Lifestyles Client Feature: Vanessa Berg

A business blooms in Alaska…

Seven years ago, when Vanessa Berg’s daughter was getting ready for a September wedding, they had their hearts set on peony flowers to be the floral theme.  They soon realized that this specific flower could not be found easily during the fall since typical blooming season ends in the summer.  During this time, Vanessa came across an advertisement for a Peony conference in Palmer, Alaska. Both Vanessa and her sister (See image, left to right-Vanessa and sister Pamela) attended the conference and discovered their passion for growing flowers.  While farming was not new to them, flower farming proved to be intense but ultimately a labor of love.  In 2017, Vanessa and her sister Pamela joined forces to start Valley Sisters Peonies and accumulated a number of fields located in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and at the foot of Peter’s Creek Valley outside of Anchorage, Alaska.

The craft of peony farming is challenging in its process as it requires many facets for growing success.  Stewardship of the land and proper timing of the process has to be perfect in order to create the best bloom.  And then there’s the tending to the flower’s delicate needs as it travels in perfect condition across the country to its second home.  The culturing of a peony must be impeccable from start to finish in order to bring about the flower’s best form.  The same can be said for how Vanessa and her family have run their business; taking care of every detail from start to finish.  “Yes, I get my hands dirty but really I run a clean operation.  I plant, weed, water and cut them. Each plant is carefully monitored, and every bud is inspected before it goes in the cooler.  Then the bud is inspected again before it is chosen to be shipped.  We ship overnight air to assure the freshest possible bloom. ” Vanessa explains.  After receiving a bouquet of Valley Sisters Peonies at the Multop Financial office, we can attest that the quality of flower is extraordinary (See image above).

Since the beginning, Valley Sisters Peonies has been a family run business.  All four sisters, Vanessa Berg, Pamela Elmore, Valerie Sutter and Rita Jackson, have been involved in one facet or another in order to make this dream a reality.  From planting and weeding to picking and cleaning, these sisters have worked together and shared their love for these beautiful flowers.  Husbands Jim Berg and Chuck Elmore have been “Silent Partners” from the beginning; taking up any task needed including clearing the land, drilling holes, laying down drip irrigation and other regular maintenance.  Even the grand kids like to get involved with simple jobs like weeding (See left image, Vanessa Berg with Granddaughter Molly)!  The buck doesn’t stop there as they also like to sell for their niece, Jessica Mitchell and her family in Chugiak, Alaska, from her plot of 400 pink peonies.

What is the driving force that keeps such a difficult business flourishing?  Simply put by Vanessa, “Growing flowers is a passion we share and peonies are gorgeous and an Alaska friendly flower…and they smell amazing.  How could we not grow such a wonderful flower?”

Valley Sisters Peonies may have started in 2017, but the development of the root culture started years prior.  They had to get her hands dirty right away as newly planted peonies do not flower the first year.  Their root system needs time to mature before flowering the following spring.  Peonies also need continuous days of 45F or lower temperatures while they are dormant in order to bloom the following season.  This is one of the reasons Alaska is the perfect location for peony cultivation as it’s cold enough to recharge the peony roots each winter.  As Vanessa stated, “The long winter and the long sunset in the summer also makes for a very big blossom. Most blossoms exceed six inches across when they reach their full blossom size…Alaska summers really bring out the best of the best when it comes to peonies as a cut flower.”

The life of the business has continued to thrive as their last season ended in selling 3,000 blooms across the United States and to Vietnam.  They have created a culture that goes beyond the borders of their home state in Alaska.  Traveling in the form of joy and beauty to every recipient, Valley Sisters Peonies clearly expresses the love they have for their work in every detail.  Floriculture is hard work alone, but taking up a new business, with no previous experience in the field and turning it into a family-run and thriving trade is a huge accomplishment.  The discipline of flower farming cannot be underrated.

At Multop Financial, we are proud to feature clients who invest hard work and such labor-intensive time into a family-focused business as Valley Sisters Peonies.  And we are pleased to call Vanessa and Jim Berg our clients.  We believe that entrepreneurship will never die as long as driven and passionate people like them keep pursuing their dreams.