Lauri started Farm Girl about 16 years ago. What was she up to before then? After 16 years of backbreaking labor, things are starting to shift.
Lauri grew up in Soundside off the coast of North Carolina. Exploring the sound and marshes, she grew a strong connection to the natural world. Watching her neighborhood become developed and negative impacts that had on the surrounding ecosystems (red tide, sea walls being built, and diminishing wildlife) left a large impact and guided her life directions.
In 1989, Lauri began studying to be a Marine Biologist which led to Animal Science and practicing as a veterinary technician for three years. Then, she landed her Bachelors in Zoology and Biological Studies with a minor in Genetics in 1995. After college (while she wanted to be studying amphibians in the rainforest) she wound up as a research assistant which pigeon holed into doing research for different bio pharmaceutical companies including Abbott Laboratories as an Immunologist. She admitted she was good at it and it was hard to get out until she made the decision to leave and go back to school: “No, I’m going back to school for landscape architecture because it’s a combination of my main loves: nature, science, and art. And I wanted to make a difference.” Ideally she wanted to design eco villages and have a positive impact on the natural world. In 2002, she received her Masters in Landscape Architecture from the College of Design at NC State University. After that, an autoimmune disorder led her to move to Vermont to get better. She became a water quality scientist and got pregnant which inspired a whole new direction for her life: “Now is the time I can build the life I want so I can stay at home with my son. That’s when I really started building my business [Farm Girl] in Vermont.
When her son, Elder, was 8 months old, they moved to Asheville and Lauri immediately moved forward with Farm Girl “with a baby on my hip.” Her dream has always been to have a farm, so she started putting up flyers around town for gardening jobs and slowly built it up. Now, Lauri has 2.64 acres in Leicester where she runs her landscaping business out of and has a little flower farm, which has been a goal all along, “to do the landscaping and gardening to subsidize the flower farm being built up and little by little I could start doing flowers and stuff from home and less landscaping.” Let’s be frank...Lauri and her back are tired! She has done back breaking work all day, moving large rocks and shrubs while exerting so much energy but she has gotten her business to a point where transition is possible. Lauri has purchased another acre connected to her land and has lots of ideas including a nursery: “This winter is a big time to figure out what I really want to do...I really want to focus more on the flowers to get my name out there to weddings and actually have the landscaping be secondary. I’m really trying and make that switch.” While people reach out constantly for landscaping, she is more interested in doing maintenance and landscape design.
Designing gardens will always be a one of Lauri’s major passions that she’ll never get away from: “Because of my background I want to be really environmentally oriented and ecologically conscious with what I do.” She uses cardboard instead of landscape fabric when mulching, never ever uses pesticide and herbicides, and incorporates beneficial insects in a method called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). She loves to invite children when releasing beneficials, like lady bugs, and do anything to help build the clients connection to their landscape. She hopes they will fall in love with their backyard: “I want to have an impact positively on the world and for me I think that is helping humans connect to nature through flowers, plants, and landscape design by hearing what they need, even spiritually and emotionally...I want to get them addicted!” Lauri is big on medicinal and edible plants that help her clients and attract wildlife. In addition, using stones and water flow really give her designs a unique flare: “I came from the coast and I grew up around water and I really try and think about that in my designs with clients - how it collects and flows and not just have a rain barrel but how to deal with the overflow artistically and functionally while connecting” it with the whole of the landscape.
While Farm Girl has been an all femme staff, things are changing in this realm too. It started this way as a reaction to having to work with guys all the time and not enjoying it and the work environment it creates. Lauri mentioned how “it takes a really bright guy to fit in and handle being around a bunch of women sweating and grunting and bending over - a lot of guys just can’t handle it.” Lauri is very conscious about creating a healthy and empowering work environment that does “not fall back on what society has tried to make [us] submit to. Now she has a male and a transgender worker added to the team, so it has transitioned to an inclusive work space. When a one ton boulder or 500 pound tree are needed to be placed on site, they figure it out and work together as a team.
For all your special event or business space flower needs, Farm Girl is happy to provide unique and spunky flower arrangements. Farm Girl also makes soaps, bath salt blends, container gardens, terrariums, little boutineers, and more! Visit them at WATM every Tuesday!
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