Before finding her life’s calling, Laura Beth Resnick spent a lot of time indoors, mostly in academic settings.
“I was miserable being inside all the time,” says Resnick, who studied flute at the New England Conservatory of Music and East Asian religion at Barnard College. “I didn’t know it at the time but I needed to be outside farming.”
Today, Resnick and her husband, Jascha Owens, are the founders and owners of Pikesville’s Butterbee Farm, which grows and sells flowers from around the Chesapeake Bay region. Their farming methods are sustainability-oriented, focusing on using permanent raised beds to minimize soil disturbance and cultivate rich, healthy soil.
Butterbee, which opened in 2014, has almost seven acres under cultivation and includes a heated greenhouse and another greenhouse under construction. Butterbee cuts hundreds of thousands of diverse stems every season, ranging from well-known annuals like dahlias and zinnias to perennial foliage plants like winterberry and ninebark. Aside from Resnick and Owens, the farm employs one full-time farmer, two part-timers and two interns.
Butterbee sells stems wholesale to florists and designers in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, as well as providing bulk flowers to do-it-yourself wedding clientele. The farm also offers a small flower community-supported agriculture program through which customers can pick up bouquets every two weeks during the summer.
Located at 500 Tristam Lane, Butterbee is not open to the general public and does not have regular visiting hours, but the farm welcomes people for scheduled events such as its popular farm tours.
“The farm tours are a fun date opportunity,” says Resnick. “The farm is so beautiful with everything blooming, and people get really excited to craft their own bouquets using our stems.”
Resnick, who grew up outside of Annapolis, first discovered her passion for farming the summer before her senior year of college.
“I started farming because I believe in the work,” she says. “It makes me feel strong, and as a feminist I like breaking down barriers. I like doing work that makes me feel like I can do anything.”
After college, Resnick worked on a farm in Pennsylvania. She subsequently decided to start crafting a business plan for running her own farm.
While working at a local café, she met Ellen Frost, owner of Local Color Flowers, a Baltimore-based floral designer known for supporting local growers. The two discussed the floral arrangements for the wedding of Resnick’s sister, but their conversation soon veered toward farming. Frost recommended that Resnick grow flowers, so she partnered with a community farm in a Baltimore neighborhood.
But Resnick decided she didn’t enjoy growing flowers in the city. “It was so close to the street, and I had people constantly trampling my plants or stopping to talk with me when I was trying to work,” she says.
Resnick started looking for land to grow flowers, but found prospective properties were either too expensive or too far away.
One day, she met up with a pair of old friends, Bob and Barbara Roswell, and told them about her difficulties in finding an appropriate place to grow flowers. “Wait a minute,” Bob Roswell said to her. “What if you farmed part of our property here in Pikesville?”
Resnick was intrigued; she had fond teenage memories of Alto Dale Farm, the 80-plus-acre farm owned by the Roswell family. The property, which was once owned by the founder of Goucher College, was being leased to conventional grain farmers, but the Roswells had long supported a more sustainable approach to land stewardship and were happy to give Resnick an opportunity to grow on a portion of the land.
“They’ve been tremendously supportive,” Resnick says. “Barbara comes out to weed in her spare time. Bob helps out building greenhouses. The older caretaker, Mr. Bill, actually went out and just bought us a piece of equipment one day after watching us laboriously creating raised beds with a shovel.”
Owens says his primary objective for the farm is the restoration of ecosystems and landscapes, as well as building human-animal relationships.
“Our fields are full of life — butterflies, hummingbirds, pollinators of every stripe as well as snakes, frogs and toads,” he says. “You really feel the difference when you walk through the cornfields surrounding Butterbee — they are eerily silent. In our fields, you hear a cacophony of life.”
Frost praises Butterbee and its owners for what the farm has achieved during the past five years.
“In just a few short years, [Resnick] has established herself as one of the leading growers in the Mid-Atlantic region,” Frost says. “She is helping to reshape the local flower industry in Maryland by making locally grown flowers available throughout the winter with her new heated greenhouses. As a florist who sources all of our flowers locally, working with a farmer as professional as Laura Beth is a pleasure and a privilege.”
For information, visit butterbeefarm.com.
Joshua Rosenstein is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.