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Chester County Press

Local flower farmer earns plaudits from near and far

02/01/2021 12:06AM ● By Steven Hoffman

In an era in which agriculture is dominated by large industrialized and consolidated growing operations, and flowers are imported from afar, the Washington Post recently took notice of a small, local gem, The Farm at Oxford, where the owners share a passion for the flowers they grow and customers have come to appreciate their personalized service.

It all began with a family move from California to Pennsylvania in 2013.

Seeking a simpler life for themselves and their young son, Mara Tyler and her husband moved from the high-pressure life of digital marketing in California’s Silicon Valley to a farm in New London Township that had its roots with the early years of Lincoln University.

Tyler said for years she had been attracted to the suburban Philadelphia area because her husband, Greg, had roots in Bethlehem, and they had made visits there.

In their search for some farmland, they found a smallish property along Route 896. It had been a working farm in years past, but more recently had become a vacation home.

Tyler, 46, said she at first thought the area was a little too rural, but she came to realize that the community was quite sophisticated and welcoming to artisans.

“I had no idea it was so art loving,” she said. “I had always gardened and was volunteering on a farm in Philadelphia. But I wanted to grow [flowers] on a larger scale.”

When she set to nurturing a wide variety of flowers, she said she realized that “no one gets rich farming,” but she was engaged is an activity that nourished her soul.

“Since I was little, when I was responsible for the weeding, the plants brought me joy. If I have a rough day, I see wildflowers and it reminds me that the natural beauty is there,” she said.

These days, tending to the business of raising and selling magnificent flowers from tulips and daffodils, snapdragons to ranunculus and dahlias, occupies her throughout the year.

Her business consists of filling and delivering online orders and in-person selling in artisan-friendly shops like Works in Kennett Square and others in West Chester, Devon and Glen Mills.

Works, which sits at the corner of South Walnut Street and the railroad tracks in the borough, is the home for more than 30 artisan-vendors who, like Tyler, put their passions into their products and sought a place to market them.

“We rent space from them,” Tyler said.

Life on the flower farm engages the Tylers all year. Lest a casual observer assume that the dark, bleak days of mid-winter are the time for farmers’ resting, Tyler said that’s far from the truth.

“I’m always planning: workshops and floral designs, ’ she said. She also oversees a bin of caterpillars that grow into butterflies that will be released in late summer for pollination purposes.

“Valentine’s Day we get busy,” she added.

Tyler explained that to fill flower orders when none are blooming on her property, she does business with several “old school” greenhouse operations nearby. 

“No foreign imports,” she said.

As the seasons come and go, each with their unique charms, so goes the Tylers’ life on the flower farm.

“I love working the earth, and I see in the seeds the spirit of the circle of life,” she said.