It all started with a thicket of gorgeous magenta peonies that didn’t belong to me. They didn’t belong to anyone. Before the house next door was demolished, I rescued these peonies and transplanted them into our front yard. I didn’t know what I was doing and hardly knew how to use a shovel. But nature is generous and forgiving. That one peony clump divided into six baby plants. Little did I know that years later, these six young peonies would become the inspiration for and backbone to our family flower farm.
“Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.” – F. H. Burnett
The year is 1927. The new General Motors automobile factory begins construction on a neighborhood for some* employees; modern craftsman style bungalows and cottages with views of the Flint River. The Great Depression hits and many of these homes are boarded up and abandoned. But not for long. Young families move in. Maple saplings are planted, lining the streets. Soon it’s one of the most sought-after places to live in the booming city.
Fast forward ninety years. General Motors has relocated its factories out of the country, taking thousands upon thousands of jobs from Flint residents. Workers from overseas have arrived at the empty factories and literally disassembled the buildings and machinery piece by piece to rebuild in their home countries. With depressing economies come depressing realities: 41.9% of Flint residents live below the poverty line. The violent crime rate is 310% higher than the national average. The local economy has crashed, the city a hollow shell of what it once was, a ghost town to its comparatively few remaining inhabitants. These realities would eventually lead to the Flint Water Crisis and other heartbreaking difficulties.
In 2011, my husband and I decide to move back home! I was born in Flint, raised in the township and graduated high school in a suburb nearby. I went to college out of state and, along with my college-sweetheart-turned-husband, moved to warmer, more celebrated places. But after our first child was born, I knew it was time to come home. We didn’t have a grand mission in moving to Flint. We weren’t planting a church or starting an NGO. We just wanted to put down deep roots in a familiar place and be good neighbors, committed for the long term.
When we moved into our little 1928 cottage-style dream home, it was surrounded by five empty and abandoned houses. Slowly, over time, each one was purchased and renovated; we formed friendships with phenomenal neighbors. But that yellow house, the one just to the east of us, it was beyond hope. Beyond repair. It had a blue tarp for a roof and was home to wild critters. In 2015 the Genesee County Land Bank came and took the yellow house down (but not before I relocated its peonies!). Finally, I could watch the sun rise from our living room windows, light flickering through the giant maple trees lining the street.
My husband Ryan and I adopted the property through our city’s Adopt-a-Lot program. Immediately he put up a pallet fence and tilled a big portion of the lot. He had good, rich compost delivered to amend the soil. Ryan had dreams of an enormous and prolific vegetable garden. My dreams for the space were a little different, however. Once we finally purchased the lot, we’d mostly peaceably reached an agreement: I’d grow perennials, some annuals, and however many edible herbs and plants I could possibly squeeze in. He’d manage the garlic and fruit trees. Needless to say (to my delight and his chagrin), the flowers conquer a bigger and bigger portion of the garden each growing season.
In 2018, Twig End Farm officially launched. Bringing the beauty and magic of thoughtfully-grown seasonal flowers to my hometown is now my mission and passion. It is a natural outpouring of my soul and of our soil. My beloved hobby has become a small cut-flower business that not only allows me to stay home with my three young kids and work under the wide-open Michigan sky, but also brings beauty to our historic neighborhood, to Flint, and to the small towns and villages nearby. I’ve found my heart’s calling and my dream job. With every seed I sow and every plant I divide, my roots in this city grow deeper.
*Sadly, like many cities in the north, Flint’s foundations were built on systematic racism. Housing loans were denied to people of color and redlining was common.
Hello! My name is Janie Case Beuthin. My favorite moment is sunrise in the gardens, when the birds are euphoric, there’s dew on the flowers, and if you look closely, you’ll see bees sleeping on petals. As a mom of three, a reader of books, and lover of fiber arts, I feel closest to the Creator when I’m gardening; my heart absolutely sings. I hope you’ll stop by our farm for an armful of flowers and stay to chat for a minute; flower-lovers are kindred spirits. Floret Online Workshop Alumna, Class of 2019.
Meet Ryan, wearer of many hats, spinner of many plates. He’s the heavy gardener here at Twig End Farm and helps run the Flint Crepe Company. He’s also the Operations Director for Flint’s Freedom Schools Collaborative and works with Michigan Rehabilitation Services. When asked his favorite flower, he’ll grin and say, “a dandelion.” In truth, he has a soft spot for forsythia.