Meet Michael Farmer from Farley & Son, Inc.
Michael Farmer is a registered Maine Landscape Architect and has a BS degree from the University of Illinois in Landscape Architecture. He has over 40 years of experience in site planning, site engineering and landscape design.
Michael's first employment was in 1972 with the Shaver Partnership, an architectural firm located in Michigan City, Indiana. During this period, Michael worked on educational, recreational and commercial projects throughout the United States. In 1975 Michael moved to Maine and started his own landscape architecture business. For 21 years Michael operated this venture in Rockport and provided services for numerous commercial and residential clientele throughout the state.
In 2011, he decided to scale back his work load and semi-retire. At that point, Farley & Son took advantage of Michael's free time and expertise and brought him aboard to join Farley & Son's diverse design team. He brings with him his attention to detail, perseverance to deliver a high quality product and his ability to communicate and work with clients from the point of creating ideas on paper to the final stages of installation. Michael has great artistic abilities and can sketch concept ideas for simple designs that only include a handful of plants, to a more comprehensive plan for a multifaceted landscape project. Michael also works with clients that are looking for master plans for land use. This is beneficial for property owners who have a vision of their future goals, but lack the perception of "best fit" for tying it all together. His master plans render an organized approach regarding all levels of site development, including grading, drainage, site circulation, landscape restoration, down to the detailed cost estimates of each phase of implementation.
What made you decide to work for Farley & Son and not completely enter into your golden years of retirement?
Well the honest answer is I want to continue putting money towards that golden fund! I also longed for the challenge to work with people again. I have been self-reliant for so many years, I think there is enjoyment and something to be learned from working with people that you don't get from working by yourself, like certain business skills, organizational skills and people skills. It's also a breath of fresh air to work for an organization and not have to worry so much about the business details. I have also dealt with the Farley group on various projects over the years as an architect, so I knew the family, knew the firm, knew their work and what they are all about, and I thought it would be rewarding to be a part of it.
What initially determined your passion for landscape design and architecture?
In 1967 I studied forestry at the University of Southern Illinois. When I had to declare my major I really didn't like the thought of killing or harvesting so many trees! Through a guidance counselor, they asked if I ever considered landscape architecture and to which I replied I had never even heard of the profession! So they recommended I head back to my hometown and attend their landscape architecture program at the University of Illinois and that's where it all began.
What is the most frustrating aspect of your job as a designer? And the most rewarding one?
The most frustrating aspect is probably budget constraints. This applies to almost all clientele as you always wish you could do a little more for a client. There are also lots of clients that could use my service, but they don't come to me because they don't think they can afford the service. This is really too bad, because they could get rewarding information in a short period of time which could really help their short term or long range goals.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the job is going to a project site in the pouring rain and seeing the drainage work properly! Another is to go to a project after 5 years has passed and see aspects of the design working as anticipated and all plants flourishing.
Over your many years of experience you have met many challenges, what kind of landscape situations do you still find are the most challenging to face?
Slope stabilization projects! The challenge is a very narrow window of opportunity to get in, stabilize the area and get out. You are dependent on the weather, tides (if an ocean property), the right plant material, the right soil, enough moisture, and correct mulching.
I also still find commercial projects a challenge because you don't often have a lot of space to work within. In most cases you have narrow slots within hot asphalt that you have to contend with. You always seem to be up against extreme limitations, from the budget to the site conditions.
You have what some would consider a lost art in today's world of computer aided design, and that is the ability to hand draw all your sketches and plans and artistically color them with water paints. How have you mastered this talent over the years?
It started at an early age, as I liked to sketch at about 8 years old. Then in landscape architecture they start you in a lot of art classes and classes to develop special techniques. Likewise, I have a passion for working with water colors. Believe it or not, it's an easy medium to work with. It is hard to make mistakes. You can start with green and end up with blue, start with yellow and end up with green, you can work with it, fade it in, and fade it out, etc. It is rewarding to provide quick three dimensional sketches which help people visualize the design process.
What do you think makes you successful at your job?
I think the only thing that makes all of us successful at life is communicating with people; the rest of it is easy. I think I have learned good communications skills with people over the years, as I can talk to just about anybody. I have also learned the meaning of diplomacy. There are times when I have to eat my words, I may not like it, but I do it! I feel that I'm also a seasoned vet in the aspects of site planning. I have always had a passion for earthwork and the trades from the very beginning, which has always allowed me to have respect for the tradesmen in the field. I have performed a lot of the field work myself so I respect what they are up against and you can't have a design implemented without having a good relationship with the men and women who are "hands on".
Many people know you for your out-going personality, charm and design talents. What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I'm a sensitive soul even though I might portray the tough "country boy" image!
Why do you feel it's important for a potential client to hire an experienced and multifaceted company such as Farley & Son?
This company has several employees who have worked together for 15 to 20 years therefore creating a dynamic force. When you have that many seasoned veterans, a company runs like a well-oiled machine. Furthermore, when you can go to a "one-stop-shop", it is less confusing and more cost efficient when all aspects of the job can be coordinated and implemented within one company.
What is an important landscaping tip that you feel is often overlooked by customers?
Good soil and positive drainage are everything. If you get the drainage right and have organic soil your plants will thrive.
"What can Michael Farmer and Farley & Son, Inc. do for you?"