As a member of an eighth-generation farm family, agriculture has always been in Beth Carlson’s blood. But when she graduated from Mercer High School, she chose to pursue a different career.
“I’ve been a physician assistant for 24 years,” said Carlson. “But even with my career, I still help my family out on the farm when they need me.”
While Carlson enjoys working in the medical field, the recent pandemic motivated her to return to her farming roots. “The stress of dealing with COVID-19 blew me away,” said Carlson. “A pandemic is something we read about in textbooks, and now we were living it.”
Carlson needed something for her mental health, so she decided to plant flowers in her parents’ garden at the farm. “I decided to plant dahlia tubers and zinnias, and they bloomed beautifully, creating a sea of color,” she said. “Friends and neighbors would stop by to see the flowers and were able to visit with my parents outside. The flowers brought joy at a time when we needed it most.
“Being outside planting and tending to the flowers it was just me, the bees and the butterflies,” she noted, adding that she then decided to expand her flower production by utilizing a 6’ x 300’ section of her brother’s corn field. “My dad and son helped me plant what I call my colorful quilt of flowers.”
Carlson’s mental health project ultimately led to the founding of her company, Lydalia Gardens, which was named in honor of her paternal grandmother, Lyda, who lived with them on the farm. She started selling her flowers at farmers’ markets and eventually word-of-mouth brought even more business, so she made a flower cart out of an old vegetable cart to sell her wares.
“I didn’t want the cart to compete with the colorful flowers, so I painted it white with black trim, added a large black and white umbrella, and I carry the flowers in black pots,” she said.
Business continues to grow for Carlson, and she now offers flower bouquet subscriptions through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). A CSA helps farms stay financially stable during off seasons into the start of growing seasons. “I opened my subscription service with the CSA in November 2022 offering a bouquet a month from May through October,” explained Carlson. “The subscriptions are prepaid, which allows me to purchase my seeds for the next season. I have 1,700 tulip bulbs in the ground right now.”
Carlson is always open to creative ideas. “For one wedding, the bride wanted a partial DIY project. I made the bride’s bouquet and boutonnieres for the men, and I made a single bridesmaid bouquet. The remaining bridesmaids were given the same flowers to make their own bouquets,” said Carlson. “Each bouquet was a little different and it reflected the personalities of the bridesmaids.”
What began as a project to boost Carlson’s mental health has evolved into a business she plans to continue after she retires from her work as a physician assistant. “When I first started selling the flowers I had a business plan,” said Carlson. “I knew I would sell flowers at the farmers’ market, and I thought I might create specialty bouquets for events and maybe I would get a wedding or two. But Lydalia Gardens has blossomed into so much more.”
Carlson’s still dreaming up ways to spread the joy of flowers. “My dream is to offer a U-pick,” she said. “I want people to come out to the farm and have the experience of clipping the flowers while listening to the birds chirping and the bees buzzing while the butterflies hop from flower to flower!”