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Business epiphany occurs in tree stand with help of Google

From IT to flowers, Barnwood Farms owner builds success

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May 13, 2024

WAUPACA – Business ideas have been known to be sparked in a variety of unique locations and scenarios.

For Barnwood Farms – a U-pick Flower Farm & Venue located in Waupaca – Owner Rick Walkush said it came during hunting season.

Walkush said as he was sitting in his treestand, he gazed over his 27 acres and wondered what else he could do with the land. 

“I was wondering, ‘what can we do with the tillable acres we have?’” he said. “(Naturally, I) Googled, ‘what can you do to make money on a homestead?’ and I came across (a handful of ideas) – including flowers… so that’s what we decided to do.”

Before exploring his entrepreneurial green thumb, Walkush said he worked in IT for more than a decade.

“I think I’ve always had an entrepreneurial desire to do my own thing,” he said. “When we bought this farm, we had no intention of (running) a business. We bought it for hunting land for my son and I.” 

Walkush said Barnwood Farms’ U-Pick Flower Farm (located at E290 Johnson Road) opened in summer 2020 and offers – as one would expect by the name – an opportunity for folks to pick and design their own floral arrangements.

“At Barnwood Farms, nature is our universal language,” he said. “Whether you’re eight or 80 years old, we offer an experience for you.”

The farm, Walkush said, also has two venue spaces for events and hosts photography sessions among the flowers.

Success and demand, he said, eventually led to the opening of the Barnwood Farms Waupaca Flower Shop (N2745 County Road QQ).

“The summer before (the store opened), we started doing flower subscriptions for people (from the harvest) of the farm,” he said. “We would make floral arrangements and deliver them, which was highly successful. But we didn’t have a cooler which became a hindrance to us growing that part of the business.”

It was then, Walkush said, they got wind of a storefront in the Town of King, right next to the Chain O’ Lakes, was up for sale.

“Randomly one day a friend of my fiancé, Holly DeBoer, mentioned their aunt had a store in the Town of King that was available that had a cooler,” he said. “We looked at it and decided to make the jump. It was previously a liquor store called Cheesie Bob’s.”

Walkush said it was an ideal spot for the shop.

“It was the perfect location in King alongside other little shops that are developing along the strip, much like the quaintness of Door County,” he said. “It’s a big tourist area.” 

Opening the store last Mother’s Day came at a perfect time – as flower subscriptions grew in popularity, now making up the largest segment of the business. 

“(In the store during the farm’s off-season), we offer little bud vases, which are popular and are a cool arrangement,” he said. “We sell a lot of them to businesses and restaurants. The grab-and-go arrangements are also popular during the (farm’s) offseason and mostly consist of roses, carnations and a lot of different greens.”

The store is located five miles from the flower farm, which Walkush said consists of 20 rows of flowers, each 70 feet in length.

“We grow different kinds of sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, cosmos, zinnias, amaranth, solutia, aster, lavender and other variety greens,” he said. 

The honor system

Walkush said the farm works on an honor system – customers help themselves to the pruners and vases at the farm (some bring their own containers) and get picking.

He said customers can get a discount at the store if they donate vases.  

Walkush said they also do a lot of thrifting to accumulate vases.

“It’s all been an honor system,” he said. “We have a shelter where they can grab their clippers and the vase and cut whatever flowers they want. We have the cashbox, and they put their money there. It’s how things were set up when we opened and is (same process) today.”

For the most part, Walkush said, he’s found people respect the farm’s honor system.

“I think what we’ve found is people are more honest, doing it that way than they would be if I was there counting everything,” he said. “They’re probably more generous, (too). It is peaceful out there.”

Walkush said Barnwood Farms has signage listing prices – which are priced per stem.

He said a decent-sized bouquet runs anywhere from $15 to $50.    


Walkush said he has also diversified Barnwood Farms beyond the farm and retail side of things.

“We do funerals and weddings,” he said. “We try to fill in the gaps as much as we can. We also allow photographers to come and take pictures at the farm (with the flowers as the backdrop), so that’s also a source of income. We have a shelter we rent, too, and next year, we are putting in a wedding ceremony area that will be ready in July.”

The floral business, especially one that relies on its own harvest, Walkush said, faces the challenge of the unpredictability of the weather.

“Last year, it was so hot and dry,” he said. “Also, when you get a late frost you didn’t expect, that kills a lot of your seedlings. Those are things that happened last year.”

However, on the flip side of adversity, Walkush said, is a great satisfaction that comes from running a successful business.

“I would say, without a doubt, (my favorite part of owning Barnwood Farms) is the peace and happiness people get when they receive flowers,” he said. “Or when they come to the farm and I happen to be there and I’ll be chatting with them. (We) talk about (how being on our farm) brings them back to their grandma’s farm, back when they were young. (This) makes you feel good. I’m happy – flowers are happy.”

Though he admits he never imagined he’d start a business in the flower industry, Walkush said taking the leap has been well worth it – and encourages others to follow their dreams.

“I would say, be a doer,” he said. “Go after your dreams. Don’t sit back and think about ‘what can I do or what should I do?’ Everybody can do it. It’s scary, but you’ll feel much better about yourself. I’ve gone from my safe, nine-to-five job and cashing in my retirement to go after this dream.”

For more on Barnwood Farms, check out

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