Photo by Kylie Bricker Photography
A young couple’s dream to raise their children surrounded by nature has blossomed—literally—into a thriving business.
Judd and Shannon Allen are co-owners of Bloom Hill Farm, which specializes in growing and selling cut flowers for bouquets and live arrangements.
The couple started the business in 2015, after moving from Canton’s historic Ridgewood neighborhood and buying a home on 5 acres in Lake Township, where they grow thousands of organic flowers in the spring, summer and fall.
“We had a limited amount of space, but we wanted to do something profitable,” said Judd Allen, whose father is a retired high school horticulture teacher. “Something unique that the area didn’t have.”
They began the first year by planting 1,500 sunflowers, and 2,000 dahlias. Both were still working full time while expanding their family of three children, now 6, 4 and 3.
“Everyone thought we were crazy,” Shannon Allen said. “But we wanted a farm.”
“This farm isn’t a prototypical farm; it’s residential,” Judd Allen said of their property. “We’re building it to suit our own needs.”
Today, they grow 50 to 60 different types of flowers, and Bloom Hill Farm is one of the largest flower farms in the area.
“Our farm is truly humble beginnings,” she said. “The first season, you learn so much.”
The first year, they sold flowers from the end of their driveway, which enabled them to be with their kids. They still offer bouquets for sale for $10 at their roadside stand, from July through October, on an honor system.
“Year one is when we figured we could do it,” Judd Allen said of the business.
Their staple was sunflowers, which are hardy and easy to grow.
“I call sunflowers the ‘comfort food’ of flowers because everyone knows them, and they make people happy,” Judd Allen said.
He oversees the field production, while his wife handles the floral design. She already has several weddings booked this year.
“More brides are open to seasonal flowers,” Shannon Allen said. “It’s been a learning curve for brides. The goal is to grow the wedding floral business so that 100 percent of the flowers are from our farm.”
The couple is self-taught, from coming up with ways to combat weeds and insects without chemicals, to building a propagation device from an old freezer to start seeds. In February, they added a large, climate-controlled propagation (green) house that will enable them to start 95 percent of their own seeds.
“Those are skills we’ve learned over time,” Shannon Allen said, adding that they attend conferences and network with other growers.
“It’s exciting to us,” Judd Allen said. “We’re constantly asking ourselves, how can we get better?”
“And every January, you get a blank slate,” Shannon Allen said, laughing.
Winters are spent ordering seeds and plants, planning the upcoming growing season and discerning which new flowers they can add to their inventory. They’re in the process of finishing up a new design studio. There also are plans to add Nigerian dwarf goats to the farm this year.
Noting that 80 percent of flowers purchased in the U.S. are imported, Shannon Allen said one of her goals is to encourage people to buy locally grown flowers. Bloom Hill Farm offers a bouquet subscription service, offering a bouquet of fresh flowers over six weeks during each of the three growing seasons. Visit bloomhillfarm.com to sign up.
“We’ve been able to introduce people to flowers they haven’t seen before,” she said. “It’s typically stuff you don’t get. Our focus is trying to figure out things that don’t ship well.”
The couple says they believe strongly in supporting local businesses. They buy their organic growth supplies from Ohio Earth Foods in Hartville and recently formed a partnership with Hartville Hardware. Their neighbors are beekeepers and owners of The Wholesome Hive.
They also sell their flowers at such specialty retail venues as the 720 Market in North Canton, the Downtown Canton Flea and the Hartville Moonlight Market.
Bloom Hill Farm, the couple said, is still a work in progress, adding that social media has been a big factor in their success.
“It’s been such a big driver for our business,” Shannon Allen said.
Shannon Allen said eventually they would like to host workshops and other events so that customers can visit the farm, adding that a tour they hosted in 2018 was big success.
“People have ideas about what flower farms are versus what they really are,” Judd Allen said.
“We really want the farm to become a good a experience for people; to become more inclusive,” Shannon Allen said.
“A lot of people grow flowers,” her husband added. “The trick is having them over time.”