Rural family deepens connection through business on farm

Farmer, business owner, and mother, Kara Krapfl, manages her flower business with her family’s help.

Grace Smith, Managing Editor

The aroma of burgers fresh off the grill fills the air while three giggly children race to the wooden picnic table near a flower garden. The recurring sound of barking dogs echoes through the family farm where Kara Krapfl lived when she was a child, and where her mother, Sharon Dooley, still lives.

Kara’s three children; Rose, Oscar, and Violet, wearing full smiles, run to greet their mother once she returns from a long day in the garden picking flowers, planting seeds, and working from sometimes sunup to sundown to maintain her flower business: Lovely Bunches.

“This is a full-time job,” Kara said. Despite the progression to where Kara’s business is now, she is still thoughtfully working to advance the picturesque garden even more, including the decision to not use pesticides on her plants. “I’m always changing certain methods to be more Earth conscious and aesthetically pleasing,” Kara said. (Grace Smith)

Kara started Lovely Bunches in the spring of 2020, right before the world shut down because of COVID-19. Now, Kara manages a garden three times bigger than two years ago and works to create a colorful atmosphere for community members to experience the farm and pick flowers ranging from vibrant cosmos to radiant sunflowers.

“I’m a firm believer that everyone has to start somewhere,” Kara said.

Kara is part of a larger movement of women working in leadership on farms. About 50,000 women are leaders, partners, and decision-makers across 86,000 farms in Iowa, as of March 2021.

Despite the progression to where Kara’s business is now, she is still thoughtfully working to advance the picturesque garden even more, including the decision to not use pesticides on her plants.

“I’m always changing certain methods to be more Earth conscious and aesthetically pleasing,” Kara said. “It’s really important for me to take care of my wildlife.”

Along with decision-making, Kara has also improved in her confidence in the social media and outreach aspects of her business.

“I’ve heard people say before, like, ‘It takes a few years to feel like, wow, I can do this,’ Kara said. “…This is my third year and I feel a lot more confident in the public space.”

“If I’m taking care of the kids so she can get more accomplished, I’ll do those kinds of things,” Dustin said. In his childhood, Dustin had always wanted to live on a farm. Now, he gets to live out that dream with his family. (Grace Smith)

Kara puts in 110 percent for Lovely Bunches, but she doesn’t do it alone. Her husband, Dustin, her mom, and her three children complete tasks for Kara throughout the farm and at the Krapfl home to ensure the business and the family’s home life run smoothly.

“I tend to be more of the taskmaster,” Dustin said as Kara chimed in. “If I’m taking care of the kids so she can get more accomplished, I’ll do those kinds of things,” Dustin said.

Kara also said her children complete chores at home including feeding chickens, playing with their rambunctious goat, and watering the hundreds of plants for her.

While Dustin teaches Rose how to jumpstart a truck and listens to Violet’s improvement in reading, Sharon serves as an assistant for Lovely Bunches, while maintaining her dog and horse boarding businesses, which can bring in over eight dogs and four horses at a time.

Along with her flower business, Kara assists in her mom’s two businesses: dog and horse boarding, which can sometimes bring in over eight dogs and four horses daily. Sharon also assists with Lovely Bunches. Sharon said being assistants to each other’s businesses works well, as it gives the mother and daughter duo last say on decisions for their own businesses. (Grace Smith)

“It’s great because we are very able to be honest with each other,” Kara said. “I can’t even remember the last time we had a fight, even. We have disagreements, but that’s as far as it goes, which is nice.”

Sharon said being assistants to each other’s businesses works well, as it gives the mother and daughter duo last say on decisions for their own businesses.

Sharon bought the farm, which sits at over 100 acres, with her late husband in 1992, with no farming background, and started horse boarding around 1994, after someone approached her looking to keep their horse at the farm. And the same thing happened with the dog business in 2005.

“Somebody asked us to take care of a dog and it just turned into a dog boarding business,” Sharon said. “It just kind of all eventually fell into place.”

The juggle between family time and business work has been an aspect the family deals with regularly.

Kara said finding a balance between working on her flowers, her mom’s dog and horse boarding, and spending time with her family is still a work in progress.

“This year, I’ve tried to be better about it,” Kara said. “Saying no to things that don’t work, and trying to mark out days where I shouldn’t even go do anything that I don’t have to do.”

At the end of Kara’s long days, her children erupt with excitement and happiness when she walks through the door to their home that neighbors the family farm. “It’s an explosion of emotions,” Dustin said. (Grace Smith)

At the end of Kara’s long days, her children erupt with excitement and happiness when she walks through the door to their home that neighbors the family farm.

“All the things that they’re thinking or meaning to tell somebody — sometimes it’s, like, overwhelming for me,” Kara said.

“It’s an explosion of emotions,” Dustin added.

Kara worked in numerous restaurants before planting her attention on her flower business. Her children didn’t want their mom to leave them, and Kara said she sometimes said goodbye to them over five times before she left for work.

“[They] would sometimes chase after the car when I was leaving,” Kara said. “As if it’s like the last time they’re going to see me in a week or so.”

Kara said she’s now with her children all the time during her business off-season in the winter, but the children miss their mom when the warmer seasons roll around and she gets back to work.

“I get the question several times a day, ‘Dad, where’s mom? When’s she coming back?’” Dustin said.

The family said they cherish every moment together, and they feel fortunate to be able to do so. “I feel fortunate and every day I know how lucky I am,” Sharon said. “I don’t take it for granted.” (Grace Smith)

Although the family has always been close, now that Kara works a house away, they are growing even closer.

On a cool summer night, when Sharon and Kara were out working, Rose, Oscar, and Violet brought dinner over to the farm. Even though everyone was going in different directions, they were all still in the moment together, which the family said is very special.

“I feel fortunate and every day I know how lucky I am,” Sharon said. “I don’t take it for granted.”

Facebook Comments