Turbow Farms

Charmaine Turbow operates a flower farm on an acre of land in Los Altos.

Charmaine Turbow’s Los Altos home is tucked behind Interstate 280, not far from Magdalena Avenue. It’s more than just home to Turbow and her husband, Dan, their three kids and their dog, Nigel – it’s her business. The 1-acre property is packed with plants.

Turbow Farms sprouted from a season of tragedy. When one of Turbow’s close friends and her husband’s mother died from cancer in the span of a year, the family decided to do things differently. For Turbow, it meant starting the farm in 2018.

Turbow worked with, and continues to build the farm around, existing flowers and other plants that were already in the yard.

“I realized we’ve got a lot of greenery here on the property,” she said of her yard-turned-floral-nursery. “That is the foundation for floral work.”

She already had approximately 70% of the roses she now uses for the business, along with other perennials, and got her peony field tilled by a man who worked with a neighbor.

Turbow runs the business with help from her friend and former physical therapist, Stephanie Schmitz. The pair met as patient and therapist while Turbow was recovering from giving birth. They connected right away.

“Next thing I know, she brought her kids in, and they’re on the floor, and I’m working on her. … We’ve been friends ever since,” Schmitz said.

They grow nearly 90% of their product from seed, Turbow said. After the plants begin to sprout, they are transplanted into the ground in the labyrinth of raised beds and rows around the yard, often close together to conserve water. In early June, blooms are in what Turbow calls the “June gap” (between late-spring harvests of peony and ranunculus but before the late-summer and early-fall cosmos, dahlia and zinnia), preparing for the next harvest cycle.

Creative cuttings

Unlike more traditional flower businesses, Turbow Farms does not specialize in bouquet arrangements and delivery, though its flower subscriptions became a critical part of the business during quarantine. Turbow said education and creativity were always part of her vision, so the focal points of Turbow Farms are foraging farm tours and flower-arranging workshops, with public and private options available.

Visitors to Turbow Farms are encouraged to arrive with sturdy shoes, ready to get dirty, as she leads them through the garden to cut their own flowers and greenery before building a custom arrangement.

“Half the experience of coming here is getting to forage and just stepping outside of the box, versus ‘Here are your materials,’ and everybody’s arrangement or design piece ends up looking the same,” Turbow said.

At a recent team bonding event for Poshmark staff, the men in the group kept asking for an example bouquet to replicate, Turbow said. She refused.

“I really push them from a creative side,” she said. “And they actually created some exemplary pieces.”

“Those guys did great,” Schmitz added. “They were dethorning roses, and it was fun.”

Schmitz and Turbow are now working to give back to the community through their project Flowers for Fortitude. Turbow and a group of farmer friends harvested hundreds of dahlia tubers and sold them online to customers, raising $700. For the less florally literate, the farm is now selling plants in a batch, and Turbow hopes to host a workshop later in the summer. The proceeds will be donated to Help One Child, the Los Altos nonprofit that serves foster children and their families.

For more information on Turbow Farms, visit turbowfarms.com.

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