Originally published April 11, 2016
Julio Freitas creates flowers in arrangements using as many local flowers and organic suppliers as he can for Kirkham & Co in Bozeman, MT.
Complete Show Notes Coming ASAP!
I’m so excited to introduce my guest today because of a few reasons!
- We were just talking about my recent trip to Paris in the Pre-chat and he has also been to Paris!
- and Facebook groups have been such a big part of my show lately! And I want to remind you to join the Organic Gardener Podcast Facebook Community! And if you don’t get Facebook, I encourage you to join a Facebook Group.
- I met him in the Flower Farmer Facebook Group
Julio Freitas started his career in floral design doing weekly floral arrangements for Harper and Madison, in Billings, MT. He was inspired by the works of Jeff Leatham, Jane Packer and many other European floral designers. Eventually, his work was also noticed by brides and his arrangements in the wedding industry are nothing short of gorgeous! From a casual wildflower look to a more structured, contemporary style, Julio can do it all!
His portfolio speaks for itself! He will always try to create different and unique floral arrangements for you so your wedding can be the “Pinterest” inspiration for other brides! Bouquets, Boutonnieres, Centerpieces, Arches, Aisles… all will be done according to your color scheme, theme, budget and the flowers you want!
When you hire Kirkham & Co. for your floral needs, you also get excellent customer service, from conception to completion as well as unique designs and perfect flowers!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been getting ready for this podcast and going through what I want to talk about in the podcast. My name is Julio, so it’s not hulio, Julio, is the right pronunciation. I’m from Brazil and I moved to Montana in 2008, when I got a full ride scholarship to go to Rocky Mountain College, in Billings. I moved from Brazil straight to Montana, I had no idea where Montana was, sometimes life takes you down paths you would not even consider and I’m just so glad that this path happened because I absolutely love Montana! It is my home now.
I moved here to go to college graduated in 2006, graduated in 2008, as I transferred at as a junior got an internship at the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel in Billings, I had no idea. I was never destined to work at a hotel, I didn’t want to do it, thought I was going to do my internship get out of there and go do something else.
Hospitality is just one of those things that grows on you… I thought I was just gonna do my internship and then leave but that little seed of hospitality grew in me I was there for 7 years, and I just loved it. I got to interact in friends, there was never a day I it was such an exciting job!
Getting Started In Floral Curating
At that time I was assigned to be the visual arts for the hotel I would usually do a silk floral arrangement for their table, we would change that each season.
One day I walked into a little cafe in Billings called Harper & Madison. It was the week of their opening. She had a little flowers display on the table. I just went in had coffee, and I thought great:
- we have something in the neighborhood
- food was amazing!
- pastries were great!
I walked in the next week and I just noticed something was missing, I thought where are the flowers? Where’s the flower arrangement?
I went in had coffee, and I don’t know where the idea came from or why I said it but I just asked:
“Hey would you like to flowers, fresh flowers?”
and she said
“Yeah, I LOVE FLOWERS!”
and I don’t know I just thought I do them for the hotel, I can do them for her. And I had no idea how that one sentence would completely change my life!
I would go in every Monday, at 5am, that was the start of my week, when I was doing arrangements for her. Her name is Joanne Schwartz and she is just such an amazing person, so glad to call her friend. She let me do whatever I wanted
give me free range to incorporate textures, and designs
people started taking my business card,
from that point on, weddings took over. I would say 3 years after that.
Kirkland & Co is born
The first year I had one wedding, then it grew to 12, this year we have 35 weddings so I just quit the hotel, I could not do both.
My mom ask me, “Are you sure you want to leave a steady paying job?”
“Yes, I’m buying happiness!”
It’s been such an amazing journey. Along the way with the flowers, eventually, I started thinking about …. I was going a wedding here, and the flowers didn’t come in on time, shipped from California and the flowers
such a stressful weekend, by the time they got here
can I just grow flowers? Can we grow flowers here? How many boxes of flowers are begin shipped to places? When we could just grow the flowers. I started researching.
I found 2 farmers who are growing one of which was certified organic, Dylan from Strike Farms, they grew the best dahlias I had ever seen in my entire life! I started thinking, they do flowers and produce, well I want to grow some too, because I have always loved growing. So now I am going to grow flowers professionally this year after trying to do it for a couple of years.
our company is called Kirkland & Co. We also do interior design and I do the flower portion. And our clients cross over a lot. Maybe my clients will need interior design and Shane will help them, and a lot of his clients need flowers for their home, so I do flowers for them too!
You can do a little bit of everything from Kirkland & Co. That’s a little bit about me and how I got to doing flowers. I love my hotel job, but when you find that one thing that you are supposed to be doing that’s when it clicks. One of our clients once she sent me an email and in her signature it said:
“if you find a job you love, you’ll never have to work again”
I don’t mind being here. On Saturdays, or Sundays … I love … when I’m doing flowers, splitting dahlia worlds … what I’m doing, time flies when I’m working and it’s a pretty fascinating world and I am excited to here it.
Wow! I think listeners will probably love this is as exciting. Two things, my maiden name is Ramos and my great great grandfather someone was Portuguese… and then when I was on my plane to Paris I sat next to this photographer from Brazil? I’m dying to know how do you go from Brazil and get a scholarship for Rocky Mountain College in Brazil!
Went to school for business school, and I do not play soccer… they probably thought I was gonna teach them soccer but I was like I’m here to learn, I was last kid to be picked in PE. So there was a program in Brazil, called Youth Ambassadors.
program by the US embassy in the Brazil
in 2013 (2003)
It was to bring 12 kids to America it was a cultural experience for under privileged kids like me. You had to write an essay, and explain in a paragraph, you had to answer what does english mean to you and how you can apply that to your career that you are pursuing. They had kids applying. You had to go to an english school. a school where you just learn English, which is a separate program. And the principal told me to apply, and I didn’t think anything of it. And out of all 27 states in Brazil! They only picked 12,
we got to go to WashingtonDC met with Colin Powell. Then after that we went through Tuscaloosa Alabama and that was my first contact with the south. I just loved how rich it was and then we went to the University of Alabama and we had English classes for 3 weeks. Then went back to Brazil. Then if you were
in the program
program still goes on… it’s a very successful program. If you are in Brazil you can still hear more about the program. And if you are here look into it too.
So they said if you were part of that program you can apply for a scholarship, but I already transferred as a Junior. It was just an amazing Rocky Mountain College. It was one of the colleges I applied in Iowa, Vermont, Michigan, North Carolina, and Montana.
I did get a scholarship to go to Wilmington, in North Carolina and Rocky Mountain College, I didn’t know anything in Montana but they have snow, but I thought that would be a contract to that we have in Brazil.
Oh yeah I’ll do Montana,
I’m glad in the fall because I was eased into Winter, if I would have come in January, because January’s our summer, like the peak of summer.
People always ask me how did you find Montana….
I always say that Montana found me… if they hadn’t those scholarships I wouldn’t have arrived here.
I love that. I always say that there’s so much you gain and it’s almost better not to know what you want to go to college. You never know who’s gonna sit next to you and say hey you’d love this job you never even knew existed and they’ll say Oh yeah you’re perfect for this! If people don’t know Billings is the biggest city in the state and there’s no mountains there.
Billings is the biggest city between Seattle and Minneapolis. Her’s a huge demographic there.
applied for the internship
never wanted to work in a hotel
someone knew someone who knew someone that said theres this hotel that just opened and they are looking for employees. I said oh, I’ll try that, and I went in and talked to the general manager, and I was a senior. I was going home every summer, and I went home after the internship and my boss called me, we want to hire you for a full time position as a front desk supervisor. I had to cut my vacation short.
I wasn’t ready for it, but you learn that sometimes you just don’t have a 3 month vacation
got position and then I became front office manager, I was there for the 7 years. Plus I did all their pots for the summer, they were gonna let me do that too, so I got hands on experience!
That’s a whole new market that nobody’s talked about maybe will open some ideas for listeners!
garden center and just buy a basket
hotel for an example
basically outdoor patios
got all different sun exposure.
Sometimes people think they don’t have a green thumb it’s because you get different sunlight
you have someone professional would maybe come in and say there’s no point in planting zinnias or came lilies. Sometimes it’s better to have a professional come and help them have a better looking patio. That’s what I did by researching a little bit what would
sweet potato vines
had to trim the every now and them
Tell me about your first gardening experience?
Yep, yeah, my dad, we have a farm, belongs to our family. My dad always grew stuff, planting something from the time I can remember. He was always planting eggplants or tomatoes, or kale, he always had something growing all the time, seasons on Brazil are very different then here. You have a very mild spring, and then other then that it’s always summer, winter doesn’t exist really.
I always watched him do it, I wish I would have watched him more. He just had knowledge in he is head and I don’t think he gave himself credit, I think a lot was trial and error, based on the area.
I remember helping him in the garden and he would tell us you need to do this, you need to do that. In Brazil, organic wasn’t something that I thought about it was just something that we just did… all the compost from the kitchen, it would just go in the garden. One of the neighbors had cattle, so we just used the manure from the cattle…
I just always watched my dad, his fertilizer was whatever compost we had, but it was never adding any artificial fertilizer, or one of the things that he did I remember, was to fight pests he would just make a tea out of tobacco, because there was a tobacco farm a few miles from us and he would make compost tea, and spray on the plants. I never thought about it until that he would do that. He would not put that on lettuce, or the leaves that you would eat. He would spark that on the tomatoes or maybe on the leaves, but not the fruit and he would wash it.
So I was talking to my mom and she said, it was so funny, because dad, always had a hard time growing about good size tomatoes
never here about that here…
organic trails was always second nature
never spent money on my podcast
I meant to ask you if you had ever met Claudia from Claudia’s Mesa?
had I known that when I was 4 years old we could do a soil test
I took the basics.
Claudia was in the bridal tour that we did last fall
I got an email from
we should partner up on a farm-to-table dinner
How did you learn how to garden organically?
One of the reasons, he didn’t need to buy any artificial fertilizer, we were growing our own to grow, he didn’t’ believe in spending money if he didn’t need to
I just started researching online
eventually I ran into Floret’s blog
following the practices that she uses at the farm
that’s how I became more aware of how I
I would read something that was done not using organic
you can put poison
the effects such a domino effect
floret had a huge influence how I could grow organically
I’m investing a lot of time and effort into the practices
the Facebook page
if you’re not on Facebook
if you’re trying
the Flower Farmer Facebook Group is extremely resourceful
most helpful and
what they have done and don’t work
growing flowers organically
being able to have a group of people
though with you
something I wanted to know
here’s what I did, what worked, what didn’t work, Facebook page a huge resource for me,
a couple of people,
boosted the confidence
I think that’s great advice. And I just have to give a plug to my friend Dacia because Floret Flower’s bought a bunch of her 1/2 aprons for a workshop or something and she also have lovely soaps and I loved my apron for school!
Tell us about something that grew well this year.
Last year, we just had a little plot, were’ expanding on that, we tried zinnias that I direct sowed
anemones were amazing, bloomed all summer long
first time I planted anemones
front yard was a decent size,
got 2 hours of sun in the morning
saw that anemones were sold in the fall
plopped them in the ground
Now I learned, that doesn’t quite work that way
I harvested them all summer long, they just kept coming up and up and up! I used them in every single arrangement that we did because they were just so prolific
one of the ones we invested in this year, so we are growing pastel varieties.
trees, purples, and pinks, and whites
order is about 500 bulbs!
I have about 30 x 60′ and then another probably 100′ x 100′ so it’s a good size!
Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?
I did not have landscape fabric, it was a nightmare! I am hoping that it will help with the weeding portion, because that’s what I hate doing! I have the irrigation drip system! That’s works amazing! I highly recommend some kind of drip system!
the sprinklers waste so much water
never get to the roots
one of the advice that I saw in the face page
One thing I recommend is to set some money aside to invest in those supplies because they will last you a life time!
There was some fabric I was going to buy, but it would have lasted me maybe a seasons. IDK whatever that material is called, maybe poly-eurothene. It will last you a while, but make sure if you buy quality that will last.
I made a mistake, I meant row cover. BUT Mike has always used that landscape fabric. I will say Mike always makes sure that he gets every single tiny little bit of quack grass out first.
Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.
By the time I planted them they didn’t summer was already upon us, so they went into heat dormancy. I never pulled them out of the ground, while I could see where the forms were, the so harvesting them was also a nightmare. So harvest them while the stems are up and you can still see them!
Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.
Weeding is tough, I do love being out there, least favorite thing to do,
invest in ground cover…, I said landscape fabric but I meant ground cover.
I like your talk about drip irrigation. We just dug a deep well, so we used to never waste a drop of water. A few weeks ago, I had this guest Andrew Malucelli on from the NRCS and he talked about how you could get high tunnels and when the inspector come out he said we could qualify for a drip irrigation system probably down the line too!
What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.
Planting, the actually planting, direct sowing,
touching the dirt,
planting is my favorite thing to do… new season
what’s gonna work. what am I gonna learn…
there is one business here in town, they have maybe a 5×10 plot, every summer ,i look forward to riding by and see just the zinnias, harvest their own produce
don’t pull the dandelions
Seed Fair Success!!!
How to make seed tape! Cut long strips of newspaper and then mix a little flour and water to make a glue that will biodegrade. use a paintbrush and you can easily space your seeds out along the paper. Just lay paper on dirt and cover with a thin layer of dirt.
What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?
Well, if you want the first one was
invest in proper supplies
I just bought new light fixtures, and shop light fixtures, and
fertilizers and got some fish emulsion
local garden supply store,
familiar with this area
invest in good suppose
if you are growing in flowers to sell
I can’t remember who
learn about your market
find out what the needs of your market are
if you are trying to sell it to florists
you might be planting a whole crop of things
in our area
certain things you might
maybe not for weddings
don’t go with the
A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.
That’s so hard! It is a hard questions
I would say of all the things I can’t live
my hand shovel
that’s the one thing I need.
you can snap stems…
A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?
When we were in Billings, we grew basil, and tomatoes,
basil and tomatoes
you can’t have a summer without basil and tomatoes
I just bought some
we need basil for summer!
put them in a little pot.
I love making pesto with fresh tomatoes
hopefully heirloom tomatoes
Yep, I almost always have a basil plant in my window. IDK about where you are, I think basil is so susceptible to frost I don’t take a chance trying to grow it outside becasue I can lose my basil overnight any day all summer long.
A favorite internet resource?
So, one of the
Johnny’s Seeds, has a good resource page
they just take their time to list the specifics of how to grow
another one that I always go to
Floret Flowers, her blog is pretty resourceful
she’s answered a lot of my questions just by posting
in February she had a series of posts about gardening, more farming directed
answered a lot of questions
about seed 101, landscape fabric
something that I want to find
go to her blog
most of the time
A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?
You know what I really like, what I am really into
of course the
The Flower Workshop: Lessons in Arranging Blooms, Branches, Fruits, and Foraged Materials by Ariella Chezar
The other book was published in 1993 it’s called The Big Book of Gardening Skills It talks about everything from soil prep to lawns and landscaping and ponds which I probably won’t get into. And every night I read a little bit about it.
IDK if we could do it in the 90s we can still do it now… Those types of books to have as a resource. I find them actually very helpful. I am also reading this
step by step garden basics
sometimes as not helpful as I wanted
get your brain in that direction
Like you said, that event in the free the seed
local events to connect with other people
a couple of weeks ago there was a see starting class at a local
another opportunity to connect with like minded people who were also people looking for the same answers. I got to meet a couple of people, where you get to connect.
there is always another resource for me.
I really like that last one of don’t forget to connect with local people. But that was one of the best things about launching my podcast was meeting other people locally that I never knew existed. And one even drove me over the Going to the Sun Road because I’m totally afraid of heights and IDK if I’ll ever do it, but this woman Robin that I interviewed and then she took me to the conference. And another thing I just heard the other day, if you get to a conference and your bored and that you’re not learning anything then maybe flip it on its side and see who can I help… It’s nice to have the online part where you can meet and connect with people that don’t just live in your geographic area but it’s nice to meet and connect with people nearby.
I also just love your whole story and you did this and that and I love the part of your part about how you even found that cafe not just because you wanted a cup of coffee it was because you wanted to find something for your guests at your hotel to do.
If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to sell extra produce or get started in the industry?
Very rewarding to hear, that people went into that coffee shop to see that new arrangement, it makes my day to see this big arrangement of sunflowers or delphiniums. I did it a little different then a flower shop would I would use a ton of vases of whatever
that was rewarding for me!
advice for me , I’ve only been doing this for 3 years, people who want to get started in the flower industry, one of the things I have learned, mostly
one of the things I really learned,
gardeners living in the northern hemisphere
all the things I’ve learned about seeds and going
days to maturity
I can have all the knowledge I want, if I don’t have all the time to grow a seed to produce there is no point.
that is one of the first things I look
I have a short window
if it takes 300 days, I don’t have that time to grow it,
days of maturity.
- You need to get ROI,
- always connect with theory people
- find out about your market
If it’s your first year, always recommend doing a small version. I know exercising patience when you are gardening because you want to do everything at the same time, but I really recommend take a year to learn, what will grow
before you invest because it can be very frustrating.
Mike laughed at me the other day because I asked him why don’t we grow turnips so the other day I bring home these turnip seeds, and he’s like you know these are turnip greens right and you’re not gonna get an actual turnip from them…
Of there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?
I the more I learn about flower farming, the more l learn about how important it is to be organic, I know it’s gonna sound cliche, saying that. I just think it is so important what is happening now in the flower industry, this is definitely a movement that I did not see coming because it is definitely a lot cheaper to bring flowers in from another country
the ability to grow and be more productive, and to make it cheaper
where I was reading it, the employees at flower farms not here in the US, where they grow it so non-organically. The the employees have cancer, health problems, inhaling chemicals…
It’s just definitely not a good way to put beauty in the world and create beauty! I just love the movement, buy local, support organically! Honestly when I started flowers, I just didn’t think about growing organically because we weren’t eating it, but the more research I did I took to heart how important it is not to have that in our environment. And its a pretty substatanial industry is so, keeping all the chemicals that go into growing it, out is so important!
growing flowers organically
see the change
I just love it! The fact that I know about it, that I can tell my clients about it, every wedding that I do, I set aside a certain portion of their budget to grow their flowers naturally, not necessarily the flowers I grow but the flower growers here in town. So my job as a floral designer is to help them grow and keep their organic practices growing. So I always set aside a part of the budget and so I can tell my clients that and the are so surprised and I love their reaction! They don’t think flowers can grow here.
your sweet peas are gonna come from another farm down the road
she just wanted orange and blue, she was like I love that! As long as it’s orange and blue that’s perfect!
I would rather support the local business
if you want to put sage brush in it because it’s abundant in Montana that’s great! I have actually done that! And she said that’s great! it’s making people aware of what organic means and what it can bring you and what non organic can cause me
both spectrums as both a floral designer and a farmer I can bring that to my clients.
a lot of people are following floret and I know she’s big on that too!
going to see her ein April! I’m very excited about being there and meeting her and it’s probably gonna be April and muddy
the Facebook page
gonna just go get better from where
hopefully we can sell more too, I think that floral designers, don’t know that
they think it’s just for farmers market
connection between floral designers and
cool relationship the floral designer will say this is how many weddings I have between July and August depending on where you are….
here are this number of weddings I have between
snow and cold because of that
what one needs and what one can provide
that chain and make flower farming more predominant
instead of flying every box in. And we don’t want to talk about the carbon footprint from the airplanes. The flower farmer industry is pretty exciting right now!
I love it! I’m gonna call them Golden Seeds from now on!
Support their local farmer person and just you’ve been full of great idea of what you might want to try to grow!
If you are a floral designer, listening to the Podcast, I do to the ASCFG website, they have a map of all the flower farmers registered with them…
Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?
I ran into this quote about 2 years ago, when the flower business was starting to take food
going from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm!
I’m sure every flower farmer can related to that
when you get a hail storm
something doesn’t grow as well as it should have
you have to keep going, because there are the times hopefully most o the times, you have
when you have that crop
that produces more then you anticipate, the flowers or the blooms are huge and perfect quality
can’t lose your enthusiasms
everything is a learning process
I need to figure out what I need to get them dot grow
Im just excited
today’s the very first day of spring
excited to start my seeds here in and hour
farming is all about succeeding!
My favorite Winston Churchill quote is if you’re going through hell, just keep going and get to the other side! I think there’s been a thread for my show that somethings are always gonna fail but most things are going to succeed. I tried to grow 750 sunflowers last year, to see if I could harvest and take them to harvest and I realized that I need to plant like 750 flowers a week for like 6 weeks at least and then also I decided to pivot and just grow them for bird deed and that is still a lot more then I grew!!!
How do we connect with you?
email is firstname.lastname@example.org
I would love to thank Megan Beauman, Antonio Valente and Michelle Shackelford! They have been instrumental in my flower farming quest! So I would like to say thank you to them, Megan has a farm called Red Daisy Farm, Michelle Shackelford has Purples Flower Farm, and Antonio Valente in Canada!
I’m so glad our paths crossed! I’m talking to Megan on Facebook the other day walking through the store and she’s helping me with the lights, when I said which ones do I buy?!
Thanks so much!! I can’t wait for spring and summer 2016!
My favorite podcast out of Bozemann is the Montana Road Trippin Girls. I don’t know what happened they haven’t put a show out in a while but its ok becasue they’re content is ever green! They got me so excited like there’s a bar in Great Falls where they have mermaids, and the Fish Wildlife People who taught me how to use my bear spray finally that I have carried for years and never knew how to do it! So it doesn’t matter if you are in Montana or not they will get you excited to travel!!
Will you say Let’s get Growing in Porutese?!
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