From Corporate Lawyer to Little Urban Flower Farmer
I was first drawn to this little local business because of the beautiful logo by Jaime Pritchard... I am a sucker for a good design but little did I know what I would uncover. A unique family business run by a corporate lawyer turned flower farmer who is so eclectic and passionate that you just can’t help but fall in love with her. And not to mention their very strong ethics around regenerative and organic farming practices. Yes The Little Urban Flower Farm isn’t just a pretty logo.
We met Simone Torpey, the owner of The Little Urban Flower Farm, at her home farm in the centre of Maitland City that specialises in growing seasonal, organic flowers.
Despite Simone seeming like she has been sowing flower seeds all her life, farming is not her lifelong occupation. In 2019, Simone gave up her high flying career as a corporate lawyer and CEO of an international association, after buying a block of land and units in Maitland, to start a flower farm.
Understandably, moving away from a corporate life with a generous income and being what society deems as 'professionally successful' to a slower, home based life that is financially modest was a big adjustment.
“I think we can sometimes have a view of ourselves, or we can get caught up in seeing ourselves through the lens of other people’s perception, and stepping away from such a role can take a realignment.” Simone Torpey
But in taking the time to recalibrate with what was important, Simone says she now couldn’t be happier. She goes on to joke that,
“Swapping a suit for overalls was my best move ever.”
But this “simpler” farming life is not something that has been taken on lightly and with little thought. Simone feels quite strongly about ensuring her farming practises focus on regenerative farming and being organic.
Many traditional farming methods deteriorate the soil but regenerative farming adds vitality to the plant and soil. The Little Urban Flower Farm definitely subscribes to this methodology.
For example, to the untrained eye the gardens might seem out of control, however it is anything but. Rather than clearing away plants that have finished their lifecycle, leaving them in the garden helps to “feed” the soil, ensuring that the soil is revitalised, healthy and has the nutrients required to help grow strong future flowers.
They also avoid using as many single use plastics in their flower farming process as possible - paper is often used to wrap the flowers and even the flower tags used in the garden are reusable, long lasting metal which Simone hand presses.
And chemicals to control pests are a big no no for The Little Urban Flower Farm. Those “weeds” that are seen throughout the flower beds are actually allowed to grow to help keep certain bugs at bay...and attract the good ones!
The farm was certainly brimming with life and not just the floral kind. There were native bees, a multitude of birds, butterflies, cicadas, blue tongues, skinks and frogs.
Then there were the pets. There was Archie the house rabbit who roamed the top floor of the house. Pepper the cat. Chickens and fish. And old gal Daisy, who was 12 years old and obviously flat out with her new found farm life!
And out the back they even grow vegetables for the family and to sell to local businesses. In the last 12 months they turned out one tonne in organic food - that healthy soil must be working a treat!
The farm wasn’t always this alive. When Simone and her family, including 5 children, purchased the property built in the 1850s the soil was compacted and the garden bleak. It has taken hours of love to get it to this point. And they are continuing to research and experiment.
The Little Urban Flower Farm puts all this knowledge and good farming practice to use - selling flowers to the local Maitland community. Fresh bunches are dropped to Organic Feast in East Maitland several times each week. The best way to guarantee you score a bunch (they sell out fast!) is to place an order with Simone via Instagram or email.
Given they are seasonal and no chemicals used, the flowers for sale are what the land is currently producing - aka florists choice. We spotted Chocolate Cosmos - my new favourite flower (they smell like chocolate), fluffy Bunny Tail Grass and colourful Strawflowers.
They also run foraging tours with Pat Collins, a Hunter Region Herbalist and Naturopath, where she encourages people to use weeds that are found in The Little Urban Flower Farm and in many gardens as food and herbal medicine. There are wreath making workshops at Christmas time and group or 1:1 Get Growing gardening lessons.
It’s local businesses like this that do the small things well and mindfully that give us all the feels. Thanks for having us Simone.