Anchored by a rustic yet charming 1940s barn, LynnVale Studios encompasses ten acres of farmland surrounded by forests and pastures. Just 40 miles west of Washington, DC, the serene surroundings feel a world away from the urban bustle of the nation’s capital.
Started by husband and wife team Lou and Andrea Gagnon, the business is part flower farm, part floral design, and part art studio. Their fields boast more than 100 varieties of flowers and foliage – poppies and sweet peas in the spring, hydrangea, and marjoram in the summer and dahlias and sunflowers in the fall, just to name a few.
The majority of their business is in the Washington, DC area, with three primary revenue streams: farmers markets sales, partnerships with retail florists and weddings, and other special events. Their very first farmers market was in a suburb outside of the city, but today they sell at two busy markets in the stately Northwest quadrant of DC. LynnVale designs flowers for approximately 20-30 weddings a year, with peak season running from April to early November.
Lou and Andrea met as architecture students at Virginia Tech. After living and working in southern California for a decade the Gagnons decided to move back east in 2002 to settle on the farm that’s been in Lou’s family for eight generations.
“We always knew, in our journey together, that we wanted to have our children or our family experience what it was like to live here,” says Andrea. “We wanted them to have this crazy, adventurous world as part of their upbringing.”
LynnVale’s inspiring mission is to cultivate creativity “through floriculture and fine art.” But flower farming wasn’t always part of the couple’s plan. Andrea says that at first they weren’t sure what they wanted to do with their farmland. A lack of farming equipment ruled out many food-based crops. But Andrea had fond childhood memories of her mother growing vegetables and herbs, and she’d always had an interest in flowers.
“We started very low key. It was a trial period,” says Andrea. “I remember the moment when [the first bulb] started to form. I brought it to my husband and said ‘I can’t believe I just grew this.’ I was hooked.”
The current division of labor seems to be an organic one: Andrea spearheads the flower farm operations while Lou manages the art studio where he teaches workshops and serves as a design consultant. But their previous careers have served them well in their current endeavors. Andrea brings her design expertise to her floral arrangements, which Washingtonian Bride & Groom called “unique, thoughtful, spectacularly beautiful.” And Lou’s architecture background informs his current artistic pursuits as well as his work as an art educator and consultant.
Certified American Grown
LynnVale is committed to sustainable business practices. To that end, the flower farm is Certified American Grown, a designation given to producers that grow their flowers domestically.
“If a grower is putting that label on their product, they are certifying that 100 percent of what’s in that bouquet or bunch is something that they’ve grown in America,” explains Andrea. “You’re getting a guarantee.”
Andrea became involved with the American Grown program after the 2008 financial crisis. Many of the brick-and-mortar florists she worked with at the time were struggling to make ends meet, and most of her fellow flower farmers were not depending on flowers as their primary source of income. She realized she needed to connect with other major growers. “I found this very, very small group that wasn’t necessarily around me–it was around the country–that was struggling to make this happen.”
According to Andrea, the Certified American Grown labeling campaign was born out of the desire to educate consumers on the availability of domestically grown flowers. “Whether they’re the designer or the guy shopping on Valentine’s Day…I needed more people to be aware so that the entire industry was elevated,” she says. Andrea currently serves on the board of American Grown Flowers representing District 6.
Although the Certified American Grown label isn’t necessary for farmers markets—most markets only allow local vendors that produce the products they sell—it does come in handy for LynnVale’s many eco-friendly weddings and other special events. The company often grows unique foliage and other natural elements for their arrangements. As Andrea puts it, “our design style leans towards the wild, textural and botanical. We are increasingly fascinated with the negative space between individual blossoms and foliages, respecting their sculptural qualities and creating moments and relationships between each element in our designs.”
Growing and Adapting
Although COVID-19 has affected many businesses throughout the region, it hasn’t stopped LynnVale’s daily operations. They’ve implemented a new “Farm-to-Porch” delivery service offering contactless delivery to Northwest DC and surrounding zip codes. And although in-person participation at DC farmers markets has been on hold, they expect to return to their weekly posts very soon.
Despite changes to the special events landscape, LynnVale is looking to the future. More events may soon be on the horizon as the country continues to reopen, taking into account social distance guidelines. Weddings and other events may be very different than in years past, but LynnVale recently posted a “love note” to 2020 and 2021 brides on their Instagram account: “Our fields are bursting with beauty, our team is ready, we can’t wait to bring your vision to life!”