Stop by Kasie Meszaros’ Brighton home, and you’ll likely depart with a bouquet of flowers fresh from her gardens.
Stop by her booth at the Brighton Farmers Market too late in the day, and you’ll likely leave empty-handed.
Meszaros, business administrator for Mcity, has discovered she has quite the green thumb and takes pride not only in giving away flowers she grows to brighten people’s days, but also in becoming a downtown Brighton attraction during the summer.
“I love when I give them away to people to just make their day, because who doesn’t love flowers?” she said. “My customers love them, my family loves them, my grandma, everyone was just in awe of them, so it just encouraged me. They were all in my corner giving me the confidence to keep going”.
She might never have discovered her love of gardening if her new neighbors hadn’t pointed out the previous owners of their home had maintained such a beautiful garden.
She decided to try planting vegetables outside that new house some eight or nine years ago after her husband, Joe, built her a couple of raised beds about 4-by-6 feet.
“My husband’s uncle is a gardener, a very simple, rustic gardener you could say,” she said. “Nothing fancy, using upcycled material and the basic organic garden supplies. I thought, if he could do that, I could make a vegetable garden look good too.”
The first year, she said, the vegetables took off.
“It looked like a jungle of vegetables in that garden,” she joked.
A few years later, they moved down the street to a house with lakefront property. Meszaros continued to garden vegetables successfully, even more so with her husband building two additional raised beds.
But the passion to produce started to wear off.
“I just had too many vegetables,” she said. “I don’t can, that’s just not an interest of mine and I just got to a point where I lost interest in growing vegetables altogether.”
After some online research and connections, she decided to flip the gardens before last summer to all flowers. She asked her husband to clear a 3-foot wide strip along the lake for further gardening space, on which she planted sunflowers, cosmos and zinnias.
She also bought 20 lavender plants — and doubled that for this season.
“I think the neighbors really enjoy it,” she said. “The people on the lake especially. The sunflowers get so tall, like 8, 9 feet, and I plant them in a way that staggers them, so you get a nice visual of sunflowers, a little shorter flower like cosmos and then my zinnias. You get a nice show of everything.”
Meszaros gave bouquets to visitors and family members, and donated many to the Brighton Rehabilitation Center to spread a little joy.
She had so many flowers that giving them away still left her with quite the supply. Ever the businesswomen — she has dual master’s degrees from Kettering University in business administration and operations management — she looked into renting a booth at the Brighton Farmers Market and started crunching numbers.
“My dad had to remind me: This is a hobby,” she said. He also added that the $15 fee for the booth would be the cheapest business lesson she’d ever undertaken if things did not work out.
She set sales goals for how many bouquets she wanted to sell there.
“We surpassed that,” she said.
In all, she attended nine markets in Brighton last summer and at all but the first few, she sold out of her flowers with hours to spare. She ended up having to make a “sold out” sign rather than turn away curious shoppers wondering what she sold at her now-empty table.
“The biggest compliment I got was this gentleman came up to my table really early in the morning and said, ‘I heard you sell out really early, and my wife said I had to get your flowers,’” she said.
Meszaros is looking forward to seeing how this summer’s flowers do. She starts her flowers as seedlings in her basement equipped with grow lights. Around Memorial Day, she’ll plant those outside, and this year will have five raised beds to grow even more flowers.
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Her 14-year-old stepdaughter, Ella, and 12-year-old stepson, Avery, get involved by helping with everything from the planting and collecting of the flowers to helping staff the farmers market booth.
Ella, in particular, has eagerly joined Meszaros at each farmers market she attended, and that entailed waking at 5 a.m. each Saturday after helping cut flowers and place them in mason jars of water the day before.
Garden upkeep is fairly simple. Her husband built a small irrigation system to keep the flower beds watered, and the lakefront helps keep away deer and other pests that might otherwise harm the garden.
She said despite the pandemic, attendance at the farmers market over the summer was well attended, with masks and social distancing enforced for shoppers and vendors alike. Whether that continues this summer as restrictions ease remains to be seen.
Regardless, she plans to be well stocked.
“Every ounce of land I can get off my yard I use,” she said. “It’s just crazy how many flowers came out of the little space that I have.”