredible floral vendors that is at The Downtown Farmers’ Market every week on Saturdays from 7 a.m. - Noon! Find more information about the market here here and reach out if you have any questions about The Market.
Learn more about Pepperharrow’s offerings and more on their website.
Thank you, Adam and Jennifer, for welcoming us to your farm and allowing us a peek into all the special things you do every day! It was truly an experience to remember.
From May to October, experience local artists, live music and entertainment at the Downtown Farmers’ Market featuring nearly 300 family farmers, bakers, artists and crafters from around the state. It’s easy to visit with plentiful and affordable street and ramp parking options.
Megan Renkel is the Downtown Farmers' Market Manager at the Greater Des Moines Partnership.