Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers or agriculture industry workers. Der Xiong with Summer Fresh Flower Farm is one of those industry leaders. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run through December 2021 on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages and from August to December will feature younger farmers in the industry. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!
Farming creates strong ties within those who love agriculture, but for Der Xiong of Summer Fresh Flower Farm, it’s more than a passion for the industry that keeps her going day in and day out. It is a love for her family and a desire to keep their legacy alive.
After Der’s parents immigrated to the United States, they moved around a few times before settling in North Carolina. “I remember my mother farming everywhere we went,” Der said, “it was always a huge passion for her and it’s what led her to starting the flower farm in 2003.”
The farm grows a variety of perennial flowers, including tulips, dahlias and snapdragons available from mid-March to November each year. “Two years ago we lost my mother and today it is all about keeping her legacy alive on the farm,” Der said, “our flowers look like something you pick fresh from the garden and we strive to bring a smile to the faces of all our customers through them.
Although her favorites vary based on season, Der loves the color, style and smell of peonies each year. “There is something about only being able to harvest them once a year that makes them even more special,” she said.
A typical week on the farm involves a variety of tasks, including managing the greenhouse, harvesting and cutting flowers to arrange them and getting ready for market. In addition to working on the farm, Der is a full-time extension agent in Alexander County. “The extension agency really opened my eyes to the importance of farming and agriculture in general when we were first starting out,” she said, “and now it is a privilege to serve in that capacity and help teach others the same things.”
Although working a flower farm can get monotonous when doing the same activities over and over again, Der says it’s all about finding the excitement in the dull moments. “Seeing people enjoy what we create makes all the mundane moments worth it,” she said, “I love seeing people light up at the purchase of our products. It creates a sense of pride and value in what we do.”
One of her favorite stories was of a daughter who took flowers from their farm to her mother in hospice every week. “When she would arrive with the flowers, her mother would immediately take them, put them in water, and smile as she cared for them,” Der said, “it was those flowers that gave her hope each day to keep going and eventually helped her get well enough to leave hospice.”
Flowers from Summer Fresh Flower Farm can be found at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, the Kings Drive Farmers Market in Charlotte and the Hickory Farmers Market. Der encourages shopping local at markets like these not only because you are supporting your local community and economy, but also because it gives a chance for the farmers to get to know their customers. “Going to the farmers market has really helped me grow as a person because I have gotten out of my shell, become more social and developed relationships with the customers who support us,” she said, “for that reason, I always say that our farm not only cultivates flowers but it cultivates people as well.”
In the future, Summer Fresh Flower Farm will continue to provide their customers favorite flowers, including dahlias, their best seller, while keeping the legacy of Der’s mother alive. For all those seeking a career in agriculture or just getting started, Der reminds you to have patience and don’t think about the immediate gains. “You will gain the rewards of what you sow today in the future,” she said, “you are working for the future more than you are working for the moment, so always have faith, keep moving and try your absolute best time and time again.” Whether on the farm or in the office, you can find Der jamming out to hits from Miranda Lambert, including Bluebird and Settling Down.