In the midst of a pandemic, Maddie and her husband, Matt Buffan, started Honeybee & Bloom Gardens in Rochester. Honeybee & Bloom Gardens is a seasonal business which sells raw unfiltered wildflower honey as well as freshly cut flowers grown organically. The couple already has plenty of regulars purchasing their raw honey. The majority of the feedback they receive states that their honey is the best and most unique each customer has ever had. It’s truly a testament to the local raw unfiltered honey experience since the products are neither heated nor processed in any way.
“It sure beats anything off the shelf at the grocery store!” -Maddie
How It Works
Honeybee & Bloom Gardens offers a CSA program for honey and seasonal flowers featuring dahlias. They take small orders for events, and customers can also purchase honey and bouquets a la carte. This business is Maddie and Matt’s “side hustle,” as managing honeybees and distributing flowers and bouquets mainly takes place in summer and fall, and harvesting honey takes place throughout the warmer months when the honeybees are active. Flowers are available from summer until the first hard frost with the couple ensuring all of their growing practices are organic, low-chemical, and low-toxin.
Matt Buffan has always been interested in beekeeping. He wanted to learn more about sustaining the honeybee population. So, in 2017, Maddie gifted her husband with beekeeping classes taught by Hungry Bear Farms, run by Ben and Kimberly Carpenter in Canandaigua. From there, the couple invested in two nuclear hives. They started beekeeping shortly after they got married in May 2017 and have been doing so ever since!
Maddie and Matt love science and learning together, so they’ve found beekeeping to be their perfect hobby as a married couple. Now that they’ve decided to invest in it, they’ve become even more passionate about the beekeeping industry and supporting their own gardens for the honeybee population. Maddie shares that they are keen on sustainability and “keeping the earth as happy as possible.”
When Maddie discovered you could grow your own cut flowers, especially Dahlias, in the Rochester Region, she dove headfirst into her 2020 pandemic project. She only had 96 square feet of space to grow in, but she made it work. She enrolled in a virtual Dahlia gardening class through the Rochester Brainery, which was taught by organic flower farmer Jenny Rae of Flowerwell Farms.
With endless varieties, shapes, and colors to add, Maddie ended up expanding to having nearly 90+ plants and growing other types of local flowers in 2021. She particularly loves Dahlias because they are beautiful, showy, and easy to grow. She wanted to add textures and colors to her bouquets as well, so she added other cut flowers to her gardens to compliment her Dahlias. With her young family, she didn’t want high maintenance plants; she liked how Dahlias required minimal human interaction. Other easy-to-grow flowers for our growing zone here in the Rochester area include Bachelor’s Button, Cosmos, Snapdragon, Zinnia, Echinacea, Bee Balm, Sunflower, Narcissus, and Peony.
When the flowers became a hit, the Buffan family decided to offer a CSA to see if people wanted to invest in local and organically grown flowers as well as raw unfiltered honey. No other grower in the area has combined the two, so the couple figured they had a decent shot at making their business idea come to life. They started out small and sold out all of the shares they had available in their first year. Everything is made and grown in the Buffan family backyard, 0.41 acres in size, using only 558 square feet as their gardening space.
Maddie’s Gardening Tips
• Garden with a loved one. Gardens are especially great for families with children! Matt and Maddie’s daughter, Luna (nearly three), started participating in seed starting and planting as soon as she was able to walk. This past fall, Luna was able to help Maddie plant over 200 Narcissus bulbs for spring blooming this year.
• Start small with easy-to-grow flowers. Plant a moderate amount of easy-to-grow flowers which are hardy and don’t need much pampering. This will set you up for success.
• Know your sunshine. Understand how much sun your flowers will need. This will help you determine where your garden should go on your property.
• Plan and prepare. Growing flowers takes time, so you want to set yourself up for the best success possible. Know your last spring frost and first fall frost dates. This will help you determine when to start seeds. Seeds packets will have detailed instructions as to when and how to start them. Map out a plan on a calendar so you understand what you need in terms of materials and when to start seeds.
• Opt for native, pollinator-friendly flowers. When it comes to pollinator friendly flowers, choosing varieties native to your growing area is key! It’s very important to use organic gardening practices and avoid the use of pesticides, especially in a space dedicated to pollinators! Pollinator friendly flowers include the Calendula, Marigold, Salvia, Lavender, Cosmos, Verbena, Milkweed, Borage (honeybees especially love this one), Yarrow, Oregano, Sunflower, Echinacea, Zinnia, Goldenrod, Bee Balm, Bachelor’s Button, and the Strawflower.
Matt’s Beekeeping Tips
• Take a class! There is an awesome class taught through the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Canandaigua with the Ontario Finger Lakes Beekeepers Association.
• Start small. Two hives is best if you have the space in your yard. You can compare against the two and note differences, which is great for learning and troubleshooting. Plus, if you lose a hive, you can split the surviving hive. The split hive will then create a new queen and can populate the empty hive.
• Expect mistakes. Mistakes are going to happen, and that’s okay; it’s part of the learning process! Matt and Maddie lost one of their two hives during their first winter (2017-2018). You can always start again with a new nucleus hive or split an established hive. Be sure to take notes, learn from what didn’t work and what did work, and keep on trying.
• Wind breakage and sun are key. Like sunshine, wind protection during winter is especially vital for the honeybees!
• Provide flowers that support beekeeping. Plant a variety of flowers which will grow from early spring to the first hard frost in the fall to provide a source of food nearby throughout the entire growing season. Don’t forget pollinator friendly plants and veggies, too! Snowdrop and Dandelion are some of the best flowers for honeybees during the early spring.
Learn more about Honeybee & Bloom Gardens by checking out their website or follow along with their story on Instagram @honeybeeandbloom