Hello! I’m Rachel Nafis and I love to garden. This is how Psalter Farm Flowers, my urban flower farm, came into existence. This is my story.
Fresh out of college, out of my home state of Michigan, and into the humid air of Durham, North Carolina, I dove headfirst into gardening. I read everything I could on the subject at breakneck speed, and filled pots full of seeds and plants with high hopes. Sadly, my small, container garden didn’t give me much to eat that year, but it did teach me some valuable lessons about light requirements, and regular watering.
Newly married, my husband Chris and I moved to San Diego where we rented an old house with a big backyard, which we quickly leveraged into a large vegetable garden with chickens. We were obsessed with all things urban homesteading, and this obsession burgeoned quickly into a desire to farm.
In 2012, we started our first CSA and grew vegetables and raised chickens for eggs on a vacant lot in city. The following year, we moved to a 45-acre ranch just outside of the city, adding ducks, turkeys, pigs, and goats to our rapidly expanding repertoire. My grandmother stretched herself to offer support in her own conservative Midwestern way, “It’s good to do these things while you’re still young and stupid.” We felt happy and alive, but we were overextended, broke, and drowning.
In the fall of 2013, we packed up the farm, and returned from the 45-acre ranch to the city that we never entirely left. We were done farming (for now), but each spring planted a vegetable garden in our backyard, raised enough chickens to keep our family in eggs, and harvested honey from our rooftop beehive. We worked our day jobs–Chris as a pastor and homeless advocate, me as an emergency room nurse. Our family grew quickly, and we welcomed three sweet, rambunctious boys: Alyosha, Sam, and Ezra.
Everything changed in 2018 when I added a row of dahlias to our annual vegetable garden–I had never seen (or grown!) anything like these big, ethereal blooms. I was hooked! A coworker of mine happened to introduce me to her friend who was a “florist” and soon after I hatched a plan to turn our backyard vegetable garden into a cut-flower garden.
Inspired by innovative urban farmers like Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard in Toronto, and with many years of valuable growing experience under my belt, my urban flower farm, Psalter Farm Flowers, was born. Several neighbors agreed to let me grow flowers in their yard and I cobbled together enough growing space for a little flower farm in the city. My urban farm, now in its sixth growing season, has expanded to eight locations in my immediate neighborhood, and supplies San Diego flower shops, event florists, and local flower enthusiasts with chemical-free flowers, February through September.
From my story, you’ll discover that I’m continuously drawn back to the garden. I want so badly to live my best life–to make my place in the world well, and set my sights beyond the daily tasks of consuming and surviving. For me, the essence of a good life, and my place in it, is in the garden.
Because there is more to life than consumable goods.
Flowers offer hope, peace, comfort, and joy in our most raw, human moments. They’re appropriate to mark every occasion–from heart-bursting celebration, to agonizing grief, to difficult bitter days that seem to drag on forever.
Flowers are a source of ephemeral, transcendent beauty unlike anything that can be manufactured, a true gift from God and earth. Growing and working with flowers brings me deep satisfaction, and quite often a feeling of euphoria. I hope you get the chance to encounter the beauty and uniqueness of local, seasonal, fresh-from-the-garden flowers in the same meaningful way.
Psalter Farm Flowers is named after the Psalter, which is the biblical book of Psalms. The Psalms are a book of prayers full of hope, wonder, and praise; also, cries of lament, despair, and toil. To me, gardening is like the Psalms.
I bring everything I have to the garden—all of my emotions, all of myself—hoping and praying that something beautiful will come out of it.
(Photos #1-3 by Brigid Lally @saltairian)
The work at the farm is never done. Follow along, and learn more about our San Diego urban flower farm as I update our journal, or sign-up for our email list.