Flower farming perfect retirement plan for family
FLOWER farming was never how Lyn Palmer imagined spending her retirement.
But after holidaying at far north Queensland's Mission Beach and falling in love with tropical flowers a decade ago, the idea of entering into the commercial industry started to blossom.
Almost nine years ago, Mrs Palmer and her husband Jim dug up much of the garden at their former Mackay home and took it with them to their 6ha Sarina property.
"When we sold the house it was on the proviso that we take some of the plants," she said, with a laugh.
The fact Mrs Palmer often has to fight off wasps, which she is extremely allergic to, shows just how passionate she's become about the industry.
Although she wears a beekeeper's hood and sleeves, she has still been stung numerous times.
"Last summer they were particularly bad. I usually come up and put ice on it. Then I see if I'm still breathing," she said.
But the chance to spend her days outdoors, walking through archways created by the tall tropical flowers, makes Mrs Palmer willing to take on the risk.
Shortly after moving to the Sarina property, she retired from her job as a personal assistant and began working full-time farming the range of heliconias and tropical flowers at the property.
Although her husband still works full-time he devotes weekends to the property, and Mrs Palmer's sister Chris Pitts washes the flowers and makes deliveries.
"I never thought I'd retire and become a flower farmer," Mrs Palmer said, with a laugh.
"But when you love what you're doing, it's not really work.
"And I'm glad I gave up work when I did, because I'm still fit and active enough to do it."
While they had more than 50 flower varieties when they first started, they now focus on the "best sellers".
These are determined by buyers up and down the country, from Melbourne wholesalers to Whitsunday florists providing flower arrangements for super yachts, or simply locals buying flowers for no other reason than to brighten up their home.
The most they have produced was a quarter of a tonne in a week, but production is generally determined by season and demand.
While temperate flower varieties last only a couple of months and need to be grown commercially indoors, tropical varieties last up to two years.
However, bringing the flowers to market remained a time-consuming process, as each has to be washed individually, and some have to have a waxy outer coating scrubbed away.
But for Mrs Palmer, who "can't sit still for five minutes", Mr Palmer and Ms Pitts, the effort is worth it, for the looks of appreciation from happy customers.