Flower farmer Meagan Major understands the art of beauty. Last year, the one-time makeup artist took over the former Aztec Dahlias outside Petaluma, changing the name of the four-acre property to The Happy Dahlia Farm, and planting 25,000 new blooms this year in anticipation of creating a summer wonderland. “I’m the owner and the crazy visionary lady,” Major says excitedly.
Major knows the personalities of each of the different varieties and talks about them almost as if they’re people. ‘Café Au Lait,’ with its large, ruffled, pale peachy-pink blooms, is by far the most popular with the farm’s visitors. “She’s a total diva,” says Major. Other favorites include ‘Break Out,’ a soft, romantic pale pink, and the vibrant, dark-purple ‘Ivanetti.’ The operation is a family affair.
Major and her husband, Tony, share the daily chores, often enlisting the help of their two young daughters. “It’s like our little utopia,” she says.
A day on the farm
5:00 a.m. In bloom season, Major arrives at the farm before dawn, puts on her headlamp, and gets to work. Harvesting solo is Major’s favorite part of the day. “I get to get intimate with each bloom, and that’s when I get to look at all of them.” As the sun rises, Major says she’s often compelled to stop what she’s doing and take pictures, because the early-morning blooms are so beautiful.
7:00 a.m. The rest of the farm crew arrives. Major continues harvesting until all the sale buckets are filled with dahlias—in rainbow order. The growing fields are divided up by color. “I’m usually more drawn to the pinks and the purples, so my favorites are all on the right side of the field. But my cousin Poppy, who does the farmer’s market, loves the yellows and the oranges. When we go out to harvest, she always loves to go to the left side of the field.”
10:00 a.m. The farm opens for visitors, some stopping at the coffee station, others heading straight out into the fields to wander around.
Shoppers can choose from containers of cut flowers at the farmstand or walk the rows and choose from the growing beds, though staff members do the actual cutting of the flowers.
12:00 p.m. Time for lunch, often a takeout farro salad from Lunchette. If she’s not too dirty, Major likes to head to Cucina Paradiso. “It’s my favorite restaurant in all the land,” she says. “I love the fish, and the gnocchi is out of this world.”
1:00 p.m. There are buckets to replenish with blooms, and more flowers to cut for guests walking the fields. “I always say to look around and enjoy everything first, and then pick your flowers before you go home. The dahlias don’t like to be left out in the sun once they’ve been cut,” Major says. As visitors wander the fields, they’ll notice basil and other smaller plants interplanted with the dahlias—a way of attracting ladybugs, lacewings, and other beneficial insects. “I have seen so many ladybugs this year and I’m really excited,” says Major.
4:00 p.m. The farm closes, and Major’s team turns to getting ready for the next day’s farmers markets, sorting blooms by color so people can look through the buckets and choose from complementary textures and styles. After 12-plus hours in the field, Major winds down the day with dinner and family time, before an early night to get ready for the next day’s harvest.
When you go: “We want this to be a magical place,” says Major. In addition to cut flowers, The Happy Dahlia Farm also offers picnic tables, live music, activities for kids, and full-moon ceremonies. The dahlias begin blooming in July, peak in August, and continue through early October. Visit the website for updated bloom-season hours.
2478 E. Washington St., Petaluma, 707-338-9478, thehappydahliafarm.com