A variety of flowers are in bloom in Emily Tweten’s garden near Lewiston, Minnesota. Tweten grows 15 varieties of flowers to sell at the Lewiston Farmers Market and off the farm.
A variety of flowers are in bloom in Emily Tweten’s garden near Lewiston, Minnesota. Tweten grows 15 varieties of flowers to sell at the Lewiston Farmers Market and off the farm. PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA
    LEWISTON, Minn. – Emily Tweten considers flowers to be soul food.
    “Flowers make people happy,” she said. “That’s equally as important as fulfilling someone’s need to eat. Their soul matters, too, and that’s what flowers do.”
    That is why Tweten added a cut flower garden to her ever-growing list of entrepreneurial endeavors she operates under her business name, Hearty Sol. Just across the gravel driveway on their farm, her husband, Carey, and her parents, Gene and Phyllis Speltz, operate Valley Acres Dairy where they milk 750 cows near Lewiston. Their children, Emerson, 12, Avyn, 10, Llewyn, 6, and Wren, 4, like to help in both businesses.
    Tweten’s love for blooms spurred the flower garden idea.
    “I started cutting flowers out of my perennial beds from around the house for myself and to take to neighbors and friends,” she said. “I could just see how happy flowers make people.”
    That turned into growing a few cut flowers for herself three years ago, which eventually turned into designing bouquets for the Lewiston Farmers Market. It has now translated into a 40-by-40 garden with 15 varieties and a flower trial with Syngenta.
    “It’s a nice way to trial different flowers and see how they perform in our climate and our soil pH, and see what works best,” she said.
    Figuring out how to grow the flowers has been a learning curve, which is what Tweten likes of any new venture.
    “I call people and talk to people and wander to the neighbors who grow flowers,” she said about how she learns. “I take in as much education as I possibly can. I’m somebody who has no qualms about calling someone up and asking people to tell me more.”
    Flowers need irrigation and are sensitive to weeds, Tweten said.
    “I lay down weed matting,” Tweten said. “I don’t mess around. I don’t have a ton of time to weed because the produce gardens are three times the size of my cut flower garden.”
    She also set up a drip irrigation system in the soil before planting anything.
    “My other three gardens are a lot of work so this cut flower garden has to be low maintenance,” she said.
    Just like crops on the farm, the weather can be a challenge for growing food and flowers.
    “One swell swoop of the weather – the wind, a hail storm, bugs, lack of rain – it can lay this whole cut flower bed down, and all the time and money invested into putting things in could be done and gone,” Tweten said.
    So far this year, Tweten has been fortunate with the weather.
    In addition to flowers, Tweten sells other items off the farm for Hearty Sol and also helps on the dairy when needed. She sells produce, which includes hydroponic lettuce, sheep hides, buckskin leather jewelry, Nordic wood art, loofa sponges grown and dried on the farm, wool drier balls from their sheep, homemade sauerkraut, other canned goods, and handmade Christmas wreaths and garland.
    Although now a business with a plethora of products, Hearty Sol first started as a blog.
    “I wanted to share with viewers our farm story, DIY projects and recipes from scratch we use on the farm,” Tweten said. “Then it turned into a YouTube channel.”
    Tweten created the blog as a way to stay busy. For 12 years, Tweten worked in the event and hospitality business before quitting her job to care for her kids at home.
    “Between our third and fourth kid, I realized I’m so used to working at such a high level,” Tweten said. “I couldn’t just sit here. I wanted to be able to do something out of my home, and I wanted to do something that reflected our farm family’s story and that fact we’re rooted in the American dairy farm. I wanted to preserve that somehow.”
    While Tweten still documents with occasional YouTube videos, she also shares updates and daily happenings more frequently on Instagram and Facebook.
    For the last three years, Tweten has sold her flowers and produce at the Lewiston Farmers Market and Family Night out, which she helped organizers launch in 2019. She is now the market manager for the event, which features produce vendors, wood-fired pizza, craft beer and wine, and live music.  
    While the farmers market has been a great way to sell her blooms, Tweten has more flowers than she sells.
    “I’m now to the point where I have so many flowers and so much produce that I don’t have enough walk-up traffic to get rid of it all,” she said. “I’ve been trying to think of different ways to sell it.”
    Since April, Tweten, along with a few hired experts, has been rebuilding a two-stall horse trailer into a produce and flower selling stand. She first debuted the trailer at an on-farm flower cutting event July 30.
    “We will be able to use this to extend our (farmers market) season because the Lewiston Farmers Market is done the beginning of September,” Tweten said. “We have a lot of fall stuff – squash, pumpkins, garlic braids. That’s a whole bunch of produce to be had after Sept. 1.”
    While the flowers are winding down at that time, Tweten’s heart is filled with all the smiles and joy that come from the soul food she provides for others while looking ahead to doing the same in next year’s flower season.