Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
Twin kittens are batting around a small piece of green floral foam outside the massive barn doors of Jess Flood’s design studio. “Oh, they shouldn’t have that,” Flood says, getting up from the table and snatching away the offending item. She pauses for a minute, watching the young cats scamper outside in the dirt. “They’re so cute,” she says.
Between the buzzing wasps, a crackling tin roof, frolicking farm cats, rumbling tractors and farm workers taking a water break on this unseasonably hot September day, its a wonder Flood gets anything done in her rather unorthodox office — otherwise known as her parent’s barn.
But there’s no doubt she does. The 33-year-old Flood is the quiet force behind some of Northern California’s biggest events — namely the last two years of Auction Napa Valley’s Marketplace — in addition to her roles in Santa Rosa’s Handcar Regatta, weddings at the California Academy of Science and the Leakey Foundation Trustees dinner. She’s been featured in numerous wedding publications, on television’s TLC and in breathless style blogs and Pinterest pages that gush over her comfortable, organic aesthetic and farm chic designs.
Her 2200 square-foot studio sits in the back half of her family’s working barn at Bloomfield Farms, a 45-acre organic produce farm. Her step-father, Mike Collins is a a world-renowned authority in permaculture and owns the farm with her mother, Karen. Collins is usually the guy who greets guests in coveralls and a baseball cap. Flood’s husband Nick Papadopoulos, has recently taken over as general manager of the farm, and calls his father-in-law “the Van Gough of dirt.”
“People are surprised when they find out I work at a farm,” says Flood. But while the front half of the building is devoted to workers filling CSA boxes and heavy farm equipment, her side is a real-life Martha Stewart fantasy of distressed farm tables, tin flower canisters, shelves of Mason jars and mismatched glassware and a antique stove used for canning classes. A large walk-in refrigerator is set aside for piles of flowers used in her floral displays and a massive iron chandelier swings from the 20-foot rafters.
Though Flood mostly stays out of the day-to-day operations of the farming business (“I pitch in where I’m needed,” she says), her family’s deep commitment to their West County farm and rural roots clearly influences her organic design aesthetic as well as providing home-grown flowers and produce for her events.
“It’s about feeling we are all connected,” says Flood, whether that’s at the table, in the field or at a special event. “I’m passionate about what my family does,” she said. “I’m inspired by what they are doing.”
Straddling the two worlds has been a natural for a West County native who’s as comfortable with shoveling compost piles as she is working on society soirees. “We’re all just people,” she says. “The more money you throw at something doesn’t make it better. It’s about creating an environment that’s comfortable,” Flood adds.
With her husband Nick, who she shares a passion for starting entrepreneurial projects, Flood is now turning her attention to creating ag-chic (as well as overall-friendly) events at Bloomfield Farms. In July, the couple launched family-friendly U-Pick Sundays featuring several chef-led brunches and tastings at the farm. Last year, Bloomfield Farms hosted a sold-out farm-to-table dinner with Chef John Lyle, and the couple are planning more farm-to-table dinners and farm-education events.
“It’s one of the most fulfilling things we do, we’re collaborating and bringing all of our talents to the table,” said Flood. “We’re bringing people out to where their food is. That can be a life-changing experience,” she said.