La Terre Farms Aflower

The Wyly family business is blossoming; from selling wreaths and garlands at farmers markets, to a sustainable, agritourism destination growing a bounty of blooms.

While they were both attorneys living in New Orleans, Teri Wyly’s husband Bubba began squirreling-away plots of undeveloped land in Mississippi. Bubba, who grew up on a farm in north Louisiana, would make the 45 minute trip to the bay every weekend, sometimes towing their children along, giving them jobs like picking up sticks, as he cleared trails on his tractor. “I don’t know if he had a vision, but he would study the topography maps,” says Wyly. “He just needed to be on a tractor, on a farm. It’s what he does.”

Over the years, Bubba and his childhood tractor – “I call her Peaches,” jokes Teri – created a wooded “wonderland” with ten miles of picturesque hiking trails stretching all the way to the river, kissing oaks, and several artesian-fed, clear-water ponds.

By the time the pandemic hit, Bubba had amassed nearly 500 acres along the east bank of the Bayou La Terre River. Teri and Bubba rode out the shutdowns in their little woodland cabin while their children (now grown) stayed in Bay St. Louis. “I realized this is beautiful!” laughed Teri. “He’s an artist, he’s been sculpting the land for 30 years.”

After a 40-year career spent practicing environmental law, Teri felt it was time to transition into something else. Her son Connor had just graduated from college, still considering his future when he pitched the farm idea to Teri. “We had plants in my office but I was the one who killed them, so I can attest to the fact that I have no green thumb, whatsoever.” Even with no prior experience, they jumped in feet first, embarked on a learning curve that would ultimately shape their vision for the farm.

They started out selling garlands and smilax greenery to friends, but quickly realized it wasn’t enough to “pay the light bill.” After some research, Connor discovered there was a good market for cut flowers. They took online classes and dug in with hopeful hearts, but suffered more setbacks from a lack of knowledge than from pests or severe weather. “We smothered our flowers with mulch because we thought they looked cold over the winter,” sighs Teri “We had to have our soil amended. It was sandy on top with dense clay three inches later.”

Obstacles withstanding, the Wylys have seen it through to their 3rd “full-flower season” and Teri, the self-professed black thumb, is rattling off flower-farming jargon like Bio360 – a cornstarch-based, biodegradable mulch that helps retain moisture when acting as a weed deterrent – and listing the innumerable benefits of sustainable farming. The equipment at LaTerre Farms has expanded to four tractors (including Peaches) and an excavator, plus they’ve established 45 100×3-foot flower beds to grow everything from blue bachelor’s buttons, snapdragons and larkspur to sunflowers, zinnias and amaranths.

A quick Google search will tell you that nearly 80% of all cut flowers sold in the United States are imported from countries with climates for year-round cultivation, places like Columbia, Ecuador, and Kenya. The packing and shipping time for cut flowers severely shortens their shelf-life, with blooms only lasting 3-5 days at best. “Ours last two weeks!” exclaims Teri. “We’re not the sexy flowers, the peonies or ranunculus, but we have really sweet flowers that creative artists/florists would absolutely adore.”

Seeking other sources of revenue to help grow their blossoming flower farm, the Wylys unearthed articles about the recent rise of agritourism. Even before we all became shut-ins due to the pandemic, travelers from cities and suburbs all over the world began seeking out vacations offering a taste of the rural life, and the Wylys realized La Terre Farms could deliver. “Everyone wanted to go to a farm [and] have family time,” says Teri. “This would be an opportunity for them to be together.”

Now a certified agritourism venue in the state of Mississippi, La Terre Farms invites visitors to bask in Bubba’s vision on nature walks, pick-their-own flower bouquets, or take classes at the Wyly’s farmhouse. In the past, their workshops have included flower-arranging, making charcuterie boards, baking sourdough bread, and crafting Mardi Gras masks and Easter baskets. La Terre Farms also rents out their farmhouse for events including baby showers, bachelorette parties, and family reunions.

While the Wylys enjoy having visitors to La Terre, their ultimate aim is to sell flowers. Focused on expanding their reach, they’ve identified several florists in New Orleans who appreciate La Terre’s quality, “grown not flown” blooms with an extra-long vase life. Local florists, like Martha Whitney Butler at The French Potager on Main Street, have supported La Terre Farms since their inception, but they’ve also gained boutique hotel clients in Pass Christian, and sell bouquet subscriptions with weekly deliveries to anyone interested in bright bundles of their farm-fresh flowers.

The future looks bright for La Terre Farms, as long as they stay committed to their goal. When Teri feels bleak, worried about whether or not they’re on the right path, her son Connor is always there to pick her back up again. “Just the other day, we were out planting sunflowers and he turns to me and says ‘Mom, can you imagine being anywhere else? How lucky are we?’” How lucky, indeed.

*Article originally published April 2024 in The Shoofly Magazine

**Photo courtesy of La Terre Farms

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