Here at Cottage Life, we realize how hard the COVID-19 pandemic has hit local businesses. To do our part, we’ll be highlighting the stories of different businesses in cottage country. This week, we spoke with Melissa Johnson, who runs Littlemarket Muskoka, a herb and flower farm out of Bracebridge, Ont.
What is Littlemarket Muskoka?
I operate a small-scale herb and flower farm, offering cut flowers, edible flowers, botanical facial steams, botanical bath teas, and biodegradable confetti.
We run our gardens as in-season only, which maintains our eco-conscious lifestyle. It’s a big part of being waste-free. No plant is wasted. Whether it’s in one of my products or heading to the compost, it’s being used.
How did the business get started?
Littlemarket Muskoka started with our children a few years back. The kids were looking for ways to make some money. They’d hoped for a lemonade stand; however, our location wasn’t right for it. After a few conversations, the kids decided to create a farm stand where they sold eggs from our backyard hens and extra produce from our vegetable gardens.
But once the pandemic started, we wanted to shift our focus. We wanted to share our values and bring smiles to people’s faces during such uncertain times. So, last year, we reinvented the herb and flower farm stand into Littlemarket Muskoka.
It started by giving out fresh salad bags and bouquets. We put mixed greens, carrots, turnips, beets, green onions, chives, eggs, and strawberries in the salad bags, and the bouquets were made up of in-season mixed flowers. We started handing out the salad bags in June 2020.
As a family, we harvested and washed the extras from our gardens and created the salad bags. I thought it would be fun if we went for walks or drives to deliver these bags. We asked our children to direct us to random houses to deliver the bags to people’s doorsteps. It was a fun version of Nicky Nicky nine door. Once the flowers came into bloom, we created small bouquets and delivered them in the same fashion, and we did a few similar contests on our social media.
By mid-summer, we realized there was a gap in the edible flower/herb business. I had a bunch of moms interested and asking if I would start selling our flowers and produce. Since my childcare business had slowed down, I thought it would be a fun way to keep myself busy. So, we set out to reinvent our homestead. Now, here we are, bringing smiles to others by offering fresh, local, and toxic-free products.
The business continues to operate out of the farm stand, and we’ve added an online shop.
What inspired the name for the herb and flower farm?
Our children named the business Littlemarket Muskoka. They were trying to come up with a name for their farm stand, and after one of our many visits to our local farmers’ markets, they said our stand was like a smaller version of the farmers’ market, but it could be for everyone in Muskoka. Together they came up with Littlemarket Muskoka, and when we decided to reinvent the business last year, they wanted me to keep the name.
What is your most popular product?
The most popular products seem to be the Bug Off Spray, after-bite relief spray, botanical facial tea, and botanical bath tea. I believe these are the most popular because they’re all-natural and safe for everyone to use. But most of all, they work.
How do you decide which types of flowers to grow?
We have a few different ways of choosing. One is the health benefits provided by the plant. The second is whether it’s edible. (Edible flowers are preferred.) And third is personal preference. My children and I review thousands of different flowers, and together we decide on which ones we think others would like in their bouquets or what would be unique. And fourth is quality. We only purchase Canadian products. Many of our flowers are organic, specialty flowers, not the ones you’d find at the grocery store or hardware store.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
As a mother and childcare professional, I saw how the pandemic affected the children and our own mental health. Instead of feeling low, I knew it was important to look for the good, or what I call “grow with the flow.” I started thinking of what I had at home, what resources I had and what brought me peace. After all, this is a time when we all need to feel a little bit of peace.
As a result, I’m pretty much just living my life, trying to do some good for others and bring joy. I started adding like-minded small businesses to our flower farm to bring a unique flair. I thought it would be fun and inspiring to help others in their journey by giving them a little extra advertising space while creating a sense of community and support.
Otherwise, the pandemic ironically helped reinvent Littlemarket Muskoka. It inspired me to take action and do more to share our lifestyle and our products. It’s allowed us the time to rest, think, and create the path for me to follow my passions while being 100 per cent present for my family.
What does the future look like for Littlemarket Muskoka?
I want to help educate children, families, and communities by running workshops about growing backyard gardens, eco-friendly living, healthy eating, and foraging. And of course, I’d like to increase our production.
This summer, we’ll continue handing out salad bags, and instead of handing bouquets out, we’re offering a day where children can come grab a free DIY bouquet in support of children’s mental health.
I also pick one charity per month during the summer to contribute a portion of that month’s sales too. This was started as a teaching tool for our children but is now a huge part of Littlemarket Muskoka.
Do you have a local business in cottage country? Fill out this survey for your chance to be featured.