Where Are They Now? | March 2023 | By Ashley Butler
Meet Ashlyn Pickering, former North Summit FFA member, and now owner and designer of Juniper Sage Floral Company. Many individuals who were/are members of the FFA say that their connection with agriculture is what introduced them to the organization, and while Ashlyn’s family does own a cattle operation and she did grow up with that connection to the agriculture industry, that’s not how she found the FFA. In fact, going into highschool, Ashlyn didn’t know much about the organization at all, or understand how involved she could become or what opportunities were available.
“It was my interest in plants & design that had me signing up for floriculture class my freshman year. I have always loved creating with my hands and organizing/designing things to look 'pleasing to the eye.'" said Ashlyn.
And that’s where it all started. After signing up for the class, she learned that her chapter’s floriculture team was in need of a final member, so after some encouragement from one of the other team members, she decided to join, and never looked back!
By the time Ashlyn was a junior, her chapter’s floriculture team was able to win state, with Ashlyn leading the way by ranking as the highest scoring individual in the contest. That win took them on to nationals where they were able to place 10th in the Nation.
Ashlyn looks back on her success within the FFA fondly, but even more so she’s grateful for the impact that it had on her future.
After highschool, Ashlyn continued her passion in the floral industry and into college as well.
“I KNOW the knowledge & skills I acquired competing in the floriculture CDE helped me land my first florist job out of high school. It's a highly sought-after position and FFA definitely gave me experience above the rest and helped me get my foot in the industry door.”
Getting in that door allowed Ashlyn to work within the industry throughout college and she says that the irreplaceable experience she gained working in a floral shop during those years is what gave her the confidence to start her own business.
Ashlyn with her floriculture team at the 2012 National FFA Convention.
In 2020, Juniper Sage Floral Co. was born; a successful business that specializes in wedding flowers. Ashlyn now spends her time connecting with clients, designing out of her home, making her own schedule and doing what she loves! An amazing combination she says, especially since becoming a mom this past year.
Ashlyn truly enjoys what she does! “My favorite part is the variety and how it combines my passions of plants & people. I always love designing for people I know, but I delight in meeting new people too! This career really allows for that because new & different people are always needing wedding flowers. There is so much variety in the people, the style and colors of weddings, and the plant materials. As the seasons change, so do the cut flowers I use to design and that keeps it so exciting creatively.”
One skill that Ashlyn says she learned from being in the FFA is resiliency. “You're not always going to be the 'right' person, and that's ok. You might not be the right person to win the contest, or the right person to get the chapter officer position. That's okay! Today, I'm not the right person for every couple that reaches out to me about wedding flowers. My style, my prices, my situation--isn't for everyone and that's OK. I learned in FFA, and I continue to learn as a florist, that it's best to not take things personally. Keep your head up, do your best, and don't hold grudges when you're not the one chosen. You'll be happiest that way.”
When asked what advice she would give a high school student that is thinking about joining FFA she said,
“For me, joining FFA in high school was a great decision, but becoming involved in FFA was the even better decision! There's a difference there. Take action. Get out of your comfort zone. Don't sit idly by, but put in the work to compete on the CDE team you're interested in or develop the skills necessary to make chapter office. In FFA there truly is something for everyone and dedicated involvement to whatever that might be will push you to grow and, in turn, bless the rest of your life.”
To those interested in a career in the floral design industry, her advice is “FFA is the PERFECT place to start. Take every opportunity that is available to you in floriculture through FFA. Learn all you can where you are now and you'll put yourself in a great position for future opportunities.”
Ashlyn gained a lot from choosing to be truly involved in the FFA, and because of that, she benefited immensely from it.
“The floriculture Career Development Event lived up to its name in my life; it truly was the first event in developing my career as a florist. Beyond floral, however, is the public speaking and leadership experience I gained competing in the parliamentary procedure & job interview contests, and being a chapter officer. Today I have greater confidence in myself to communicate and make friends in whatever setting I find myself in. I know I'm also a better delegator and team player because of my time in FFA.”