Flowers are nature’s gift to humanity, according to Chris May who has forged a career around their fleeting beauty.
Chris May says it’s always been about people. With a varied career that includes stints as a jackaroo in outback NSW and Queensland, a degree in psychology and employment as a youth worker, Chris says his driving force is to make a difference to people’s lives. However, it wasn’t until Chris’s father was in hospital and he met Rosie, who was also a patient, that Chris found both his future wife and his true calling.
“Actually, it was Mum who introduced us,” he explains. “Typical of her generation, she was looking after everyone in the ward and she thought I should meet this lovely young woman.” As fate would have it, Rosie’s father, Dominic Carouso, was a flower farmer, the ultimate creator of beauty and pleasure. “Dominic took me to the Sydney Flower Markets and I knew pretty well immediately that was where my future lay,” Chris recalls.
“Flowers are where agriculture meets people. The fact that they are ephemeral makes them even more precious. Nothing living lasts forever, but flowers mark every important occasion from birth to death, with anniversaries, weddings and celebrations in between.”
Dominic, however, was less than impressed with Chris’s aspirations to join his family business, as he had higher hopes than farming life for his daughter. So Chris struck a deal with Dominic to prove there was a future in flower farming. In exchange for help on the farm, Dominic paid Chris in leftover flowers that were not sold at the end of the day.
Taking the flowers, he started criss-crossing Sydney from Oxford Falls to Kellyville, selling flowers by the roadside. Twenty years down the track, Chris and Rosie have their own flower farm at Freemans Ridge and a thriving business selling flowers at growers’ markets as well as the wholesale market at Flemington. “I still have a stall at the local cemetery,” Chris adds. “Although we have eight staff at the farm, I still man it myself on occasion because I’ve developed relationships with the regular visitors and I like to be on hand to help them out.” For most of the week, Chris maintains a crazy schedule, with one eye on the flowers growing in the paddock and the other on the road as he drives the flowers to the wholesale market, or EQ Village and Carriageworks markets in inner Sydney.
This story was originally published in the June/July 2016 issue of Australian Country. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.
For more farm-life stories, click here.
Words Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ken Brass