While many of us got engrossed in “pandemic gardening” while being stuck at home, a kababayan in La Broquerie, Manitoba had an entire flower farm to cultivate during the summer season. Lourdes Casañares-Still is a flower grower in Southeast Manitoba who is also the founder and co-owner of Masagana Flower Farm and Studio, a seasonal fresh cut flower farm presenting its clients and guests with freshly harvested, local blooms so that they can live a flower-filled life. Casañares-Still has been running the farm for 2 years now and like many local business owners, she too was affected by the COVID -19 pandemic. “It started out challenging because I couldn’t hire help without having the COVID precautions in place at the farm, like an outhouse that my staff could use instead of coming into the house,” Casañares-Still shared. Though there were not a lot of events like weddings that she catered to this summer, Lourdes was busy with other business opportunities. “I fulfilled a few 8-weeks flower subscriptions, hosted garden tours and u-pick flower days at the farm, flower pop-up event at the city and just recently, participated at a weekend outdoor market.” She added that It was a full summer and felt supported by the community.

Lourdes Casañares-Still moved to Canada from the Philippines in 2009. Here she became a flower buyer for a large wholesale company. After a few years, she realized that she loved working with flowers and wanted to leave her corporate job. She started Master Gardener -in – Training program with the University of Saskatchewan and Florets Farms Online Workshop. Later she moved with her husband to the country and founded Masagana Flower Farm.

Ask her what is behind the name of their business, Casañares- Still shared, “My love for this word as my business name is two-fold. First, it represents my Filipino heritage and; second, it recognizes what I have been given. It is also a mindset. There is abundance around me, in the garden, and my own gift and calling. Choosing to live from this abundance versus to live for what I don’t have. That is why I believe we can cultivate, create and collaborate with what we have.”

Casañares-Still said that gardening has taught her how to live through the seasons. Gardening in the north is different from the tropic like her native land, Philippines, but as she learn more about perennial plants, the more that she feels at home on the prairies. Though she had heard many times that the flat fields in the Prairies are boring, she said that it’s because some people are just looking at it superficially.

“There is plenty of diversity in the prairie or at least there was, and if we look closely, it is anything but boring,” Casañares-Still said
This time of the year, the gardens are slowing down but Casañares-Still feels that the flower season is never over. “I am letting everything go to seed in hope to save seeds for next year. Garden clean-up will start this month for me too and I am prioritizing the beds where I am planting my tulip bulbs for next spring.”

She has about 2,000 bulbs to plant in October for May 2021 harvest and invested on rare peony varieties this year. Natural and botanical dyed bandanas is also something that they started this year and will be part of the farm’s services next year.

For those who started gardening during the pandemic and wanted to continue, here’s what Casañares-Still have to say, “A big yes on investing the time and resources on home gardening. There is really nothing compared to the taste of home-grown tomatoes for example. Gardening is a skill that everyone should learn and/or re-learn. We may have a short growing season in Manitoba but we can cultivate beauty and harvest bountifully even from a small plot of land.”

And to those wanting to bring their passion to the next level of venturing into a business: “Look for resources that focuses on our plant hardiness zone, that will help weed out information not easily applicable to our climate. It is even worthy investing in yourself and take the Manitoba Master Gardener Course this winter.”

Casañares-Still also advises business aspirants to stay curious and write down all ideas that cross their mind.

“It may not make sense now on how they fit in your life and current business plans, but it will, as you continue listen to that voice that tells you to keep going.”

Photo courtesy: Lourdes Casañares-Still / Masagana Flower Farm and Studio