For the Charlestown-based seasonal cut flower farm South County Flowers, 2023 has been a year of gradual change. South County Flowers co-owners and married couple Nancy and Dean Viseth are pausing the wedding venue portion of the business and will be focusing on its rapidly growing community-supported agriculture membership, “DIY Brides” program and supplying local florists.
After taking ownership of the family farm in 2008, Nancy Viseth said it’s been an incredibly fulfilling venture. Even though South County Farms has no plans to resume using the farm as a wedding venue, the farm has been busy planning the addition of food production to their repertoire with a future availability of beef and lamb.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Nancy Viseth said. “I am looking forward to this next chapter. We are always going to [have] a small and unique vibe with the highest quality products…It’s a small operation and it always will be.”
Nancy Viseth said the farm already had cows, but the addition of sheep was prompted particularly by having access to nutritional sheep’s milk. The Viseths are eager to share the animals with the community via their community-supported agriculture (CSA) membership
“It’s such a good experience to know exactly where your food is coming from,” Nancy Viseth said.
The transition from wedding venue to food production was inspired by Nancy and Dean Viseth’s two children planning to get married in June 2023. They both got married on the farm — ceremoniously marking the culmination of South County Farm as a wedding venue.
“We are entering a new phase of life,” Nancy Viseth said. “We are not going to slow down completely; we are just making a shift.”
Originally, South County Flowers started as a wholesale flower farm for florists. Nancy Viseth said the farm started with a delivery van that went around Westerly and Wickford, slowly expanding their radius throughout South County.
In the first summer on the farm, they grew only a small patch of sunflowers and zinnias. After harvesting them, the Viseths put them in the back of the pickup truck and drove around South County introducing themselves to florists. After several local florist shops expressed an interest, the Viseths were ecstatic with the community’s need for fresh cut locally grown flowers and expanded the delivery route to over thirty florists, small independent grocery stores and designers.
Eventually, Nancy Viseth added a self-service stand at the front of the farm to allow community members to buy directly from them, but it wasn’t the right fit for the community. The Viseths then started the CSA membership that is still active with a loyal customer base, Nancy Viseth said. While most CSAs are typically vegetable-based, the South County Flower CSA is flower-based. Every week, members are surprised with a variety of unique and heirloom cut flowers, combined with farm grown foliage and herbs.
When the farm eventually has beef and lamb available, the current CSA Flower Share members will be the first ones offered the pasture-raised meats, Nancy Viseth said.
When the CSA took off, people began asking for wedding flowers, Nancy Viseth said. This sparked Nancy Viseth into doing arrangements and centerpieces, delivering them to other venues. After getting tired of doing multiple venue deliveries, an idea popped into Nancy Viseth’s head: Why not use the farm as a wedding venue?
“We had a great time [as a wedding venue,]” Nancy Viseth said. “Everybody loved it. All of the vendors and all the couples we met and their families were all amazing. Everyone appreciated the beauty of the farm and how hard we had worked to make it look nice. We really enjoyed those relationships that we made.”
With the wedding venue portion of the farm now halted, couples still have a unique opportunity to design their own wedding flowers with the South County Flowers’ “DIY Bride” program. The farm offers buckets of an assortment of focal flowers, delicate accent flowers, foliage and herbs based on the event’s season and the couple’s chosen color palette.
“I pretty much curate the buckets for them so they can’t go wrong, a mix of focal flowers, filler flowers, foliage that all look good together,” Nancy Viseth said. “Usually, they can pick their color palette and they just do all of the arrangements themselves. They leave here with buckets of flowers and they make everything at home. It’s sometimes fun for them to get together with their bridesmaids or their families and do that.”
The farm is open by appointment only and during the CSA pick-up hours, and they do not do daily deliveries of single orders. For the “DYI Brides,” reservations are recommended well in advance of the wedding date, with the flowers needing to be picked up by appointment one to two days before the event. However, going forward, Nancy Viseth said there is potential of opening the farm up for community events, such as flower workshops.
As for the future of South County Flowers, Nancy Viseth said the operations will always remain “very small and very local.” While the flower farm may be changing its primary avenues, its fundamental values will never change.
“I still don’t know how to answer what we are looking forward to most, other than a slightly slower pace of life, working with the animals, a chance to build up our soil fertility, while, of course, continuing to grow flowers,” Nancy Viseth said.
Over the years, Nancy Viseth said the wonderful community support from all of the neighbors. It was a blessing to have the support when South County Flowers started as the venue and when people started to come back year after year to take part in the CSA. Nancy Viseth hopes the community will remain as loyal as they did before during the transition.
“It takes a little extra effort to drive to a farm at the same time every week to pick up your flowers rather than just picking them up when you are at the store anyway and people really go out of their way to get the local flowers that I grow and I really appreciate that,” Nancy Viseth said.
For more information, visit the South County Flowers’ website: https://www.southcountyflowers.com/