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Conversations with the Inspiring Rachel Nafis

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Nafis.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I have been gardening for the past ten years. My husband and I first started out with a few raised beds and a handful of chickens behind our rental in Golden Hill. In 2011, we fed seven or so families a week from an overgrown abandoned lot in Lemon Grove. Then, in 2012, growing food led us to a 45-acre ranch in Jamul where we worked as caretakers and raised pigs, goats, turkeys, ducks, and chickens. We have since moved back to the city where we’ve lived and gardened at this home for six years. We moved our top-bar bee hive to the roof and built a chicken coop before unpacking our boxes. The backyard was entirely decomposed granite when we moved here, but by adding tons of organic matter we’ve transformed the lifeless clay into a garden oasis. In 2018, I was inspired to add flowers to my garden which had primarily been vegetables in past years. I grew 12 varieties of dahlias and fell completely in love with growing flowers. This year, I’ve pivoted to growing almost entirely cut flowers, which I supply to local floral designers and brick and mortar flower shops, as well as our church, close friends, and family. I’ve expanded my growing space by planting a garden in our neighbor’s side yard, and it is my hope to continue to plant more cut flower gardens in our neighborhood in the years to come.

Gardening is a spiritual practice for me. It’s how I stay connected to the natural world in an urban setting dominated by concrete, smog, and advertising. Growing flowers helps me escape the consumerism of the world that is seemingly all around and get in touch with the world as it is meant to be – cyclical, beautiful, temporal, and eternal all at once. It reminds me of who I am and what a full and abundant life really looks like. It is something that fills me with life and joy, and although it has been a difficult journey, I still feel very grateful that I get to do this hard work.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It took nearly a decade of experimenting with growing vegetables (in several different locations in San Diego County) before I stumbled upon growing cut flowers, which feels like the sweet spot for me. My advice to young women is to explore your interests, learn by doing (and even failing), and don’t be afraid to pursue creative passions that won’t make you money; experiences are often far more valuable and you never know where they’ll lead you.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Psalterfarm Flowers story. Tell us more about the business.
Most flowers sold in the United States are imported, carrying with them an enormous carbon footprint and unnecessary plastic waste. Imported blooms are usually sprayed with toxic pesticides and pumped full of chemicals so they’ll survive the long journey to our tables. My flowers arrive fresh, they’re cut straight into the water the night before delivery, and are reliable, with a long vase life. I offer unique flowers like cosmos, dahlias, and zinnias that are often too delicate to be shipped. Each year, we leave our garden soil better than the last. In the fall we amend our soil with compost and manure from our chickens, who are fed all of our household food scraps and yard waste. My growing practices are sustainable and beyond-organic. Pollinators love my garden. My children join me daily in the garden and I would never use any sprays or fertilizers that would harm them, or the soil.

What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
Many people are surprised to discover that I am the primary driver of our micro-urban farm, I think because of the stereotype that physical, dirty work is outside of a woman’s desire and capability.

Contact Info:

  • Email: Rachelnafis@gmail.com
  • Instagram: Psalterfarmflowers

Image Credit:
Rachel and Chris Nafis

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