The history of Churchtown Farm

Churchtown Farm has been a flower farm for at least the last 70 years, but a changing market and the rise of online shopping has lead to Scilly's traditional flower crop being sold in a very modern way.

history-of-scilly-flowers

Andrew and Hilary Julian and family moved to Scilly. Working alongside an island farmer they quickly learnt about flower farming.  

The Julians Churchtown Farm

After negotiating the tenancy with the Duchy of Cornwall they took on Churchtown Farm, with its 27 acres, glass house, packing shed and three terraced cottages and began growing scented narcissi.

Churchtown Farm St Martins Isles of Scilly

Realising that the farm was never going to be viable unless flowers were grown all year round Hilary and Andrew look around for another scented flower crop that could be picked in the summer.  They settled on scented pinks and planted their first crop.  The idea was to use the same route to the wholesale markets as they did with the winter crop of scented narcissi.   But their plans changed when a passing holiday maker admired the pinks and asked if was possible to send a box full in the post  to their friend; and so a new marketing idea was born. 

A small advert was placed in the island shop window inviting visitors to St Martin's to call at the farm house to place orders for  gift boxes of postal flowers. 

Churchtown Farm St Martin's Isles of Scilly

At Christmas Andrew and Hilary took a gamble and invested in a Sunday Times advert inviting people to order Scented Narcissi for Christmas gifts. 

Churchtown Farm St Martins Isles of Scilly

The advert was a success proving that they have a marketable product, the business went from strength to strength.

By 1993 the farm is sending 20,000 boxes of beautiful, island grown, scented flowers a year.  The cut down poster tubes that were first used to send flowers have been replaced by custom designed boxes, narrowly avoiding a marketing campaign under the strap line - 'tubular smells'. 

Churchtown Farm St Martins Isles of Scilly
Churchtown Farm St Martins Isles of Scilly

Churchtown Farm launched its first website.  Compared with websites like this it was very basic but it revolutionised the business, enabling people to send flowers from a small island in the middle of the Atlantic to anywhere in the UK from their computer.  

Churchtown Farm 2000

The old small glasshouse and wooden shed had served as the packing shed and office simply wasn't big enough. A new building was brought in by sea and the whole operation moved across the yard to where we still work from today.

Hilary and Andrew’s son Ben and his wife Zoe moved to St Martin’s to start working at the farm.  

Churchtown Farm St Martins Isles of Scilly

They had both been to agricultural college and brought with them horticultural expertise and not long after moving in, a baby. 

Box number 500,000 is sent from the farm during the winter scented narcissi season.  

Churchtown Farm 2006
Churchtown Farm 2007

Churchtown Farm is recognised as a leader in the home shopping market winning an ECMOD award in March and then in November is awarded Farming Family of the Year at an awards ceremony at the House of Commons - not bad for a small flower farm on the Isles of Scilly!

We completed a 6-bedroom shared house built on the site of the old glasshouse at the farm. This provides much needed high quality accommodation for farm workers.

Churchtown Farm St Martins Isles of Scilly

As we hoped a happy well housed team tend to stay around for longer which is great for us and for the tiny community of St Martin's.

We start a small heard of rare breed cattle. Working with the Wildlife Trust we extensively graze to increase biodiversity.

Scilly Cow Churchtown Farm St Martins

We also send our 1 000 000th box of scented flowers.

We finally managed to have all of our summer crop of scented pinks growing in tubs of sustainable coir, from the husk of coconuts, rather than the far less environmentally friend alternative of peat grow bags.  In the November we won the Western Morning News, small business of  the year.

Churchtown Farm 2015
Royal Visit Churchtown Farm St Martins Isles Of Scilly

We were very lucky to have some VIP visitors to the farm.  They nearly didn't make it due to fog but just in time the sun came out. The royal couple walked up from the quay, had a tour of Churchtown Farm and met members of the community at the island hall.

We launched this brand new website.  It works just as well on phones and tablets as a desktop computer so you can order flowers with ease where ever you are.  

Churchtown Farm St Martins Isles of Scilly

We redesigned our packaging so we don't use single-use plastic sleeves or ribbon anymore,  this made our packaging very nearly plastic free.  

Scilly flowers plastic free packaging

And because our flowers are grown in the UK with no additional heat or light we think there aren't many other gifts with a lighter environmental footprint.

It was definitely time to update our farm video 12 years after we filmed the last one. Some things change and some things don't, you can watch both versions here.

Churchtown Farm Isles of Scilly Gift Boxes Of Postal Flowers

A challenging year in so many ways! After worrying that disruption would mean we might have to close the opposite happened. We were kept incredibly busy sending flowers and messages for people wanting to keep in touch with friends and family they couldn't see in person. Thank you for sending our flowers and for keeping us in touch with the outside world.

30 years of sending flowers by post. What started as a marketing experiment to supplement the farm's income has led to all the flowers we grow and those of other Scillionian growers being delivered to doorsteps all over the country. As online shopping has grown in popularity so have the number of flower delivery services but not that many have the provenance and longevity to match us.    

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