Meet the Mother-Daughter Duo Behind Your Favorite Spring Bouquet

How Dru Rivers and Hannah Muller of Full Belly Farm grow local and seasonal flowers.

Dru Rivers and Hannah Muller of Full Belly Farm, facing the camera, Dru's arm draped across Hannah amongst a lush canopy of flowers

Dru Rivers and Hannah Muller of Full Belly Farm | Molly DeCoudreaux

By Becky Duffett

No trip to Bi-Rite is complete without pausing to take a deep breath in front of the floral display. The buckets overflowing with flowers are the most photographed part of the Markets, waving guests in from the curb. In the past few pandemic years, many people have carried more fresh flowers into their homes, and that trend has certainly proved true at Bi-Rite. The flower frenzy reaches peak season in spring, when favorite varieties come into bloom.  

But where exactly do your beloved ranunculus come from? What makes the Bi-Rite curation special is the focus on local and seasonal flowers, compared to other grocery stores and flower shops stocked with imports. So let’s take a trip out to Full Belly Farm in the Capay Valley, a couple hours north of San Francisco, where row after row of snapdragons grow. Full Belly may be known best for their asparagus and tomatoes, which star on restaurant menus across the Bay. But flowers have always been an important part of this family story, and they come from a dedicated mother-daughter duo.  

Laughing Dru Rivers And Hannah Muller Of Full Belly Farm, Facing The Camera, Dru's Arm Draped Across Hannah Amongst A Lush Canopy Of Flowers

Dru Rivers and Hannah Muller of Full Belly Farm | Molly DeCoudreaux

Mother Dru Rivers, 67 years old, is the farmer. Together with her husband and another couple, she founded Full Belly, one of the first farms to get certified organic in the state in 1985. “She’s the matriarch of the farm,” says her daughter Hannah Muller. “She’s definitely this very awe-inspiring person. She’s also my best friend.” In addition to running a farm and raising four kids, Rivers has grown flowers for 40 years, starting with a garden in her backyard. After bedtime, she used to stay up tying bunches of sweet peas on the kitchen floor, so that they’d be ready for the farmers’ market in the morning.  

Daughter Muller, 32 years old, is the florist. The youngest sibling, she grew up “free range” on the farm, where the fields were her playground, and she learned to count change at the farmers market. Muller went away for college, before coming back to the farm. She launched Full Belly Floral in 2014, starting with weddings. The pandemic pushed her to sell more fresh stems and bouquets, and round out the year with dried wreaths in the winter, sold through markets and CSA boxes (Community Supported Agriculture).  

 

Rows Of Spring Flowers At Full Belly Farm

Rows of spring flowers at Full Belly Farm | Molly DeCoudreaux

Today the mother and daughter grow and arrange flowers as part of a team of eight women. Colorful rows now spill across 15 acres, where they rotate crops, and welcome buzzing pollinators. Thanks to our long season in Northern California, they grow nearly year round, starting the first tulips in early February, and finishing with the frost in November. The “Flower Ladies” wake before dawn to pick, pack, and load the truck for Bi-Rite, so your dewy flowers arrive at the Markets the same day they’re harvested. 

They grow more than 100 different varieties. “My mom and I joke that the flowers we grow have to be pretty durable, because we don’t use any greenhouses. We’re not babying our flowers too much …. We grow California hardy flowers.” Those include spring favorites like ruffled ranunculus, fluffy snapdragons, and purple irises, warming into summer sunflowers, marigolds, and zinnias. Muller recommends undersung anemones, which “don’t look like much” when closed, but unfurl to reveal black eyes and delicate petals. Her personal favorite is cockscomb, featuring a wild crest that’s velvety and coral.  

For Mother’s Day, the women gather a few of those spring hits into a special bouquet for Bi-Rite. It evolves slightly every year, but will include an aromatic green like bells of Ireland, as well as spiky little bachelor buttons, or “other fun whimsical bits. It’s a mix of what’s blooming the most beautifully on our farm that season.”  

 

 

Muller shot from behind Harvesting A Spring Bouquet from a lush field of flowers

Muller harvesting a spring bouquet | Molly DeCoudreaux

Fresh flowers shine in the spring, but it’s worth noting that Muller has also mastered the art of dried flowers, and she’s coming out with a book. Designing with Dried Flowers takes fans inside the Wreath Room, a former mechanic’s shop now filled with flowers hanging from the rafters. “It’s my favorite place on the farm,” Muller says. “It’s very dark. There are a couple of big windows that let in natural light. It’s filled with an amazing aroma.” The book shares how to preserve flowers for seasons to come, offering even more affordable and lasting options.   

Muller says it’s sweet working with her mom, poring over seed catalogs, and talking flowers all night. “I don’t think we ever really fight,” she says. “Sometimes she thinks I’m a bit bossy.” After working with brides, Muller can be quite particular, and occasionally Rivers objects. “She’s like, ‘I’ve been doing this for longer than you have!’”  

But ultimately, when guests step up to the floral display at Bi-Rite, Muller hopes you can imagine the generations of women on the farm. “Supporting local flowers, you’re not only supporting those farms, you’re supporting that community … ” she says. “It’s all of the people and hands that have harvested and worked to bring the flowers to Bi-Rite.”  

Farm Dog Zeus And Muller Hanging Flowers In The Wreath Room

Farm dog Zeus and Muller hanging flowers in the Wreath Room | Molly DeCoudreaux

Becky Duffett is a food writer living and eating in San Francisco. Follow her on Instagram at @beckyduffett.

Photos reprinted with permission from Designing with Dried Flowers. Photographs copyright ⓒ 2024 by Molly DeCoudreaux. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.