Whimsy & Enchantment

Andi Thatcher uses homegrown picks for her creative bouquets

Andi Thatcher is a farmer. But instead of a crop of farm-fresh food, she creates joy growing beautiful and fanciful flowers. Her fresh-cut blooms take centerstage for all kinds of special moments — birthdays, sympathy and weddings. Life at Rimrock Flower Farm, just south of Roundup, appears to operate at a slower pace. But don’t let the easy breezy nature here fool you. Andi works overtime, dreaming up ways to create beauty in this slice of fresh flower farming. 

On this day after a late season snowstorm lingers, I drive the 50 miles from Billings right into the beginnings of the ponderosa pine forest at the edge of the Bull Mountains. As I turn off US 87 toward Klein, I make my way up the road and spy two high tunnel greenhouses and a log home in the background. After I pull up, Andi, a tall woman with long brown hair, slips out of the greenhouse dressed in nutmeg-colored cotton duck canvas overalls. June, a golden retriever puppy, excitedly follows her out.

After our introductions, I follow Andi into her “office.” Inside her greenhouse, it’s a cozy 72 degrees. In the warm air, I breathe in the aromas of earth and forest. Three rows of plastic sheeting form the paths over the dark rich dirt topped with long irrigation lines reaching to the back wall. A white and orange cat, Frankie, nuzzles my leg in welcome, reflecting the purr I was feeling being in this organic space. 

Excitedly, Andi beckons me and says, “Come here, look at this,” as she points to a green shoot just barely pushing through the black dirt. “This is geum, the first signs of life. These are Totally Tangerine,” she shares of the apricot and muted peach-colored flowers with ruffly petals.

Andi grows flowers with the image of a wedding in mind. “As the bride is moving, the flowers should dance along,” she says. This season, her focal flowers will carry the colors of “peach, blush white and blue accents” making for the perfect floral arrangements and bouquets. Her goal is a design that is “whimsical with a loose garden style” that has motion. Tulips, peonies, dahlias, ranunculus, and zinnias are some of the flowers that bloom at Rimrock Flower Farm. Unexpected offerings include cinnamon and lemon basil flowers. 

As she leads me through the four rows of growing space with perennials established in three of the rows and bulbs planted in one, she sparkles with hope as she eyes several other tiny shoots. A moment later, her glimmer slightly dulls as she notices a small grasshopper scurrying off.

Andi says that being a farmer is not always pretty, as there are bound to be challenges. “We have weeds, hail and grasshoppers,” she says. “If I need 100 blooms, I plant 200.” Aside from the plants that bloom in the greenhouse, she also plants outside. Currently on her three acres of property, only one acre is occupied with plantings. 

Andi credits her husband, Owen, for “doing all the heavy lifting” putting in the water lines and helping her establish the three-quarter-acre outdoor garden. He helped with building the room in the basement where Andi originally started her seedlings.

For her husband, moving to Klein was coming home to Montana, having grown up in Harlowton. The couple met in Yuba City, California, where Andi grew up among the almond trees. He worked for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a job that kept him busier and busier over time. “He was gone during storm damage,” Andi says. “Then there were fires in the summer. He went from storms to fire. When the kids were super small, he was gone all the time.”

Heading home after a vacation with relatives, Andi remembers asking, with tears in her eyes, “Why do we have to leave your family? I love Montana.” In July 2018, her husband found a job posting, and by November, she and Owen and their daughters, Reese and Maren, were settled in their new home.

This is her fifth season. Although the idea of entering the flower business came before the Covid pandemic, Andi says of her first year of selling flowers, “Everyone was so ready to get out of the house and made us wildly successful.” 

She learned her craft from Lisa Mason Ziegler, creator of the online Gardener’s Workshop. “She has been my mentor for the last five years,” she says. Now, Andi is passing her knowledge on to the Future Farmers of America at Roundup High School. 

She is coaching four students for the Floriculture Career Development Event that prepares participants to enter the flower industry. “It is a vast curriculum,” Andi says. “There’s flower arrangement and plant identification. They break into real-life situations.” She teaches the students to budget, to make plant health diagnosis and to understand soil science. Already the team has won at the district level.

Angela Mayfield, the head of the Agriculture Department and FFA adviser, says of Andi, “She is one of the most giving, kindest, selfless people I know. She pours herself into our students and community.”

In 2021, with her friends Eric and Kendall Eliasson, Kim Erickson, Sophie Branch and Sara Gustafson, Andi started Market on Main, a local farmers’ market in Roundup. It runs the first Wednesday of the month during the summer. 

“Her impact on the community has been incredible,” Angela says. “She’s a model on how to be an entrepreneur.”

After seeing the heart of this fresh-cut flower farm, I’m hesitant to leave the company of this nurturer of community and flowers. As I step outside, it feels like the day is warmer and brighter. Puppy June bids me adieu as Rosie, the Siamese cat, slides off the hood of my car, allowing me to drive back to Billings with flowing and flowery spirits of joy.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT RIMROCK FLOWER FARM, visit rimrockflowerfarm.com. The farm sells fresh-cut bouquets on site. From time to time, they offer floral arranging classes, fresh-cut flower subscriptions and flower farm tours.


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