Antonio's Story

I’ve been gardening all my life, but I actually come from a long line of avid vegetable growers. I’m currently growing flowers where my father and grand-father once grew their veggies. While I never quite took to vegetable growing as they did, it certainly left a niche for me to fully explore flower gardening. As a child, I remember my dad setting aside a small plot just for me amongst his vegetables. It was here that I was able to grow whatever I chose. I’d grow flowers, make bouquets, and deliver them to family members. Each autumn, after my grand-father had completed the trimming of his small vineyard, I’d use the vines to fashion grapevine wreaths and baskets. Growing up as a creative young boy who was fond of flowers wasn’t always encouraged, however. “Boys don’t play with flowers,” as I was told at school. Passion, however, is relentless in its calling…

 Antonio Valente

I graduated teachers’ college in 2009. The economy at the time was in a dismal state and landing a full-time teaching job was nearly impossible. I was eventually hired as a substitute teacher but warned that securing a permanent contract could be anywhere from 7 to 10 years down the road. Facing the reality of precarious employment as a substitute teacher, I had to be creative and find an additional means of paying the bills.

 

At roughly the same time I had started a small cutting garden in my family’s one-acre vegetable plot. That first year I started with four very humble dahlia tubers. At the time I could have headed back into landscaping to help supplement my income, as I had been as a student. Or, as crazy as it sounded, I thought I could grow even more cut flowers, as I had been doing for myself, and plan to sell them. I started with a tiny roadside stand and soon had neighbours requesting bouquets on a regular basis. Apparently my bouquets had built quite a reputation in the neighbourhood! It wasn’t long before I was selling my blooms at local farmers’ markets. It was here at the market where I was discovered by a florist who asked if I would start selling wholesale to her on a regular basis. Word quickly spread among florists and today I sell exclusively to floral designers with an appreciation for locally and organically grown flowers and foliage.

 Antonio Valente Flowers in Toronto

Today, as one of the “little guys” in the field of cut flower growing, I’m competing with large-scale growers who are producing acres of flowers, so I choose to grow specialty varieties that a florist wouldn’t typically find from a large scale wholesaler. Many of the flowers are heirloom or pollinator-friendly varieties. This allows me to differentiate myself and compete with the “big guys.” I’m also committed to growing my flowers in a completely sustainable fashion. Gardening without the use of harmful chemicals was one of the most important virtues my father instilled into me; he wouldn’t have had it any other way. Here at AVF, I strive to continue my family’s love of gardening by cultivating beauty and inspiring an appreciation of nature.