Those traveling on Hickory Ridge Road, particularly the stretch of pavement that runs between Rocky River Road and the new elementary school still under construction, have probably picked up on a small change to the landscape.
A small wooden shack constructed from repurposed pallets, and featuring a beat-up looking white door and a hand-painted sign announcing, “Fresh Flowers,” now sits on the grassy shoulder, nestled between a pair of hundred-plus year old apple trees.
There is a good chance that passersby will find Lily Anne Carriker inside the intimate space, carefully assembling that day’s floral arrangements, using the hydrangeas, black-eyed Susans, abelias, celosias, sunflowers, rooster cones and other flowers she has grown from seed on a modest patch of dirt set aside in the backyard of her family home, which sits almost directly across the street.
If she’s not there, Lily is probably tending to her peppers or the four varieties of tomatoes she’s also cultivating on her family’s land, or picking some pecans from the dozen pecan trees that line the property, or collecting eggs from the 16 chickens that also call their sprawling expanse home.
And in a few short weeks, she’ll be found roaming the halls at the Hickory Ridge Middle School by day, and tending to her new farm stand on certain evenings and most weekends.
That’s because Lily, the owner of Lily Anne’s Farm Goods, is only 11 years old.
Start Them Young
“I’ve been selling flowers since I was 7,” says Lily, who will be starting the sixth grade at Hickory Ridge Middle School on Monday, August 26, and whose younger sisters – Hazel, 7, and Abelia, 3 – are also named after flowers. “I like to sell things.”
Though she’s been helping her parents, Abigail and Billy, grow vegetables and flowers since she was a toddler, Lily officially launched her own business last year, with her mother’s continued guidance and assistance. Together last year, they sold more than 50 of Lily’s personally assembled floral arrangements, which range in price from $5 to $15, mostly by going door to door.
And they’re already on pace to shatter last year’s mark, selling more than 30 of the assortments by late July, and that was before Lily had a brick-and-mortar – OK, a wood-and-nail – building to serve as her home base and draw in passing customers.
“My husband always said they need to pop out ready to work,” said Abigail Carriker, a horticulture teacher at Hickory Ridge High School, and whose husband owns the Reedy Creek Lawn and Landscaping Company.
“She’s been picking pecans since she was 2,” she added, referring specifically to Lily. “She’s just like her father in that she wants to work.”
Working the land and caring for livestock beginning at a young age has been a common practice in Mr. Carriker’s family for generations, according to his wife. She explained that their family owns nearly 60 acres spanning both sides of Hickory Ridge Road, including the smaller lot that now serves at the home to her oldest daughter’s farm stand.
Growing The Operation
With her parents’ permission, Lilly ditched her raised wooden beds and expanded the boundaries of her flower and vegetable garden this past spring. She now cultivates a roughly 875 square foot area in their backyard, and also installed separators to help control growth and better organize her joint flower and vegetable garden.
In addition to growing more flowers this year, Lily has expanded her inventory by introducing new species that are only grown in larger numbers once they pass Ms. Carriker’s “vasability” test. Before committing to growing a new species, a freshly cut flower is kept in a vase on her desk at Hickory Ridge High School so she can directly observe how long it lasts before wilting.
“The flowers have been a great conversation starter,” says Ms. Carriker, who met her husband at North Carolina State, where they both were horticulture majors. “People are interested in learning about them.”
Their shared love of botany has certainly been passed onto Lily, who is interested in learning more about the genetics of flowers and, in fact, was disappointed when the curriculum at her former school, Patriots Elementary, did not explore that area deep enough for her liking.
With relative ease, Lily can identify and name nearly two dozen different species of flowers.
Her mother notes that everything in Lily’s flower and vegetable garden is grown organically, using a mixture of mulch and manure as fertilizer. In addition to teaching her oldest daughter the importance of reliability and the basics of running a small business, not to mention offering tips and tricks to help her flower business blossom, Ms. Carriker says the entrepreneurial endeavor offers another beneficial lesson to all of her children.
“It is important for my kids to learn where their food is coming from,” she said.
Stand Offers Flexibility
Rather than race around to different area farmers markets, or pull a wagon containing their floral arrangements in nearby subdivisions, Lily and her mother can now set up shop across the street from their home.
But that does not necessarily mean they’ll always be manning the farm stand whenever customers decide to swing by to pick up a few eggs or a bouquet. A small wooden framed chalkboard sitting atop a metal lockbox states that the family relies on the honor system, while giving customers three options to pay for their items: cash, check or Venmo.
The farm stand officially opened on Saturday, July 27, selling an assortment of floral arrangements, including those in mason jars. The shop is also typically stocked with freshly picked tomatoes, peppers and eggs, as well as an assortment of colorful peacock feathers. (Yes, they use to have a peacock too, until it became a tad too aggressive with certain visitors.) They also plan to sell deer corn and might bundle decorative corn stalks in the fall.
But for the more immediate future, Lily will continue to focus on building her blossoming floral business and, when the time comes, collecting her supplies for middle school.
“I like picking flowers, selling stuff, and planting stuff and watching it grow,” Lily says.
Those interested in learning more about what’s available for purchase on a particular day are encouraged to visit Lily Anne’s Farm Goods on Facebook.
LILY ANNE’S FARM GOODS
- Address: Across from 9170 Hickory Ridge Road
- Facebook: Lily Anne’s Farm Goods
- Instagram: @lily_annes_farm_goods
Hours of Operation
- Sunday-Monday: Varies