Partnership Spotlight: This Floral Farm’s “Love Conquers All” Bouquet Aims to Support CSC’s Mission

May 1, 2024
Harmony Harvest Farm owners smile and show off a farm-fresh flower bouquet

Chris, pictured with her daughters Jessica (left) and Stephanie (right), shows off a farmhouse bouquet, picked from their fields at Harmony Harvest Farm.

Why one family wants to spread hope, happiness, and love through sales of their farm-fresh blooms to support people impacted by cancer

It was not all beautiful. But looking back at how we life’d together, that was beautiful. It was such an intimate ordeal.

Jessica
Visionary and Chief, Harmony Harvest Farm

If you ever have the pleasure of visiting Harmony Harvest Farm, a 20-acre cut flower farm tucked in Virginia’s scenic Shenandoah Valley, you may also have the pleasure of meeting the farm’s passionate owners and chief officers: sisters Jessica and Stephanie and their mother Chris. Their love for family and for community — strengthened through the years, including through a loved one’s cancer diagnosis — drives a core value of their enterprise today:  

Take care of people like you’d take care of your family. 

Harmony Harvest Farm's main specialty is fulfilling online orders for mixed bouquets and bulk flower deliveries. They ship their blooms, fresh from their fields, throughout the continental U.S. The colorful blossoms that carpet the farm’s landscape — some 200 varieties in all — change with the region’s natural crop season. Many blossoms have only a brief harvesting period.  

In May, a very special flower, the peony, comes into bloom for a short time.  

Chris’s mother, whom the grandkids affectionately called “Nonnie,” loved peonies. The family lost Nonnie to esophageal cancer in the late 1990s. The heartbreak of that loss — one that so many families feel after losing a loved one to cancer — has softened with time. But Nonnie’s presence is still strongly felt by the family today. Now that the pain of the loss has subsided, says Jessica, “We can be in the celebratory part where, when I’m out in my flower field, and I feel Nonnie, I see that first peony bloom, and I’m like, ‘I see you.’”

 

Available for Prebooking: Love Conquers All Bouquet

A portion of proceeds from each sale of Harmony Harvest Farm's Love Conquers All bouquet will be donated to CSC to help support its vital services and programs. (Fundraiser runs May 7-June 30)

Order a Bouquet Now 

 

Remembering Nonnie

Jessica introduces herself as the “wild unicorn wildebeest who started everything” — everything being Harmony Harvest Farm, established in 2011. As a self-described “ag kid” growing up, Jessica could simply stroll next door to her paternal grandmother’s large farm for inspiration. Her father — Chris’s husband — was a vocational teacher with Future Farmers of America. “I grew up learning leadership skills, understanding diversified agriculture, and understanding there were different ways I could enjoy the lifestyle of farming,” she says. 

Even at a young age, Jessica’s passionate spirit mirrored her grandmother Nonnie’s zest for living. As a child, says Jessica, “I was so connected with my grandmother. Everybody used to say that I was Nonnie’s reincarnation because I was just like her. She was an artist; I was an artist. She was very passionate, I’m very passionate, and she led from the heart. So, she and I had a very close relationship.”

Nonnie lived in Florida, but she routinely made summer trips to see her children and grandchildren in Virginia.  

“When I turned 15, I will never forget my mom telling me my grandmother, my Nonnie, had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer,” says Jessica. The news was difficult for the entire family, she adds. “We are such a close family, from my aunts to my cousins to my mom. We all grieved that together and processed that together.”

Initially, the family hoped they could help Nonnie get better. They decided to move Nonnie to Virginia to live with Chris and her family. Before the move, Chris and her sisters traveled to Florida to have an earnest conversation with their mother about her care plan and wishes.  

“We sat at her dining room table and we did the living will and we asked those hard questions,” remembers Chris. “One of the things my mother said was that she wanted quality of life, not quantity of life, and the moment that she could not make those decisions for herself anymore, she wanted us to do that.” 

Once Nonnie moved into Chris’s home, the family enrolled her in hospice care. Nonnie stayed with Chris’s family until her death 8 months later. During the first few months of her home care, the level of support needed was minimal.  

“At first, we had an aid that came in every other day to make sure everything was going okay,” says Chris. “[My mother] was still able to do things for herself, and the kids were there. I still went to work and my husband went to work. Life didn’t change that much.”  

The family made the dining room Nonnie’s room. “It was a beautiful room where she could see everything,” says Jessica. “I remember sitting in there with her telling stories, listening, and connecting. I had such a close relationship with her that it was easy. What was hard was realizing that we couldn’t fix this.” 

 

As her mother’s health deteriorated, life became harder, says Chris. She was her mother’s primary caregiver and was also maintaining her full-time job. With Nonnie’s declining condition, the usual order at home was quickly coming undone. As Chris puts it, “My household got flipped upside down.” 

Chris’s sisters came to stay every weekend to spend time with their mother. They would take Nonnie on outings while she was still mobile. It became challenging, at times, to adhere to her pain medication regimen. “So her pain would get all out of whack,” says Chris. “I was breaking down. I mean, it had been months, and I was falling apart.”  

Around that time, the family also began receiving daily help from an RN named Em. Em became a grounding force during that time. She helped care for Nonnie, but she also looked after the family.  
“We got to know Em very well,” says Chris. “She was more than a nurse. She was a friend.” 

“A friend, a confidant,” adds Jessica.  

Recognizing the family’s tension, and Chris’s need for help, Em stepped in to have a frank conversation with Chris’s sisters. After that conversation, says Chris, “I remember coming home from work and my one sister was cooking and the other one was sweeping the floor, and I just broke down and cried. That’s what [Em] did. She knew something was wrong and she took over that. Em was really there for us.”

Jessica agrees. “Some of it is icky, even for very close, loving families,” she says. “To have a guiding beacon in your care system that can step in, not just for the person who is not feeling well, but for the family that is not feeling well, and make sure that everybody is loving together the best they can through it — I think that’s what we got from Em and the journey of having Nonnie in our house.” 

 

Reflections on Processing Grief 

During Nonnie’s last months in the family’s home, each family member had their own way of processing the experience. Chris immersed herself in the task of tending to her mother’s needs. Only after her mother died did Chris begin to feel the weight of the loss and the reality of being an orphan. Her father had passed away 10 years earlier.  

“I don’t think anybody can feel that until the moment happens, and that’s probably when the light switch flips to where the processing starts,” says Chris. “You put all of that aside because you are in the moment, taking care of this person and making sure that the time they have [left] is comfortable. You are serving someone, and to do that as much as you can — I mean, God bless my husband through all of this — you are so in it that, all of a sudden, it’s like ‘Now what? What do I do now?’”

During Nonnie’s time with the family, Chris’s daughter Stephanie moved next door to live with her paternal grandmother. She was four years younger than Jessica, says Chris, and “she couldn’t do it.”

“And that was okay,” adds Jessica. “That was what she needed. Sometimes I think your support doesn’t necessarily feel like support when it’s your family that’s rubbing some edges. But all in all, it’s the best support for you in that moment, and it’s exactly what we needed. And it was — we leaned hard on each other.”

Jessica continued to connect with her grandmother, realizing their time together was limited. “I was soaking up those moments,” she says. “I never left my Nonnie’s side. I was in there for every story, I watched Jeopardy with her every night, I was in there for all of it. But when that went away, I had a hole that I didn’t know how to deal with.”  

Jessica also recalls the stress her mother experienced as a caregiver. “I remember my mom losing it at times and crying because it was just devastating, and us just fighting because I was a teenager,” she says. “It was not all beautiful. But looking back at how we life’d together, that was beautiful. It was such an intimate ordeal.”

Her experiences from that time have helped inform Jessica’s perspective as a wife and a mother today. “We lost my husband’s mother to pancreatic cancer a few years ago, and we lost his father this January,” says Jessica. “So now my journey with cancer has turned to being a supportive role for a spouse, and for my children, and understanding that grief and how we process [it].”
 

Celebrating a Great Life Lived

Throughout the family’s caregiving experience, Chris and her siblings communicated frequently with one another. She felt good about the ways they were able to support and fulfill her mother’s requests and wishes.  

“I wouldn’t say it was a good time, but we felt good about what we did when it was done,” shares Chris. “We had such a good care team, and we followed everything she wanted. We had her lifetime friends that were flying in to see her. We were calling everybody and saying, ‘Please, come see her.’”

Her mother lived a great life, adds Chris. “And it was with such grace that she left.” 
Before her mother died, Chris remembers her saying, “I don’t want a funeral, I want a party. I want everybody to celebrate that I was here.”

“And so, we did,” says Chris. “We had a big party after she was gone, and we invited every hospice person who ever took care of her. We invited the medical people, the physician and nurses who took care of her, and we told stories and celebrated her life.” 

Chris with her daughters, Jessica and Stephanie, at their farm
Chris with her daughters, Jessica and Stephanie, at their farm. 
“Love Conquers All”

Knowing first-hand the life-changing impact cancer can have on families, Chris, Jessica, and Stephanie appreciate the mission of the Cancer Support Community to uplift and strengthen people impacted by cancer.    

“We don’t give nearly enough weight to our emotions and our feelings, and all of the pieces inside of us,” reflects Jessica. “So, however we can help [people] to continue to foster better, stronger, healthier ‘us-es,’ the better off we all are.”  

From May 7 to June 30, Harmony Harvest Farm is partnering with CSC on a fundraising effort in recognition of Mother’s Day in May and National Cancer Survivors Month in June, a time to rally around those who have experienced cancer and are currently living with cancer. During this time, the farm is offering a specially designed bouquet they’ve named Love Conquers All. A portion of the proceeds from their bouquet sales will be donated to CSC to support its mission of providing free programs and services to patients, families, and caregivers facing cancer.  

The mixed bouquet will feature a sampling of “what’s thriving on the farm” at the time the flowers are ordered, says Harmony Harvest Farm's marketing coordinator Catherine Case. “There’s something so beautiful about getting a flower when it’s supposed to be blooming. It’s just bigger, it’s prettier, it’s more meaningful. Flowers should be enjoyed in the season that they are growing. That’s just when they shine the brightest.”

In May, that means you can expect to see some peonies in the Love Conquers All bouquet. In June, notes Catherine, “your focal is probably going to be a sunflower.”  

A vibrant flower bouquet from Harmony Harvest Farm
A sample of the vibrant bouquet. Bouquet designs and bloom selections may vary based on growing periods.

Throughout the fundraiser, the bouquet will be available in two options: a soft color and a vibrant color. That makes them fitting to share for any occasion, be it Mother’s Day, congratulatory wishes, a special thank-you to a caregiver or social worker in your life, or as a supportive gift to a friend who is navigating cancer or survivorship. 

“Flowers mean something different to everybody, and that does apply on the farm, as well,” says Catherine. “But we consistently agree that flowers speak for themselves, and flowers speak to what you are feeling. Whether you are giving them as sympathy, or as celebration, or to say ‘I love you,’ or just because — and that’s the best reason, just because — flowers make everything better, they really do.”

For a farm whose vision is to create a better life through flowers, it couldn’t be better said. 

Order the Love Conquers All bouquet now.