Happy 30th Birthday to us
The traditional flower farm
Back in 1991 Churchtown Farm was struggling. Andrew and Hilary Julian, had taken on the tenancy of the farm in the late 1980s with the idea that they would run the farm as a traditional Scillonian flower farm. Like many farms on Scilly at that time they sold their winter crop of scented narcissi through wholesale markets such as Covent Garden but things were not going well.
Falling market prices
The market price for flowers had steadily fallen due to cheaper imports from abroad and they had been hit by some very cold winter weather that badly damaged the windbreak hedging; vital to protecting the scented narcissi from harsh Atlantic storms. In an attempt to keep their flower farming dream alive they had invested in growing a crop of scented pinks so the farm would have some income from flowers in the summer.
The lightbulb moment
It was these pinks that some visitors to the islands saw and asked if it would be possible to post some flowers home as a gift. This was literally the lightbulb moment. A suitable box was found and in the summer of 1991 the first gift box of scented pinks was posted. The idea was developed further and literally started on the kitchen table. In the farmhouse there is still a light in the cupboard next to the phone that served as mini office to take orders. For more about the history of the farm click more information.
Leap of faith
It didn't take the greatest business minds to realise that relying on passing visitors for trade was not going to be a winning strategy on a small island especially when it came to selling the scented narcissi in the winter. Andrew and Hilary took a leap of faith and invested in some national press advertising. It worked and the direct selling side of the farm took off.
Scent from the islands
To start with the flowers were sent in cut down poster tubes, these worked well as they were very robust but they did have a tendency to roll off the packing benches. At this point we weren't called Scilly Flowers but Scent from the Islands, this was a brilliant name as it covered both scented flowers and hinted at the idea of the flowers being sent from the Isles of Scilly.
A wise move
But then internet shopping came along, this worked really well for us, Hillary was fast out of the blocks and an early adopter of the new technology. She very wisely decided on the web address of scillyflowers.co.uk, dropping the word scent so we didn't get caught up trying to compete for attention with the big perfume companies. Click on more information to watch a short video about Churchtown Farm.
Start of the 2000s
The turn of the millennium saw some large changes. We moved out of a leaky old glasshouse and a garden shed into the lovely big sheds we use today. Then a few years later Andrew and Hilary's son Ben and his wife Zoe moved to St Martin's and a slow and mostly graceful handing over of the reins began.
The same but different
Both Ben and Zoe had studied at agricultural college and brought new skills and insight to the farm whilst still sticking to the core principles of sending scented Scilly grown flowers, simply but beautifully packaged to any doorstep in the UK.
Thank you all
Churchtown farm has continued to flourish and of course it is as much about the people as the flowers. You, our lovely customers many of whom rely on our service to send boxes of flowers to their friends and family at those points in life when they are just the perfect gift or pick me up. And of course our wonderful team on St Martin's who make it all happen. Some people join us for just a few months, some are boomerangers who come and go for a few seasons and some are with us for the long run. Click more information to meet the current team.
Our current focus for the farm is to grow a wider range of flowers so eventually we will be able to supply you with Scilly grown flowers 52 weeks of the year without the gaps we have in the spring and autumn. We have always tried to consider the impact the farm has on the environment but like a lot of other people we are looking at all areas of our business and seeing where we can do things better.
Nobody works in a cupboard
30 years on quite a few things have changed, we now have six phone lines in a lovely purpose built office, the lights are powered by solar panels and nobody works in a cupboard! But some things don't change, we still send beautiful gift boxes of Scilly grown scented flowers by 1st class post to doorsteps all over the UK.