Small flower farm finds unexpected opportunities amid coronavirus economic downturn

Posted at 1:41 PM, Apr 07, 2020

PIKESVILLE, Md. – It’s been a rollercoaster start to the spring season for farmer Laura Beth Resnick.

“We were like, ‘Whew! Okay! We can keep going and keep our employees safe,’” she said.

Five acres make up Butterbee Farm: an explosion of colorful flowers within greenhouses, still allowed to operate in Maryland – for now.

“We didn't know whether we'd even be allowed to have our staff come to the farm and we weren't sure whether we'd be able to grow our crops,” Resnick said. “So, that was a pretty hard time.”

It’s a tough business to be in, with the coronavirus causing the cancellations of everything from weddings to corporate events to proms, all of which call for flowers.

“About 80 percent of the flowers that are sold in the United States come from other countries,” Resnick said. “So, we're actually doing something kind of unusual here with local flowers.”

That’s turned out to be their saving grace at the moment, because the virus interrupted the supply chain, most wholesalers that import flowers from overseas are now closed. For florists that are still open, that leaves small, local flower growers like Butterbee Farm, the only game in town.

“We sort of our operating under the idea now that anything we sell is great,” Resnick said. “We're so happy to have it. It's just going to go right back into our employees’ pocket.”

That includes employees like Elizabeth Lamb, the farm’s field manager.

“It was very up in the air whether or not she needed me to work,” she said.

However, Lamb still is and remains grateful her boss has been able to hold on to the staff here.

“She offered to hire me later in the season than our contract has already specified, give me more hours when she can actually afford to pay me, if something terrible were to happen,” Lamb said. “So, it's been really nice how flexible she's been with me and with all of the staff.”

Yet, Laura Beth Resnick knows things can change. The remaining florists could close and the little bit of business they still have could dry up.

“Right now, we're just kind of riding the wave and we'll see what happens,” she said.

They’re riding a wave that is not even close to cresting yet.