Arkansas is filled with a multitude of folks. While some of us were born and raised in Arkansas, others have come through for seasons, and some begin planting their roots.
When you are exploring our beautiful Natural State, take time to greet new people and listen to their stories. You might be surprised at how quickly you can make new friends.
Florie Consolati was seemingly made to be the flower operations manager of Wye Mountain Flowers and Berries. She has the perfect recipe for handling the job. This nature lover’s ingredients include passion, patience, persistence, stamina, and “the gift of gab.”
“My name means “flower,” she says, smiling as she introduces herself as Florie. “I have been passionate about gardening my entire life.”
As we walked through the beautiful fields of flowers at Wye Mountain Flowers and Berries, Florie was pointing out the various species of flowers and how to know when they are ready to be cut.
“You do the wiggle test,” she says, and she is wiggling the flowers before she cuts the stems. You grab the stem about eight inches below the flower, giving it a gentle wiggle. If it is young or immature to cut, the stem will be soft and bend easily. If it is ready to harvest, the stem remains stiff and upright when you wiggle it. It is time to cut!
Florence “Florie” Consolati was named after her beloved grandmother. However, it was her grandfather, John Consolati, that passed down his love for gardening. Consolati was known in the community for his excellent gardening skills, and for having the first ripe tomatoes in their hometown located in Western Massachusetts.
As a child, she spent many days with her grandparents in the garden. Her grandfather taught her how to hoe, sow, water and pick the vegetables.
Florie’s mother Deidre bestowed on her the passion for wildflowers. She would take young Florie on nature walks and would identify, count, and photograph the wildflowers all around her. Little did her mother know that her daughter would end up farming flowers.
Florie took a different career path for many years in freshwater resources. With a master’s degree in watershed science, she researched the effect human activities and natural processes had on salmon.
Watershed science is the interdisciplinary study of the natural processes and human activities that affect freshwater resources. Water is a critical component of Earth’s ecosystems for human consumption, agriculture, energy production, transportation, and recreation. All this combined effect our beloved fish.
After many years of research, Florie felt burned-out with her career in science and wanted a new direction. Suffering from fibromyalgia, she wanted to get back to her young roots on the farm to get more sunshine and exercise.
Florie became the owner-operator of North Fork Farms in Lander, Wyoming, a two-acre farm specializing in vegetables, herbs, flowers, eggs, and meat chickens. Florie began selling to local farmer’s markets, offering a delivery service each week. The business doing very well was on track to receive a grant to fund the installation of a greenhouse to expand the farm. However, an unexpected turn of life events happened and resulted in Florie having to put the farm behind her and start over.
An ad appeared on Florie’s Facebook news feed for an operations manager for the flower farm at Wye Mountain Flowers and Berries. Florie couldn’t believe her eyes, as this was a dream come true. She responded to the ad, which led to many conversations with Beth and Butch Eggers, the farm’s owners.
In July 2019, Florie would make her first visit to the farm, and she immediately fell in love.
“Butch and Beth are the kindest, most welcoming hosts,” she says. “I felt like I was coming home.”
Florie needed funds for the move, lease of the flower fields, and seeds for her first crop. She set up a GoFundMe page, created a video, and shared it to Facebook. With support from family, friends, and even strangers, she raised the funds she needed.
In November 2019, along with her boyfriend Joe, Florie packed up and headed to Arkansas. They immediately began working on the farm. Butch and Beth Eggers began mentoring her on the aspects of farming in Arkansas.
The Eggers have 18 acres that they currently farm located on Wye Mountain in Central Arkansas. Now, 11 acres are in production with approximately three of that in flowers.
The other eight acres are for berries.
The Eggers enjoy hosting families from all over to come and pick the variety of berries on the farm. In years past, they would host farm field trips for kids to come and pick and visit farm animals. However, with the pandemic this year, the special events had to be canceled.
While the Eggers are concentrating on the berries, Florie is planting her “seed” and loving Arkansas. She has many ideas for future growth: building a farm store, offering flower arrangement classes and workshops, planting an orchard of fruit trees, and offering cooking classes utilizing the “farm-to-table” with berries and other items grown on the farm.
Florie currently sells the beautiful flowers at local farmer’s markets and via wholesale distributors. Individual customers can purchase the flowers at the flower stand located just before you enter the gate. There is an “honor” system set in place.
The fall seeds have been planted and will bloom just in time for fall. The drive out to Wye Mountain is beautiful any time of the year. If you see Florie around, be sure and stop for a chat. She laughed when I said she was like me and she had the “gift of gab.”
“My mother will love that saying”, says Florie.
Florie’s Sunday Supper Recipe comes from her “farm-to-table” garden.
Wild Chanterelle Mushroom with Gnocchi
1 whole onion
2-3 gloves of garlic
2-3 cups of chanterelle mushrooms
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
1 fresh basil
2 cups of milk
2 cups of parmesan cheese
½ cup of goat cheese
Salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Caramelize a whole onion in a sauté pan over medium-low heat for 30 min. Add 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic and sauté for 1 min on medium-high heat. Fold in the Chanterelle mushrooms (about 2-3 cups) to pan and sauté until tender.
- Remove from pan and set aside.
- In the same sauté pan, make a roux consisting of two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of flour. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes over low to medium heat.
- Slowly whisk in two cups of milk and bring to a boil while continually stirring. Once the roux becomes thick, add 2 cups of parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup of goat cheese. Add in one fresh basil leaf. Add salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste.
- Once sauce has simmered to desire thickness, drop in cooked mushrooms and onions back into the pan with the sauce and stir.
- A fresh green salad with Italian vinaigrette would be a perfect side dish for a great Sunday supper.