Text by Katie Ellis
Flower farmer Dawn Cosgrove, of Whistling Prairie Flowers, grew up in her family’s backyard garden surrounded by rows upon rows of carrots, potatoes, and zucchini, but she hardly imagined it would be the type of place she’d earn a living. “From the minute I could choose to be outside, I would be found out there—dirt-covered and barefoot, planting seeds, finding worms, and chasing butterflies,” she says. “[And] in 2010 I traded in stilettos and stock markets for rubber boots, chickens, homegrown tomatoes, and the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen.”
Dawn and her husband, Adam, are raising their two boys on their second-generation farm in Southwest Saskatchewan, Canada. While her husband and father-in-law grow various crops on 12,000 acres, Dawn turned one acre of her yard into a flower farm that now produces thousands of beautiful blooms, including everything from fragrant sweet peas and peonies in the spring to sunflowers and dahlias in the fall.
“While I have always loved flowers, it wasn’t until after I married my husband in 2011 and moved to the farm here that they became a true passion of mine,” Dawn says. She found floral inspiration as well as a community of fellow growers online that helped foster her interests and expanded her knowledge of varieties. “I began growing more flowers every year, but it wasn’t until the winter of 2017 that I finally felt brave enough to really start a flower farm,” she says. “That spring, I grew just over 600 dahlias and attended my first-ever farmers’ market with my hand-tied bouquets. I sold out within 10 minutes, and I knew then that I had found my calling!”
For Dawn, flowers are much more than their beautiful colors, shapes, or fragrances. Beyond their organic splendor, flowers have a meaningful connection that helps bridge the past and present. “Flowers have these incredible stories that connect us all,” she says. “I love that connection. I love that I have a piece of my late grandmother’s 40-year-old peony planted here at our farm. It connects me to her and my past in a way nothing else could.” Dawn finds that same sense of joy and connection in delivering a bouquet of sweet peas to an elderly woman in the community who shares her own childhood story of the sweet peas her grandmother used to grow. “I am incredibly passionate about helping gardeners grow something beautiful in their own gardens, but I have to say what I love most about my work is the connection I get to see between flowers and growers,” she says.
The name, Whistling Prairie Flowers, is another sweet, sentimental connection. While Dawn was on one of her evening walks around the farm and listening to her surroundings, she heard the wind whistling past the nearby power poles and throughout their many trees—something she’s quick to admit used to feel isolating and eerie, yet now feels nothing but comforting. That whistling reminded her of her father, “a man who was always whistling.”
Dawn says her father was “a happy-go-lucky man of strong roots, a love for the wide-open prairies, and a true family man through and through.” Years later—and much to her surprise—Dawn met the man she would marry, a Saskatchewan farmer. “A man who quite literally whistles while he works and doesn’t even realize when he’s doing it,” she says. “His whistling sounds are the ties that bind me to this land and connect me to my past.”
Spring flowers may have captured the world’s attention with new life bursting forth in vibrant color after a long winter, but for Dawn, autumn is the season when her farm shines brightest. “Autumn on the farm is my absolute favorite time of year. The light hangs lower, glows more golden, and there’s just something magical in the air,” she says. “Our farm has thousands of trees planted, and they transition to the most gorgeous, vibrant shades of lemon, orange, and fire-engine red. The dahlias are at their best, as well as sunflowers, Rudbeckia, asters, and more. It truly is a plentiful, gorgeous time of year.”
Today, Whistling Prairie Flowers’ main focus is sourcing the most unique, beautiful flowers from around the world and supplying them to Canadian gardeners through its website. Currently, Dawn hosts three major sales a year including a fall bulb release in September, new seeds in January, and dahlia tubers sales in late spring. “Bringing beauty to our community through locally grown flowers has been an amazing experience for me,” Dawn says. “I am so lucky to call this my job.”
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