PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — On the grounds of an old knife factory, What Cheer Flower Farm is hoping to grow not just flowers, but also a community and a love for nature.

“There’s a lack of connection to the natural world here,” said Erin Achenbach, the director of programming and land management at What Cheer.

Achenbach shared more about the farm’s roots and how it has expanded in recent years.

Light pink dahlia flowers at What Cheer Flower Farm.
(Leah Crowley/WPRI-TV)

“While the original goal of the nonprofit is to give flowers and spread joy, and we are fully committed to continuing that effort, we’re really looking at this as the opportunity to facilitate something so much larger” she explained.

Achenbach said the farm on Magnolia Street provides a space the community needs.

“The thing that we’re aiming to do is affect positive change in the environment,” she said. “In this heat desert effect that you have in an urban environment, the lack of access to green spaces that this neighborhood has suffered. We want to put those things back.”

One of Achenbach’s goals is to say “yes” to anyone who reaches out with a request or an idea. She wants What Cheer to provide space to anyone who needs it.

On a tour of the farm, Achenbach pointed out a mulched area facing the highway. She explained that a woman came to her and asked if she could host her yellow tulip project on the farm to raise mental health awareness.

The highway is visible behind flowers at What Cheer Flower Farm.
(Leah Crowley/WPRI-TV)

“Next spring, you should see thousands of yellow tulips,” Achenbach said. “We really thought it was a good way to help her facilitate and be seen by as many people as possible.”

The farm’s efforts in the community haven’t gone unnoticed. They were recently recognized by Reader’s Digest as one of The Nicest Places in America for 2023.

“It was a little bit of shock, but also that sense of excitement that the thing that we believe so strongly in was also seen as valuable to that publication as well,” Achenbach said of the win.

The farm has big plans for the future too. In July, it was awarded a $500,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The grant is part of the agency’s brownfields program to fix contaminated sites nationwide.

  • The highway runs alongside What Cheer Flower Farm.
  • Flowers in the foreground are out of focus. In the background, construction equipment tears into an old factory building.
  • A What Cheer Flower Farm van sits on the property with construction equipment in the background.
  • A construction worker walks by the old knife factory covered in paintings of flowers.
  • A large $500,000 check from the EPA to What Cheer Flower Farm sits in front of a wall of greenery.

While parts of the property may look barren now, What Cheer plans to transform the landscape.

When asked what the farm may look like in five years, Achenbach said, “I see an absolute sea of abundant life and growth in flowers and the community here on the site.”

What Cheer Flower Farm plans to turn this empty brownfield site into a vast greenspace. (Leah Crowley/WPRI-TV)

In the meantime, the farm plans to continue spreading cheer to anyone who needs it.

“It is undeniable the effect that these flowers have when you hand them to someone,” Achenbach said. “You can’t help but be positively affected when you’re in the presence of something as beautiful as a flower … A moment of lightness and joy in a potentially difficult time.”