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.
Andrew and Hilary Julian and family moved to Scilly. Working alongside an island farmer they quickly learnt about flower farming.
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.
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 the planted their first crop. The idea was to use the same route to the whole sales 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.
At Christmas Andrew and Hilary took a gamble and invested in a Sunday Times advert inviting people to order Scented Narcissi for Christmas gifts.
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 The cut down poster tubes that were first used to send flowers have been replaced by custom designed boxes, narrowly avoiding a marketing campaign under the strap line - 'tubular smells'.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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
We redesigned our packaging so we don't use single-use plastic sleeves or ribbon anymore, this made our packaging very nearly plastic free.
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.
Shhh! If we don't talk about it maybe it didn't happen.