The power of a passion

The power of a loyal customer base has paid dividends for PlantPassion, this year celebrating its 10th anniversary.

PlantPassion Dahlias on the field

The Surrey Hills flower farm, where owner Claire Brown grows her beautiful plants, was badly hit by this year’s long winter, contributing to a 50% year-on-year drop in sales. Despite this, a blow which has seen far bigger businesses go under, she is pulling through thanks to her customer base – loyal because of her sustainable ethos, choosing her flowers because they are locally grown and pesticide free, with a tiny carbon footprint.

Join the Ecowise news team as we catch up with Claire to find out more about the secret of her success, her passion and resilience…

Q: In what way have you seen the impact of climate change on your flower farm over your ten years in business?

“Different weather patterns are part and parcel of the UK, but over the last six years it’s been noticeable that weather events are more severe with greater swings. Last year we had a hugely hot and dry drought summer, followed by very wet conditions in Autumn.  Though milder than usual with the first frost holding off until 8th December there then followed a series of very cold days with the temperature falling below zero on eight days . As a result we lost our entire crop of dahlias.”

Q: What is the knock-on effect for your business?

“For us extreme weather events have a drastic impact: a wind storm or a drought can mean hundreds or thousands less stems available to sell as they are destroyed or the quality is affected. Or, as happened this winter, our Dahlia tubers were all frozen and destroyed because of the extreme cold at a different time of year to normal.”

Q: Are you able to describe your customer base and what has made PlantPassion special to them, despite all your challenges?

“My customers first came to me because they liked the quality and freshness of my flowers, and my style. But more and more, they find me because of my ethos, and they choose our flowers because they are locally grown and pesticide free, with a tiny carbon footprint. We are still in a minority in the flower industry where 85% of flower are flown from parts of the world that don’t have enough water to grow their own food.”

Q: Do you think CREST Business Awards has a part to play in celebrating and encouraging environmentally sustainable business practice?

“It was amazing to win an award as a “tiny” business and be able to say: “Look we won this because we are thinking about how we reduce our carbon footprint and shout about what we are doing.”

“As a result of winning the CREST22 Award prize –  a free consultation with the Centre for the Environment and Sustainability – I had a great consultation session, which gave me lots of ideas for working with others, and I hope that I may become a case study or work project example for students at the University.”

Q: What has your business done first to win the 2022 award and as an entrant in CREST23 Awards, can you outline ways your business has increased its green footprint?

We have always been a low carbon business, with no pesticides used, growing in a no dig manner, being peat free, making our own compost and plant food, growing from seed, reusing and recycling for others pots and other plastics., and only using compostable paper in our packaging. But in 2023, we’re also encouraging all our suppliers to go plastic free, we’re collecting more rainwater on site, and we’re showing off our electric van and solar powered battery pack that we use to make tea for our workshops, and showing that no mains electricity could be an option for an outside based business.”

Q: What do you think the next 10 years holds for PlantPassion?

“I hope the next 10 years holds consumers becoming a lot more aware of where their products come from and how they are produced, and because of that choosing the lower carbon footprint choices. I know the future will hold more climatic extremes, so I’m sure there will be plenty of challenges for all farmers of food, and flowers, but I hope that as we’re working with the soil, and biodiversity that will help us survive and thrive.”