Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild Podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life, in-the-wild stories about business and marketing.
Julia: Everybody, I am excited to introduce to you my new friend, Jaemye. She runs a business and she’ll tell you a little bit about it, but the way I found her was through our photo camper business. So if you guys have been around for a second, you heard that Roger and I bought a photo camper. Jaemye and I connected through that, and I’ve just been watching her grow this business, and so I’m excited to get to talk to her. So, Jaemye, tell us a little bit about you and your business.
Jaems: I’m a Tennessee girl, born and raised. I married an air force boy, ended up here in Utah, fell in love with the mountains, the four seasons, the lack of critters, and decided to make Utah home. I’ve got two kids. That’s pretty much the gist of me. I went from a law enforcement background to now a farmer.
Julia: Tell us about your farm. You’ve got flowers? You have trees? Tell us a little bit about it.
Jaems: So when we got to Utah, we realized there was a lack of U-cut Christmas tree farms. There were no Christmas tree farms except for one, and it’s pretty small, so they can only handle a certain amount of people. Owning a Christmas tree farm has been a dream of mine for about 12 to 15 years. When we went to one in Columbus, Mississippi, I fell in love with the idea, I fell in love with our experience. Every year, we kept revisiting that dream, and we would just talk about what if? What if we had this Christmas tree farm? What if we did this, and what if we did that? It was always this fun dream to talk about, but never one that we took seriously, mainly because he was active duty in the air force, so we really never knew where home was gonna be. But then once we got here, and then honestly, once COVID hit and started having deeper conversations about what do we really want out of life? What would really fulfill us? And it was making this Christmas tree farm.
Here in Utah, it’s difficult to get a good piece of land. It’s very expensive here, and they’re hard to come by. You’re competing with developers. So it took us a couple of years before we found this property. We wrote the family a letter explaining what we wanted to do with this property, and they loved the idea, and so they accepted our offer right away. It was way more land than we ever imagined we would get. So we were like, okay, cool. We only need this much land for Christmas trees. What else can we do? My dad has always been really big into flowers, and I’ve grown up around them, and then I saw where other Christmas tree farmers to help supplement their farm throughout the year. They were adding flowers, whether it’s sunflower patches or whatever. And I was like, we could do that, we could add flowers. And so very quickly, when we bought the farm, we threw our first 12 under trees in the ground, and then I did a test patch of flowers. I was like, well, let me see if I can do this first before we just throw ourselves into it. And then the test patch, everything bloomed, everything looked gorgeous, and I was like, oh yeah, I could do this. I could totally do this!
Julia: That’s awesome!
Jaems: So we just did it times six or seven the size.
Julia: And so you guys actually just had your opening weekend this past weekend? How did it go?
Jaems: We sold out! And I kid you not, we had people drive anywhere from right up the road to about an hour and 45 minutes, we had somebody fly in from Georgia, come to our opening night. A friend of mine who actually created our logo, she has been a big supporter of us, and so she didn’t come out here on opening day. It was perfect though. We set the crowd limit to what we thought we wanted. We don’t want the farm to ever feel crowded, so we almost want to make sure that we have less people than we can actually serve, because we want people to come out here and feel like they have the farm to themselves, and not feel it’s overrun with a ton of other people. So based off this weekend, that’s what we plan on doing moving forward, that max amount of people just adding more events.
Julia: Jaemye, I love that because I feel like most people are thinking the opposite. Like, how do we get as many people out here? And you’re like, no, let’s elevate the experience. So it’s more about the experience than it is about the numbers, which is gonna set you guys apart from everybody.
Jaems: That was a big deal to me. The flowers are great, the flowers are pretty, the flowers are fun, trust me. I mean, they’re the core of it all, but for me, it’s the feeling that the farm gives. You could take the flowers away and you could still get that feeling. I didn’t want that to be lost in a crowd. So it was very important for me to have crowd management. Very important for me to have that vibe, that feeling, and so I’m perfectly content with how that all went down.
Julia: That’s awesome! Well, congratulations. An opening weekend is a big deal. So I’m curious, this summer, we have been going through and interviewing women from all sorts of different entrepreneurship backgrounds. So one of the questions that we asked them all is what’s been the hardest thing about business?
Jaems: Well, I think the hardest thing for us initially is just the learning curve of learning something new. We don’t come from a farming background. We know nothing about agriculture, but especially the Utah climate, the Utah soil. Anything I’ve ever seen my dad do was in Tennessee where they got plenty of rain and the soil’s different, the air is different. So now I’m trying to do something that’s really big scale to us in a climate that I’m not just familiar with, and then also irrigation. You don’t have irrigation in Tennessee, you don’t need it. You get the storms. Well, here you are dependent on irrigation. And so learning how to transform canal irrigation into simple drip irrigation, so foreign to us a year ago. And now we’re like, oh, it’s simple. This is just easy.
But I would say initially, it’s just that learning curve of a new problem arises and then you’re like, how do I fix this? How do I figure this out? But also my husband and I, neither one of us are from a business background. And so I feel like he is more business oriented than I am. I like doing the hard work, I like creating the space and everything. I have things in mind and plans, but I don’t like the business part. I don’t like asking for money, I don’t like charging people, I don’t like marketing, honestly. I feel dirty trying to sell myself. So that has been, I think, the hardest part. It’s trying to know your worth, know your time’s worth, and what your offering’s worth.I think that just takes time.
Julia: No, for sure! Well, I think it’s also like a muscle to be flexed and to strengthen, because I’ve been in the same boat where it’s weird to ask for money, but then over time, it gets easier in the sense that like, well, I do actually have to buy groceries. What has been the most rewarding part or the best part of this business?
Jaems: The second you were gonna ask this, I was gonna cry. Seeing what years of dreams and years of visions actually come to life, holding a baby Christmas tree in your hand and knowing that someday some family, some couple, somebody is coming to take that and make that a tradition in their home, it has been the most rewarding. I mean, we’ve been open one weekend, we’ve owned this farm just over a year. And just seeing the little things come to life is rewarding. And we’ve put, and everybody does when they’re starting a business, so many hours, so much blood, sweat, and tears. I mean, literal blood, sweat and tears to this farm. And to see people out walking around, picking your flowers, taking pictures, smiling, it’s worth it. Worth every single minute of it all. I imagine for Christmas when we open, it’s gonna be a whole nother world of, I think, reward.
Julia: For sure! That’s one of the things that I have loved seeing you guys. So for everybody who is not familiar with their farm, it’s a u-pick your own flowers farm. You guys sell them by the bundle, right? The cup, is that what it is?
Jaems: Whatever you can fit in your cup.
Julia: Yeah. Which is such a cool thing. But then also, people have been taking photos. And how cool where people can use them as backdrops and things like that? What a cool experience? I love it! So I have some questions about flowers and trees. How long does it take to grow a Christmas tree?
Jaems: Oh my goodness! That’s the million dollar question. There’s a lot at play, whether it be soil health. So we’re hoping that we’ll have our trees ready to be harvested within seven to eight years. We make sure they get adequate water, we fertilize after they’ve been in our soil for one year. But honestly, I don’t know. Our tree field is 10 acres, and we plant one acre a year, so we put ourselves on a 10-year cycle in case it’s that longer span. But seven would be the earliest, and that’s like, they’re really going. Eight to nine is probably average, and ten’s a little on the, it’s taken a while.
Julia: So you’re in this for the long game, Jaemye?
Jaems: Yeah. You’re investing a lot without getting anything back for a really long time.
Julia: Yeah, for sure. That’s wild! And that, I guess that would be nice about the flour aspect, is that you do have something that’s annual that you’re seeing the fruits of your labor.
Jaems: Exactly! And then we also will bring in precut trees starting this year to still offer that tree farm experience until our trees are ready to be harvested. And then we’ll keep the precut trees even when ours are ready, because there are gonna be people who don’t wanna hike all the way out there and get their tree. There will be people who maybe want a different species than what we can grow here. So we plan on keeping the precuts from this year until the end.
Julia: Sweet! I love it! How do you decide what flowers to plant?
Jaems: So for me, it was whatever I could put straight into the ground. I did not wanna pre-start flowers, I didn’t want to put seeds and trays in February or March. It was, what is going to grow if I direct sow into it? If I put that seed into the ground, what’s gonna grow? That’s what I decided.
Julia: I love it! I tried starting seeds once and it was an utter fail.
Jaems: It’s just a lot, and a lot of space. And we’re also trying to manage our time throughout the year, of when we’re working on the farm and not, and so we didn’t wanna add this extra chore, extra job in the winter. I was like, if I can stick it in the ground and it’ll grow me a flower, that’s what’s gonna grow. If not, I don’t want it.
Julia: What are some of your favorite flowers that you’ve grown so far?
Jaems: My favorite out there is the Queen Anne’s Lace. I was telling my dad about it and he was like, “That girl’s a weed here.” And I was like, “I don’t ever remember a weed that looked like this growing up in Tennessee. I don’t remember that.” I think they’re beautiful. This year, we added dahlias. We didn’t grow dahlias last year, and they’re just now starting to bloom and they’re so cool, because they’re so different. And they’re just gorgeous and intricate. So I imagine, the Queen Anne’s lace and the dahlias are probably gonna be my favorite.
Julia: I’ve seen pictures of them. They’re beautiful. So I have a question for you, you said that you hate marketing, but you’re good at social media. How do you figure out what to put on your social media?
Jaems: Well, I had a travel account prior to starting the farm. I did full-time, travel blogging, and I worked with a lot of big brands with that. Our travel account actually grew to 30,000 over a course of a couple of years, and then COVID hit.
Julia: And travel just got decimated.
Jaems: Travel stopped, I stopped, we bought the farm, I, for real, stopped. We’ve lost a lot, but that was practice for me, I think for this, honestly, because I did all the tricks of the trades and was like, oh, I gotta abide by the rules and I gotta do this and I gotta do that to grow. And sometimes it was so tedious, and when I moved over to the farm account, I said, you know what, I’m gonna post what I wanna post, how I wanna post, what time of the day I wanna post, how often I want to. I threw the rules out the door. I still keep it niche, what I post on my feed. I still keep it about the farm, but as far as all these crazy rules, I just was like, no, thank you. Don’t have the time or energy for that. It’ll pop up when it pops up. And some posts do better than others, and that’s just how it works, and I’m okay with it.
Julia: What I love seeing is you get a lot of interactions on your posts. I’m like one of these creepers who reads comments on people’s posts because I’m like, what kinds of conversations are they starting? And so I feel like you’re growing this community around the farm, which to me, from the outside, you care about people’s experience on the farm. To me, even this community aspect is gonna be really important for you guys.
Jaems: So from day one, there have been people who have been following us who have been keenly supportive. And when they’re like, “Oh, I can’t wait to come to the farm”, I’m always like, “Okay, you’ve gotta let me know when you come, gotta come say hi because I need to hug your neck.” I think there are people genuinely emotionally invested in the farm, in this dream, and they’ve been a part of it since we were literally putting offers on land and being rejected and told no. And now we’re having opening day, so I definitely feel we have this community of people. When bad things have happened, people have asked to come out and help. That’s a big deal. I feel like that’s pretty cool!
Julia: Oh, 100%! That’s the whole idea around social, is to be social, to build connections. I love that! So I’m curious, so our mission, our organization’s mission is to help people improve their relationship with their social media, especially in businesses. Based on your experience with the farm account, what would be some tips that you would give other entrepreneurs about social media?
Jaems: I think any tips for social media, I feel like it’s good to keep your feed niche related, but share all of it. Share the good, share the bad, share the ugly. I promise you, people don’t wanna keep seeing pretty flowers all the time. They wanna see you struggle, they wanna see the hard work or where you fall short. Some of my favorite people who have motivated me to do this is because they showed where they have fallen, where they fell short, where they failed. Share it all. And then I think stories are way more important than people realize. Stories are where you connect. That’s where you get more on a personal level, and you don’t have to share just farm stuff in the stories. I mean, sure, yeah, share some. I have a connection with people who love ice cream because I share my ice cream flavors of the week, or just little odd end things where I don’t like the summer. I’m a fog girl, I’m a cool weather girl. Well, then that’s where you connect with people.
I feel like stories is where you start having conversations, and you really start to connect with people on a person to person level. A business to person, a person to person. And I feel like stories are so important. And I’m not saying go out there and share 150 stories where people are like, fine. Spark some conversations! I feel like it’s the conversations that’s gonna build that bond, and those bonds are gonna be your support later on in your business.
Julia: Yes, I totally, totally agree! So Jaemye, as we wrap up, where can people find you and find the farm?
Jaems: So I would say that I share almost everything on Instagram, at @onceuponachristmastreefarm (https://www.instagram.com/onceuponachristmastreefarm/). I try to equally share on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Once-Upon-A-Christmas-Tree-Farm-115593691026969). It just depends on how friendly Facebook is being, whether or not they’ll accept the real or not. But most of the stories from Instagram go straight to Facebook. So I’m on both Instagram, Facebook, then we have our website (https://www.onceuponachristmastreefarm.com/), and then we also have our email subscriber list, which if you’re an email subscriber, anytime we add something to the farm or our opening date, kind of the first to know basis goes to our email subscribers first before we share it to social media. So they get first dibs.
Julia: Sweet! Awesome! Well, I cannot not wait for everybody to listen to this. I have a 16-month old, we’re gonna have to come out to the farm before the fall and come and pick some flowers.
Jaems: Yes! You have to!
Julia: For sure! Well, thank you, Jaemye. I really appreciate your time and your insight.
Jaems: Well, thank you so much.
Julia: Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have. If you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you loved our podcast and wanna give us a rating or a review, I promise, we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us.
Also, thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys.
Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week, and I hope you will be too.