SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: The Urban Flower Farmer, Tara Kolla of Silver Lake Farms (Episode 137)
April 16th, 2014
This week we’re celebrating a huge milestone for this young floral-focused podcast. The first episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast debuted last July. As of this week, more than 10,000 episodes have been downloaded! This is such encouraging news – and I thank YOU for listening and allowing me to share my interviews with influential leaders in flower farming, floral design and other related topics each week.
For the past 10 days, I’ve been teaching, reporting and traveling in California, working my way from south (Los Angeles) to north (Eureka-Arcata) and points between (Carpinteria-Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and SF). Eventually, I’ll get home to Seattle. The excursion has offered me a wonderful chance to sit down for some face-to-face interviews with new guests whose voices you’ll hear on the Slow Flowers Podcast in the coming weeks.
The first person I’d like to introduce you to is Tara Kolla, owner of Silver Lake Farms in Los Angeles. We met at her urban farm (ahem. her backyard!) for a little lunch and then turned on the recorder in order for me to catch up on her 10-year career as a flower farmer specializing in organic blooms in all 12 months.
In 2012, when we published The 50 Mile Bouquet, I was delighted to tell Tara’s story of flower farming, despite many odds, in the heart of Los Angeles.
The narrative began in 2004, when Tara left her career in public relations and marketing to follow her dream to be an organic urban farmer. She planted sweet peas in her half-acre backyard and sold the fragrant flowers by the bunch at her local farmers’ market.
In doing so, she never expected to become the poster child of the city’s urban farming movement. I called the chapter “Flower Patch Politics,” and shared her tale of tenacity and passion as she endured an enforced shut-down from LA’s Department of Building and Safety.
That experience lasted nearly two years and involved Tara’s work to reverse an obscure 1946 “truck gardening” law that limited residential farms to only the cultivation of vegetables for off-site sale – not flowers.
Facing fines, jail time or a costly legal battle to obtain a land-use variance, Tara dug in her heels and decided to lobby for a change to the ordinance.
“I didn’t want to lose, give in or submit,” she says. Tara’s fierce belief in justice helped sustain her during a yearlong fight for what became known as the Food & Flowers Freedom Act, although she acknowledges that it took a toll on her physically, emotionally and financially.
Yet Tara feels grateful for the wave of support from her community, including longtime Silver Lake Farmers’ Market customers and fellow urban farming activists.
The media thrust Tara into the role as spokesperson for everything from sustainable agriculture to the plight of the small family farm.
Ultimately victorious, she’s been back in the business of growing flowers for several channels of distribution for nearly four years. Tara’s story is a huge inspiration and you’ll find its happy ending heavily seasoned with reality. We’ll discuss that in today’s podcast as we cover everything from diversification, branding, marketing and the future plans for Silver Lake Farms and its bountiful, healthy, organic and fresh flowers.
Here’s an overview (from Tara’s web site) of her flower farm and its many offerings. Take note of the links to various locations and social media platforms where you can find Silver Lake Farms’ flowers:
Silver Lake Farms was started in 2004 by Tara Kolla in the back yard of her home.
We now grow more than 100 different kinds of organic flowers and greens on less than an acre in Silver Lake and Glassell Park – so close to Downtown LA!
Typically our season begins with layers and layers of soft pastel petals in deep violets, blues and pinks. From late Jan to Mother’s Day: delicate dreamy ranunculus, anemones, and oh so fragrant sweet peas. Spring covers the field with antique wildflowers, adding an air of romance to our palette, and a delicate, natural touch: larkspur, Queen Anne’s lace, soft grasses, airy branches…
From Summer to Fall, it’s all about passion, texture, drama! Velvety, papery, tassely forms saturated in color: cockscomb, amaranths, strawflowers. But the Summer season’s main protagonist has to be, of course, the dahlia. Who can resist our Cafe Au Laits?….
We grow everything naturally, employing biological, organic and sustainable farming practices, without chemicals or pesticides. This way, our flowers are stronger, more vivid in color, longer lasting and richer in depth of tone and fragrance.
You can purchase our flowers in a number of ways. We’re at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market every Sunday from 8am-1pm. We’re there from February 1 thru October 31st.
Our flowers are also available through our Flower CSA, through FarmboxLA,GoodEggsLA, and on the first Saturday of every month we pop up outside Valerie Echo Park.
Love our blooms? We do floral design for weddings and private parties. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.
“For a truly sustainable event, think about what’s on the table, not just what’s on the plate.”
Because of the support from you and others, listeners have downloaded episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 10,000 times! I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts.
If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.
Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time.
The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about her work at hhcreates.net.