Good Energy! A New Producer Profile on M Henry Design
Catherine Fleischman of M Henry Design, in her natural element.
Catherine Fleischman, owner of M Henry Design, is pretty much Cumberland County’s version of the energizer bunny. She takes a longish run most days and is active in a number of community organizations in her native county. She also serves as President of the Board of The Center for Rural Culture (CRC). In fact, on Thursdays Catherine has recently pitched in and become part of the intrepid crew of volunteers handling deliveries for Fall Line Farms and Local Roots (FLF&LR), one of the CRC’s major programs. Catherine is an avid horsewoman and once served as first whip for the Hounds of Deep Run Hunt Club. She and her husband Luke also run a vacation rental business and a farm together. And as if that isn’t enough, she also runs a floral design business: M Henry Design.
Fortunately for the members of FLF&LR, M Henry Design now sells their beautiful fresh bouquets through this non-profit online market. Right now, there are regular- and large-size bouquets of fresh flowers and greenery available for sale. And members who want to honor a frontline medical professional in the Richmond area can order a bouquet and have it delivered by the M Henry Design staff!
Catherine runs her business with the same civic focus that’s evident in her personal life. For the last two months, M Henry Design has shown up every other Friday at the Cumberland Community Cares food bank with arrangements to go home with the folks who come there for food.
“Everybody loves flowers!” Catherine declares. “They’re a great way to brighten someone’s day. Flowers are what we can share, and we enjoy sharing with our neighbors.” Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, M Henry Design stepped up its game. Now, they now deliver every Friday. “On Friday, volunteers and people picking up groceries are brightened and excited by this. It’s the least we can do,” she says.
Catherine’s mother, Carolyn Stonnell Baber, introduced her to the art of floral arrangement early on: “Mom was a passionate entertainer and a committed garden clubber. Flowers were everywhere when I was kid, and there were Christmas decorations every winter.” With a laugh, she adds, “We were foraging before it was cool!”
Catherine got her first taste of being a florist as a junior in college. She worked for The Tropical Treehouse on Cary Street. She stayed with them several years, eventually becoming the manager of their store in the West End. In 1989, she left floral arranging to purchase and run Richmond Saddlery.
Ten years ago, Catherine met Mary Henry—the founder of M Henry Design. Mary had moved to Cumberland from Baltimore and the two became neighbors, then friends, and eventually colleagues. Catherine began helping Mary with the business part time, while still teaching full time at Cumberland High School. When Mary was ready to step back, Catherine stepped up and purchased the company. The two friends still work together, making beautiful arrangements for weddings, parties, and a number of special events.
“We use a lot of local flowers,” Catherine explains. “We order from local growers. And we’re working to grow more of our own, too. That’s our big thing. We love arranging flowers, but we also love gardening. We’re not afraid to get dirty!”
FLF&LR members can order bouquets to be delivered with their other items on Thursday, but they can also order flowers to be sent to those who are working on the front lines of the pandemic. M Henry Design will deliver them to medical facilities around the Richmond area. Asked about offering FLF&LR members the opportunity to send arrangements to medical folks, Catherine says, “This is the evolution of our business, changing to fit needs. We have been a wedding and event florist, but COVID-19 really changed things for that industry. We’re having to reinvent in order to be essential. To me, locally sourced flowers are a way to be essential.”
According to Catherine, flowers are especially important now because “they make people feel good, and this is a time when our society is waiting and seeing. It’s hard. And these medical workers are absolutely scrambling and putting themselves in harm’s way for others. This is one way that we can give back and let them know we’re grateful.”
Flowers being distributed at the Cumberland Community Cares food bank.
Civic-minded is one keyword when it comes to the philosophy behind M Henry Design. Another is “sustainable.” One of the first solar installations in Cumberland County was on the farm where Catherine lives with her husband, Luke. Now, she’s made a second investment in green energy by installing solar panels on her business.
“Choosing to go solar at the shop is my way of combining all of my passions and strength and energy into what I want to do for the next 10 years,” says Catherine. “Being green is important to me as a master naturalist, teacher, renovator, wife, community member, artist, gardener, and citizen. I feel fortunate to be able to make this come together by growing flowers and putting them in vases and bringing them into people’s lives. We’ve been generating on our farm since 2006, and that decision came from being aware of the environment and the impact humanity has. For me, being in the golden years of my employment, I am just interested in doing what I really feel needs to be done. Solar is a no-brainer for me. Our planet needs it; our economy needs it; our flowers need it.”
Catherine runs her business in a way that meets her overall mission in life—making her community better. As the President of the Board of the CRC, It’s a point of pride for her that the organization contributes to maintaining and strengthening the rural economy in places like Cumberland County: “Independent small farmers who feed their communities are the neighbors that I want to have,” she says. “I want to do everything I can to make sure that our economy—which is actually sustainable—is nurturing to nature. That’s the economy we need. The COVID situation is proving that. We are realizing that local farmers can offer a superior product in taste, freshness, and artisanship. Not just good food, but valuable food.”
Each bouquet of flowers from M Henry Designs has power behind it. Yes—solar power. But also the power of ensuring that local farms and small businesses are here to feed us—both body and soul. As Catherine says herself, “It’s not that we need to consume a lot—it’s that we need to consume purposefully and meaningfully.”
You can feel very good about a bouquet from M Henry Design, and not just because it’s beautiful.
To learn more about M Henry Design, visit their website at www.mhenrydesign.com and follow them on social media (@mhenrydesign).
Click here to go to their Fall Line Farms and Local Roots buying page.
PHOTO CREDITS: Liz Fleischman Layne, Columbia, VA