One could easily get lost, and eat for days, in Lisa Papandrea’s Norwell, Massachusetts backyard.
The space is lined with dozens of species of colorful flowers and circled by a long, narrow coop where 15 chickens cluck contentedly. In the center of a green acre of grass, raised garden beds are home to herbs and vegetables that will go into the sauces, soups and jams made by Papandrea, who can usually been seen traipsing around with a small basket of fresh sage, mint, garlic or tomatoes fresh off the vine.
“I love experimenting,” she said. “I know whatever I manage to grow, I’ll use.”
Papandrea is five years into what she calls a reinvention of her life. After years of raising children, traveling the world and working overseas, she now runs a small bed-and-breakfast and sells homemade goods at local farmers markets.
She’s just one of dozens, if not more, small-scale artisans who make their home on the South Shore and are working to bring simple concepts, such as eating locally-grown food and crafting by hand, back to life.
“This has always been my dream, to be out here doing this,” she said. “There was a point in my life when I felt so helpless, and I think a lot of people feel that way, but when I got into the local scene and the farmers markets, that all changed.”
Papandrea owns and operates Kiss Flower Farm, a small business she runs out of half of her 1876 New England farmhouse in Norwell. She has turned the other half of her home into a bed and breakfast and spends most of her time gardening and turning her crops into goods she sells.
Next to her house stands the Kiss Country Store, a one-room building filled with spiced-peach-bourbon and apple-lavender jams, maple-almond granola, cornbread and pancake mixes and spice blends like espresso black pepper sea salt.
“I’m not going to make $1 million selling these things, but it’s not about that,” she said. “I think people get so overwhelmed with all the things they have to do, like starting a family and having a job, but in the end you’re always going to fall back on what you love.”
On an August morning, Papandrea was crouched behind a barn on her property, next to a raised garden bed, with pruning sheers in hand. She sniped away at ripe eggplant before moving onto her sage plants and rolling her eyes at a disappointing crop of basil.
“You just never know why some years are better than others, why sometimes things just don’t grow,” she said.
She carried her basket of produce inside and placed it on a wooden kitchen table draped in a floral cloth. Before sitting down, she pulled three heaping trays of roasted tomatoes, onions and garlic from her oven and transferred them on a kitchen counter frequently covered in sugar, mashed fruit or soup splatters.
“This is my dream situation,” she said, looking wistfully around her kitchen.
Papandrea’s business was born out of a lull in life, a time when she wasn’t quite sure who she was or what she should do after moving back from years spent working in Brazil. She has since turned her passion for cooking and nature into her livelihood, and says getting involved at farmers markets has opened her life up in unexpected ways.
She loves the flexibly and creativity Kiss Flower affords her, and says she’s thrilled to know the products of her passion are embraced by others. Her pairings of random herbs and fruits have gained her a following of people who love her creative jams, which include strawberry lemon, sour cherry Merlot and pineapple coconut. She sells 8-ounce jars for $9 and 4-ounce jars for $5.
“I’ve been able to experiment and I’ve learned that if I’m jazzed about it, other people will be,” Papandrea said.
Each jar she sells is adorned with a small sticker with the logo for her farm, something she invested in early when she started her business. It was expensive, Papandrea said, and she wasn’t sure it made sense to care about a logo as much as she did at the time, but the small humming bird and hibiscus emblem she now looks at every day is something that brings her joy.
“Kiss Flower is the literal translation of hummingbird in Portuguese,” she said. “One of my very first memories of life involved a humming bird and cherry tree we had growing up, and I just remember being completely blown away by it. It was magical to me.”
Kiss Flower Farm sells periodically at farmers markets in Cohasset, Marshfield, Braintree and Hingham, and Papandrea has recently partnered with Hornstra Farms and Holly Hill Farm to sell her goods in their stores. More information and an online store can be found at kissflowerfarm.com.
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.