How Floral Designer Sarah Ryhanen Turned a Run-Down Farm into an Artisanal Wonderland

© Winnie Au
By M. Elizabeth Sheldon Posted May 26, 2015

On a ramshackle property in upstate New York, floral designer Sarah Ryhanen grows flowers, raises chickens and sheep and cooks every meal on an outdoor grill.

On a ramshackle property in upstate New York, floral designer Sarah Ryhanen grows flowers, raises chickens and sheep and cooks every meal on an outdoor grill.

It's not unusual for Sarah Ryhanen’s day to start with “a messy sheep-wrangling scenario,” she reports, “and end with a Louis Vuitton meeting in midtown Manhattan.” Ryhanen and her partner, Eric Famisan, run a Brooklyn-based flower-and-soap business named Saipua (a variation on the Finnish word for soap). The sheep came into the picture after the couple purchased a sprawling, run-down farm outside Albany, New York, in 2011. Their dream was to use the property to explore a range of artisanal pursuits: to grow exotic, hard-to-find flowers (like a spiky purple or blue plant called muscari, or fritillaria, made up of “heavy clusters of grapy bells,” as Ryhanen describes it); host classes and workshops; and, eventually, produce cheese with milk
from their growing flock of sheep.

The two have already made incredible progress at the farm, which they dubbed “Worlds End” in a joking reference to its location, a four-hour drive from their Saipua shop in Red Hook. The sheep (including one named Drake, after the hip-hop star) and a flock of chickens are thriving, and an in-progress barn renovation has allowed Ryhanen and Famisan to finally begin hosting weekend retreats and flower workshops. Ryhanen instructs visitors and apprentices (who live on the farm for up to six weeks) on how to create the kinds of exquisitely disheveled, Dutch still life–inspired arrangements that have made her one of New York’s most in-demand florists. The farm has also become an invaluable resource for Ryhanen to forage for things like wild grapevines, which she loves because “no one ever bothers to cut and bring them to the flower market,” she says.


There are still plenty of challenges to keep things interesting. For instance, the couple tore out the 1825 farmhouse’s rusty stove but have yet to replace it, so Ryhanen cooks all of their meals on an outdoor grill, even in freezing temperatures and snow. “You know that book Seven Fires?” she asks. “My friends joke that I should write Nine Fires, because I cook everything on that grill.”

Recipe:
Grilled Pizza with Greens and Eggs

Related:
6 Delicious Flowers You Should Eat Right Now
Best American Artisans
America's Best Little Food Towns

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