There was a popular song in the 1960s that starts “Let me tell you ‘bout the birds and the bees, and the flowers and the trees…”. Well, it’s finally spring, so Buy Fresh Buy Local Illinois is here to tell you about two great businesses, one that is focused on flowers and the other that’s focused on bees.
Clara Joyce Flowers is located by a Nature Preserve in the northwestern Illinois community of Stockton, between Freeport on the east and Galena on the west. Owner Drew Groezinger got the farming bug as a pre-teen (both of his parents grew up on farms), and at the age of 15 — just nine years ago— he started growing produce and selling it at local farmers markets. Two years later, inspired by his 98-year-old great-grandmother’s love of dahlias, Drew created Clara Joyce Flowers.
In the few years since, Groezinger has built a clientele from Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin around his flower designs and wedding florals — and created a consulting business to guide others interested in growing beautiful flowers. Read more about his thriving business below.
Similarly, produce was the initial focus of Maple Street Garden when it was started in 2020 by Jessica Trefzger and her husband John in Mahomet, an east-central Illinois city located about 10 miles northwest of Champaign. They started raising bees, though, with two hives to begin with, and found they loved it. Today, they have 20 hives and an ecommerce-focused business called The Hive by Maple Street Garden that sells the Trefzgers’ own products and provides a platform for other bee- and honey-related businesses in their local area and beyond.
Enjoy their stories, and please visit the Buy Fresh Buy Local Directory to find more great Illinois businesses selling flowers and honey — and we urge farmers of all kinds to promote their work by signing up for a free listing in the interactive online directory.
Clara Joyce Flowers: Infused with Love for Farming and Family
Drew Groezinger was something of a farming wunderkind in his northwest Illinois community, the high school student selling produce at local farmers markets. In the months before his great-grandmother died in 2015 at age 98, she and Groezinger discussed her love of flowers, especially the dahlias that he grew as a side project. By early 2016, Groezinger had turned his attentions to growing flowers.
Though his produce business operated under the Groezinger name, the young farmer wanted something more evocative for his flower business. The “Joyce” in Clara Joyce comes from Groezinger’s grandmother, an avid gardener who passed away before he was born. “Clara” was the great-great-grandmother and inspirational figure to a close friend of Groezinger.
Groezinger said there was no big challenge transitioning from growing produce to focusing on flowers. “If we’re growing carrots or radishes, we’re sowing that seed, we’re maintaining it, it’s building a strong root system, and then we’re harvesting it,” he explained. “Whereas with a flower, you’re taking it one step further. So you’re planting that plant, you’re growing the foliage, you’re building the plant, and then you’re harvesting the flower. So it’s just kind of adjusting your thought process of maturity and how long that process takes. From an infrastructure perspective, it’s very similar.”
Groezinger grows about 150 varieties of flowers, even after paring his selection down. “When I was starting, I was under the impression that I needed to have everything of every color, every size,” Groezinger said. “But once we started to refine who we were selling to, it was very clear that a florist doesn’t need 5,000 stems of sunflower every week.”
While most flower farmers in southern Illinois get an early start on the outdoor growing season, Clara Joyce Flowers — located a short drive from the state’s northern border with Wisconsin — has to be more cautious about the last gasps of winter. So their Mother’s Day bouquets will be composed of indoor-grown flowers.
Groezinger related that there was a short stretch of near-summer temperatures in early April. “We were all ready to get planting in the fields, and then we’ve been in the upper 20s for the past four nights,” he said during an April 26 interview, adding that he is planning to start planting and growing in the field about the middle of May.
Like many farmers, Groezinger has diversified beyond growing and harvesting plants. He has a busy business creating floral arrangements for weddings, an online store that sells handmade botanical soaps, a consultation service for flower farmers and florists, a blog and a podcast.
And he just turned 25 years old in February.
The Hive by Maple Street Garden: Sweet Dreams are Made by Bees
While ecommerce is just a small part of Drew Groezinger’s flower-focused enterprises, it is at the very heart of The Hive by Maple Street Garden. Go to their website and you can purchase everything from raw honey to honey-flavored packaged goods to hand-crafted beeswax items all the way to beekeeping equipment and mead-making kits.
Purchased items are available for pickup at The Hive’s brick-and-mortar store in Mahomet, located in east-central Illinois close to Champaign, or via shipping.
Maple Street Garden started out as a side project for Jessica Trefzger and her husband John. But in 2020, as the COVID pandemic raged, Trefzger was furloughed from her job as a physical therapist assistant. With no care available for her two young children, she started turning the garden into a business to sell produce and cottage foods at farmers markets and stayed on course even after her employer called her back in.
At the time, the couple was keeping just two beehives as a hobby. But Trefzger said, “Most beekeepers would tell you it’s a slippery slope. You can get one or two hives, and the next thing you know you’re splitting a hive or you’re catching a swarm.”
She continued, “It just grows and you can do more things with it, you can sell more honey, you can make things out of the beeswax, which I do both. Then we were connecting with beekeepers all over central Illinois. We started buying and selling some of their honey to help support their hives. So we’re very collaborative.”
Now the Trefzgers have climbed that slippery slope all the way to 20 hives. Since the couple lives in the middle of the city of Mahomet, they have gotten permissions to place most of the hives on properties on the outskirts of town.
Their bees extract nectar from a wide variety of plants. Trefzger said that in the spring sources include clover, early violets and early wildflower dandelions. Given this variety, she said their honeys are not labeled as a specific kind of plant nectar, but rather by season: Spring, Summer and Fall.
There is so much more to The Hive by Maple Street Garden, so if you are in the Mahomet area, make sure to stop by the store at 601 E. Main St., Suite 109 to learn more.
Other Flower Farms Near You
Black Sheep Flower Farm, Lewiston
Illinois Willows, Seymour
Mariah’s Mums and More, Clinton
Wild Trillium Farm, Richmond
Other Bee and Honey Farms Near You
Camp’s Orchard, Roseville
Honey Creek Farm, Springfield
Honey Pimp Apiaries, Bloomington
Meyer Bees, Minooka
Three Bees Honey Farms, Streamwood
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This story is written by Bob Benenson of Local Food Forum on behalf of the Buy Fresh Buy Local Illinois Coalition.