Fox Hollow Peonies

Nenana, Alaska

Fox Hollow Peonies

Nenana, Alaska

Pioneering Peonies on Top of the World  

From mid-June to mid-August, the sun never sets in Nenana, Alaska, the “Land of the Midnight Sun.” Residents wake up in the middle of the night to find the sun shining brightly, people gardening and harvesting hay.  

This is where Wanda and Milt Haken, owners of Fox Hollow Peonies, have become pioneers in the commercial flower-growing industry. They started a small farm just south of Fairbanks with 200 plants in 2010. Today, they cultivate more than 5,000 plants, selling flowers to local consumers and businesses, shipping to florists and brides across the United States.  

Growing an Operation 

In forging new ground, they have faced challenges. Those led the Hakens to seek out trusted resources to guide them and findways to connect with other producers to share their experiences and learn.  

The Hakens credit the science-based insights from the Alaska Division of Agriculture and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks for introducing peony flowers to growers in the state.  

“My advice to someone thinking about starting a farm is to develop good relationships with fellow farmers in your area,” Wanda said. “They’ve gone ahead of you and made some mistakes you hopefully won’t need to repeat. Originally, we had a small, very close co-op of 24 farms here. At the end of the season, we all got together and shared our experiences, what we did right, what we did wrong and we all learned from each other.”  

Developing a Business Strategy 

“Social media is so important these days,” Wanda said. “We market to brides and florists, so for us, Instagram and our website have been great marketing tools. And you need to start having a presence on social media long before you’re ready to sell. We spend three days on family vacations marketing to every florist in the area we’re visiting. Then they check out our website and follow us on social media to learn more.” 

Over the years Wanda and Milt have grown their farm into a thriving business. They continue to learn, experiment with different tools and techniques, and freely share their experiences with others.  

“If you’re going to be successful, you need to love what you’re doing,” Wanda explained. “Farming and running a small business is extremely hard work. For me, I love seeing how our customers react when they receive their flowers. That’s what makes me happy and brings me joy.” 

This article was originally published in AgWest’s Fall 2023 West Connect Magazine