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Flower farm awarded more than $7,000 by Meaford's Dragons

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A startup lavender and cut-flower farm just north of Walter’s Falls won the top prize in the 12th Annual Meaford Dragons event.

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The Dragons awarded The Purple Hollow $7,600 in cash and prizes including the $500 Meaford Rotary Club Audience Choice Award at this year’s event modelled after the popular CBC show.

The farm is set to open to the public in August and specializes in lavender, sunflowers and specialty cut flowers.

Owner Emily Veldman and marketing director Sara Brown made The Purple Hollow’s pitch to Meaford’s Dragons in this year’s virtual event. Veldman said the money will help purchase a handmade copper still from Portugal that will enable them to distill their own lavender for products to be sold under The Purple Hollow brand.

“We’re buying the still a whole year to year-and-a-half ahead of when we were planning,” Veldman said. “It’s an old way of doing it but it’s tried and true and it works . . . and apparently it smells divine.”

Veldman was living in a townhouse in Alliston with “a tiny backyard” when the idea to purchase a property in rural Meaford and start The Purple Hollow in 2018 sparked, somewhat impulsively.

“We had a blank slate and a big idea,” reads the farm’s origin story on its website.

“At one point we were just like, you know what, let’s just sell everything and go buy a farm. So, that’s what we did,” Veldman said. “I cannot remember how lavender popped into my head . . . what I do remember is being fascinated by the bees dancing around in the lavender plants.”

The lavender plans quickly “snowballed” into growing and producing cut flowers and sunflower varieties that were sold to florists, wholesalers, and a flower collective out of Toronto.

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Veldman said they learned on the job and that some of their more experienced rural neighbours must have been bemused watching the new farmers hand-plant acres of sunflowers.

The Purple Hollow story isn’t expected to end with rows of flowers and a line of branded products. Veldman hopes to soon offer a public “spa-like” agricultural space at the farm. Educational tours, art exhibitions, yoga in the fields and farm-to-table dinners are some of the other ideas the entrepreneur hopes to grow alongside the flowers.

Veldman said entering the Meaford Dragons competition forced the “dragon slayer” to put dreams on paper and structure big ideas into executable plans.

“I feel like it sort of busted that wall. I needed to get through that to sort of move forward, and really it lit a fire for us to get our business plan finalized … before that it was more an idea than something written down on paper,” Veldman said. “There are so many things you need to approach, for providing funds and money to buy equipment and infrastructure. You need a solid plan . . . it gives you that boost of confidence to know you can do this. And, onward we go.”

Comedian, actor and writer Andrew Chapman was host for the 2020 Meaford Dragons event, which featured Dragon judges and local business leaders Daryl Johnson of Amici’s, Marie-Catherine Marsot of The Frauxmagerie, Nancy Sharma of Broker Link, Thomas Vincent of Global Hospitality and Robert Voigt of Parkbridge.

All five “slayers” received a share of the over $15,000 in prizes.

Adam Harrington, owner of The Northern Nutrition Pet Treat and Food Company took second place worth $3,175 in cash and prizes.

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