Know Your Farmer: Prickly Pair Farm


Mike Milligan started Prickly Pair Farm with his business partner in 2011, which they named after the cactus fruit and the observation that the two of them were a little prickly as well. After a long corporate career in food manufacturing which often took Mike all over the world, he was ready to find a way to spend more time with his kids and family. 

Feeling burnt out on corporate food, Mike began researching the best places to start a farm and dreaming up what he might grow. With a strong background in business and a beginner’s level knowledge of agriculture, Mike began reaching out to growers in Central Texas to learn as much as he could.

“There wasn’t much local information available on growing flowers back when I started. It’s not any different than learning how to grow squash, there’s just more farmers with experience to learn from. Also, the ag extension office produces information to support growing squash and other vegetables.”

So Mike found mentors, speaking to everyone he could find growing flowers in Central Texas. He read dozens of books on agriculture and flower farming and took to the internet when he needed more info.

Mike finally found just over 5 acres in Lampasas, TX, and was ready to go. The farm began growing vegetables, fruits, and flowers and selling them at the Farmer’s Markets. With a goal to practice until they got the quality right, they learned a key lesson through these experiences: no one else was growing and selling Texas cut flowers.

By 2018, Prickly Pair Farm had leaned fully into flowers and was selling at four farmers’ markets in the area. They slowly expanded, starting with Farmhouse Delivery, then moving into Whole Foods Market, Wheatsville, and most recently Central Market. Eventually, to keep up with wholesale accounts, Mike had to let go of the farmers’ markets and focus on cut flower production.

Mike is happy they’re making an impact on the local cut flower market. “80% of cut flowers in the country are imported”, he says. “And of the 20% grown in the US, 80% of those are from California. So flowers are being trucked in, losing their fragrance and life space in the vase. We have a much smaller carbon footprint and lead time advantage.” Most customers receive Prickly Pair flowers within 12-36 hours from the time of harvest, which is much better than the industry standard.

The biggest surprise to Prickly Pair customers are the varieties included in their bouquets. Because Texas’s growing conditions are very different from California, Prickly Pair chooses locally adapted varieties that include flowering herbs like dill and cilantro. But Mike’s favorite flower to grow is the Rose Lily. “In the early days,” Mike says, “people were surprised we could grow flowers here at all. It’s a tough environment so you just have to find what works.”

“Don’t fight Mother Nature,” he says. You’ll just end up with some expensive lessons.”

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