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Hazelfield Farm in full bloom

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By Molly Haines

WHEATLEY — If you ask her daughter Sayward Stamper, Teresa Biagi was born with not one, but two green thumbs.
A native of Shelby County, gardening runs deep in Biagi’s family — her great-great-grandparents once owned a floral shop and greenhouses on Main Street in Shelbyville.
Today, the 63-year-old Wheatley resident, along with her husband Raphe Ellis, a native of Monterey, own and operate a booming flower and vegetable business located on Butler Inn Road known as Hazelfield Farm.
The business is primarily recognized as a specialty-cut flower vendor for weddings and other events around the area but also has an ever-expanding following at the Douglass Loop Farmers Market in Louisville and the Hyde Park Farmers Market in Cincinnati.
The couple formerly owned a small, 30-acre farm in southern Owen County, but purchased Hazelfield Farm in 1998 to expand their crops.
“We raised tobacco until they did the buyout and then we quit,” Biagi said. “I think the most we had was about 12 acres. We didn’t like doing it. It’s a lot of hard work for very little money, so we settled on (flowers and vegetables).”
The farm serves as the couple’s only source of income and employs two people, one of which is Stamper, who left her job as a teacher at Western Hills High School in Frankfort to join her mother and step-father in the business. Along with helping out on the farm, Stamper handles the farm’s website, social media accounts and also assists brides in picking out flowers for their special day.

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“If it’s outside, she can grow it.”

Raised on her grandparent’s farm in Shelby County, Biagi grew up surrounded by baby calves and a large vegetable garden. In addition to her great-great-grandparents, another of Biagi’s great-great-grandfathers worked as an estate gardener in Italy. He passed his trade on to Biagi’s grandfather.
“As a child, I remember him propagating trees and grafting things,” she said. “I just thought everybody’s grandfather knew how to do that. It came from both sides.”
“I always say she has two green thumbs,” Stamper said of her mother. “If it’s outside she can grow it.”
Farming and gardening are also in Ellis’ blood, who worked for many years at the farm of the late lawyer Jim Hudson on Point of Rock Road.
“He worked for (Hudson) when he was very young doing all of his apple tree grafting and stuff,” Biagi said. “He worked for (Hudson) for a long time doing that, and they always had a big garden, so this all comes naturally.”
Biagi’s love of cut flowers began around the age of 4 when her family moved to a residence with a formal cutting garden in the backyard.
It was there that Biagi grew to love peonies, a flower Hazelfield Farm now considers its most popular option for brides to be.
“I love peonies and always have,” she said. “As a child, I’d cut as many flowers as I wanted for fun, so it’s always something I’ve loved. Now we have about 3,000 peony plants in the ground.”
The peonies are cut at the bud stage and stored in a box inside a cooler for up to six weeks, guaranteeing brides fresh peonies through the end of June. The peonies are stored with the bride’s name on the box, along with the potential number of peonies needed. The boxes are pulled out a couple of days before the wedding and placed in water to bloom.
“Most people in Kentucky can’t do that,” Biagi explained. “So, we have a big rush of peony weddings starting (this week).”
Weddings slow down as temperatures begin to soar in July and August, but Stamper said things pick back up in September and October when dahlias become the most sought-after flower for brides.
Biagi starts the dahlias in trays due to their tendency to rot in the ground. She then takes cuttings to root the dahlias in the field, so they are already established plants instead of planting the bulbs.

An organic-friendly farm

For Biagi and Ellis, ensuring that their flowers and produce are organically grown is a top priority.
“We get a lot of people who are very concerned about whether their food and their vegetables and their flowers are organic,” Biagi said. “You’re putting (the flowers) on a cake, you’re holding them, and if they’re coming from South America, they’ve been dipped in pesticides at the end of the row.”
The couple’s dedication to organically grown produce and flowers have led to a partnership with Idlewild Butterfly Farm, a privately-owned business based out of Louisville.
The business specializes in butterflies and other insects for special events such as weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, funerals, memorials and more.
“We work with Idlewild to do butterfly balls,” Biagi said. “They’re an iron ball we put netting and a flower arrangement in the bottom, and then they tie the top for memorial services, weddings, parties or whatever you wanna do, and then you untie the top, and the butterflies fly. We’re the only people that can work with her because she can’t use florist’s flowers because they spray pesticides that would kill the butterflies.”
While Hazelfield Farm has many requests for wholesale flowers, Biagi said those requests are denied – “It’s just not profitable,” she said. “We sell all of our flowers retail, except every once in a while if a friend wants to buy something. We don’t sell to florists or things like that.”
During late fall, Hazelfield Farms offers Christmas greenery such as wreaths for various events. Biagi also teaches wreath-making and flower arranging classes.
“We take off a couple of weeks in early January, but we start seeding by the middle of January,” Biagi said. “We have a glass greenhouse I put on the front of our house that we do all of our seeding in now. By the second week in January we’re seeding and starting things again.”

A family affair

Biagi’s older daughter, Esmee Mckee, and her husband, Todd, purchased the second portion of Hazelfield Farm a few years after Biagi and Ellis’ initial purchase. Along with their son, Miller, Esmee and Todd grow produce and grains, organize and maintain the gourmet Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program — a membership to a farm’s weekly harvest — and attend the Hyde Park Farmers Market on Sundays.
Esmee home schools Miller in the Montessori method and assists in all aspects of farm life from seeding and transplanting to weeding and harvesting. Esmee and Todd welcomed their second son, Wagner, late last year.
Stamper and her family — including a daughter, Lucca — moved to the farm in 2012.
“We’re all Hazelfield Farm; they’re here all the time,” Biagi said of her family. “If Lucca were here right now she’d be trying to pick up the stuff off the floor and make flower arrangements. She follows us through the field when we’re cutting zinnias — we’ll cut the bad ones off and throw them on the ground, she’s back there picking them up making bundles.”
Both Biagi and Stamper agreed that Hazelfield Farm’s legacy is likely to continue throughout the years as Biagi and Ellis’ grandchildren continue to grow and learn on the farm.
“Miller has been going to the farmers market since he was an infant,” Stamper said. “Their customers that they’ve had for years have seen him grow up. That’s an important part of the farmers market, the fact that we get to talk to our customers and build a relationship with them and see our family grow and we see their families grow.”

For more information on Hazelfield Farm, visit www.hazelfieldfarm.com, or visit the farm on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HazelfieldFarm.