By Grace Swanson
Step into Flying Bear Farm & Design’s gardens on Whidbey Island on a summer day and you’ll be greeted by splashes of colors, fragrant sweet pea perfume, buzzing bees, and a friendly Catahoula dog named Moon.
Flying Bear Farm and Design owners Melissa Brown and Benjamin Courteau spend their days tending to their gardens, selling flowers at the Langley Second Street Market, working in their downtown Langley floral shop, and creating unique floral designs for weddings and events.
The wife and husband team started their flower farm and full-service design studio after moving to Langley, Washington four years ago.
Brown’s and Courteau’s decision to relocate from Seattle to Whidbey Island was spurred by their frustration with Seattle’s constant traffic and rising rent prices. They came across Langley in 2014 when they decided to search for a more suitable place to live that was within one hour of Seattle.
“The moment we were in Langley and saw the City Hall garden and met a lot of the people in town, it was pretty clear that Langley was the right fit,” Courteau said. “People in Langley care about improving their community.”
After dropping a resume off at Useless Bay Coffee Company, Courteau was immediately offered a job. Brown and Courteau relocated to Whidbey Island in Fall 2014.
Initially, Flying Bear Farm started on a quarter of an acre gifted to them by Chocolate Flower Farm’s owner Marie Lincoln.
Later, Brown’s parents purchased a property with multiple buildings outside of Langley and came to the island. Melissa Brown and Ben Courteau co-invested with Brown’s parents and moved to the property, forming an intergenerational homestead. Flying Bear Farm became a family operation.
Besides working on their farm, Brown and Courteau currently wear a lot of hats. Courteau manages the Langley Second Street market and works at a booth with Brown. Brown designs floral pieces in her studio for weddings and events. They also sell their flowers to floral shops around the island and occasionally set up pop-up flower shops.
This September, they opened their first brick and mortar floral shop in downtown Langley called Flying Bear.
“I think there really is a draw for younger people who are entrepreneurs to come to a place like Langley because there’s so much opportunity to express yourself and to take some space in a real, vibrant town,” Brown said. “It can be so hard to find yourself a good niche in Seattle.”
The internet helps Brown and Courteau share Flying Bear Farm’s beauty with the community. Brown believes technology is valuable to small businesses on Whidbey.
“There’s so many ways to do something meaningful and what you love through the internet and be living in a place that’s natural and beautiful and kind of ideal,” said Brown.
Brown and Courteau are thrilled to be a part of the next wave of Langley shop owners and to continue to be a part of the community.