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The Mum Project

Written by Jessica Hall, Founder of The Mum Project at Harmony Harvest Farm

What does it really take to change an industry? To make advancements that move the synergy of a collective group ahead in their field? For the American Floral industry, it could be as simple as one flower, the chrysanthemum, or at least that’s the way that I see it. The challenges of our industry are felt from every corner. How do we motivate people to care as much as we do about our work, about our floral industry, about our world? I believe the answer lies in this one flower.

The Chrysanthemum is pegged as one of the main three floral crops in the ranks of roses and carnations. However, specialty chrysanthemums have almost become an elusive ghost to source for both the farmers growing them and the designers that understand the trending appeal. With the category of focal flowers sparse and the pressures of producing and sourcing in the hard shoulder seasons, the chrysanthemums check all the boxes we wish most flowers did. With diversity in appearance the chrysanthemum has a broad use for floral design and with its exceptional vase-life and ability to be handled dry the value can be felt by farmers and designers alike.

Farmers at Harmony Harvest Farm working in the chrysanthemum greenhouse

With thousands of different varieties, differentiating blooms is easy from the multitude of shapes and forms to the use of the plant itself. The chrysanthemums can be easily forced to bloom outside of their normal fall bloom window allowing growers the opportunity to create a niche and provide dependability for long-lasting focals for designers. These varieties can also be grown out as pot mums helping to diversify income for growers and to provide something different in brick-and-mortar retail settings.

peach chrysanthemums

While the opportunities to find value in working with this crop is vast it also has the collective power of giving the United States a signature crop. Chrysanthemums can be grown and produced across the country and with a growing community of floral enthusiasts in the world, the chrysanthemum also offers a rich tapestry of history and culture to connect us all.

What if I took it one step further and said that chrysanthemums could change agriculture? Could you believe me? A future without agriculture is unimaginable, yet the reality is that our farmers are aging and there’s a concerning lack of successors. The younger generations aren’t embracing farming trades like before and it’s no longer seen as a viable option for them. So how do we grab their attention? Flowers. Flowers are the easiest way in a digital virtual world to highlight the beauty of growing.

greenhouse with a sea of coral chrysanthemum flowers blooming

The power of changing the future is ours, however so is the responsibility. As more and more enthusiasts begin to understand and provide these chrysanthemums we will also want to protect them. This is why we have developed The Mum Project at Harmony Harvest, our preservation and education campaign, to highlight the specialty chrysanthemums. We not only share new and historical knowledge within our industry but we are working with different labs and universities to create the first certified clean genetic program off-farm. With a respect for preservation and a communal approach to growing, we believe in the legacy we can leave through The Mum Project.

lavender and rust chrysanthemum varieties growing side by side

Through the Mum Project, we have collected hundreds of rare or near-lost varieties and have begun logging missing data to share on each. We offer plants for mail-order shipping from our farm and help to educate other farmers and designers on the uses and benefits of these amazing flowers through our newsletter, the Mum Project Monthly.

lavender chrysanthemum plants with yellow centers

Amidst the vibrant floral crowd, the chrysanthemum stands out, calling for our attention. So how do we contribute to this cause? It’s straightforward– we talk about it and invest in its potential. Whether cultivating diverse varieties, weaving our mum tales into designs, or urging suppliers to join the movement, we hold a powerful tool in the American Mum story. The impact is in our hands; let’s wield it for a lasting legacy.

About Jessica Hall

Jessica Hall is the horticultural mastermind and visionary behind Harmony Harvest Farm. Jessica owns and operates the farm alongside her mother Chris Auville and sister, Stephanie Duncan – they call themselves the Trifecta. Nestled on 20 acres in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Harmony Harvest Farm grows nearly 400 varieties across 100 different types of flowers including anemones, ranunculus, peonies, hydrangeas, dahlias, and heirloom mums. In 2023, the farm launched The Mum Project, a collaborative initiative to revitalize American agriculture through heirloom mums.

To learn more about Harmony Harvest Farm, listen to our podcast interview with Jessica and her sister Stephanie. Click here to listen.




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