Food and flower markets now a bloomin’ classroom


Jess Eckford-Aguilera knows how to get things done.

As the founder of Newcastle Food and Flower Markets, the mother-of-three has barely stopped to smell the roses since her vision bloomed to life in 2017.

Originally established as a flower market, Jess’ floral hub soon grew in popularity, offering local growers an alternative to Sydney trading.

By 2019 the creative Novocastrian had transformed a tired building in Sandgate into an attractive destination space including a wedding space, café, fresh produce store and flower market.

Located just off Sandgate Road, the space is set to once again expand its operation, with Jess launching Newcastle’s first flower school in April.

The School of Floral Design at Newcastle Flower School, Jess says, will aim to be “the best in Australia, teaching modern techniques to aspiring floral creatives”.

“Our aim is to create a school that is renowned for its modern trends and style, and training, that our students can take out into the floral world,” Jess said.

“I’m all about empowering and inspiring through style and design and I can’t wait to pass on what I know.

“I’ve got some influential floral designers coming in doing intimate styling sessions, we’ll do styling trips, we’ll visit a flower farm and meet the growers, and learn the growing process, and dabble in wedding floral design.”

The intense hands-on course will be held one day a week for three months.

Topics will include business management, branding, marketing and social media trends, with Jess taking the majority of classes.

 “I love teaching,” she said.

“I love sharing knowledge, but I think modern techniques are needed, so that will be my focus.

“People don’t think they’re creative. They say I could never do that. Then at the end of a class they’ve created masterpieces.

 “The course is not just for people wanting to open a florist, it’s for anyone who wants to feel confident in design and styling.”

Despite there being a month before classes begin, enrolments in the School of Floral Design have already surpassed Jess’ expectations.

“We’ve been so surprised by how fast it’s been growing,” she said.

“I think we can thank COVID for that.

“People have been wanting to get in touch with their creative side, they’ve been at home more, and discovering new things they might otherwise not have done.”

Keen to share her skills with students, Jess said the formation of the school ticked a box on her bucket list, a list she began when she returned home to Newcastle after a successful career in events management in Sydney.

“I’m very much about inspiring women, supporting women, and empowering women, now more than ever,” she said.

“I’ve always been about that, but I think that now, especially, women should be supporting each other, not tearing each other down and getting behind each other.

“The sisterhood is important.”

Jess is also passionate about supporting local business.

“We’re all in this together, we’ve got to have each other’s backs in business.

“Showcasing some of our talented local producers is just one of the things I love about my job.”

Newcastle Flower School’s inaugural course will commence on Wednesday 14th April.

Go to the Newcastle Food and Flower Markets website for more information.