Flowers for Brooklyn (Farmed in Hudson Valley), with Tiny Hearts Farm and Taproot Flowers (Episode 189)
April 15th, 2015
I’ve often talked about the exciting changes we’re experiencing with the Slow Flowers Movement as a “cultural shift,” not a Trend.
I credit sustainability expert and founder of Ci: conscientious innovation, Kierstin DeWest, the very first guest of this podcast in July 2013, for teaching me this concept. Trends are often momentary; cultural shifts are significant, meaningful and long-lasting changes in the marketplace.
There is a cultural shift taking place that is redefining the relationships consumers, florists and flower farmers have with one another. This is happening at all levels of the flower pipeline, from U.S. Flower Farms large and small seeking Certified American Grown status to brand and label their flowers – in order to satisfy the demands, especially at the mass market – for transparency in flower origin, to the grassroots efforts, region by region, to connect the people who grow flowers with the people who design and sell them.
In the past year, I’ve interviewed or heard from groups in Oregon, Sacramento, California’s North Bay Wine Country, western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and in New York’s Hudson Valley – all of whom realize that together we are stronger and have the potential for more economic success than going it alone. The collective energies of many are driving momentum for all.
Today’s guests are a case study to illustrate this problem-solving model.
What is the problem? One of the top barriers is transportation. It’s hard for florists in urban/metro markets to get to the usually rural area where flowers are grown. And imagine how much variety florists need – even if a designer had the time to drive to the country to pick up her flowers, would she have time to drive to 5 different farms? That’s unrealistic.
Similarly, the flower farmer needs to do what he or she does best: Grow Great Flowers.
So driving and delivering is a necessary distraction that takes them out of the fields and greenhouse. Obviously, the challenges of transporting flowers is being overcome – people have to find a solutions and there are probably as many solutions as there are flower farmers and florists.
As the year unfolds, I’ll be collecting the stories of people who are tackling this issue. I invite you to join me as we explore the creative steps folks are taking to sell and source American Grown Flowers.
Please meet Jenny Elliott and Luke Franco of Tiny Hearts Farm based in Copake, New York.
I first learned about Jenny and Luke from famed garden writer and podcaster Margaret Roach (who was gardening editor and eventually editorial director for MSL back in its true heyday).
Margaret invited me to be a guest on her popular gardening podcast, A Way to Garden,” last December to talk about the Slow Flowers Challenge.
She immediately and proudly shared that her own small Hudson Valley community a few hours north of NYC was home to a new specialty cut flower farm, Tiny Hearts. It was so nice to have the “a ha” connection already made for Margaret, thanks to Jenny and Luke’s involvement in the local agriculture community of Copake.
I was delighted that Tiny Hearts joined and listed their farm with Slowflowers.com, but we had yet to meet.
A month or so ago, I received an email from Rachel Gordon, a Brooklyn-based floral designer, who wanted me to know that she was beginning to work out a way for Tiny Hearts to get their flowers into NYC-Brooklyn with a regular delivery route.
The hoops a flower farmer has to jump through to get his or her beautiful bunches and stems into any urban market are many; I have seen it first hand with the Oregon and Washington growers who are members of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Cooperative, where I’m on the board. It isn’t easy, folks.
But needless to say, the twin boroughs of New York City and Brooklyn are particularly tricky.
It takes the collective will and desire to pull it off and you will hear the ways Jenny and Luke, along with their client and instigator Rachel are approaching 2015’s big wedding season with the intention of getting more local flowers to the marketplace there.
As Rachel wrote in her email to other designers and florists in the city: “I know that for many florists, collaborating with their “competitors” can be awkward…but I really, really think that we should all try to work together to make locally grown flowers more accessible in New York City. If we were a united front — oh, think of the collective buying power we’d have! It could have a tremendous impact, both for us and the flower farmers in our region.”
After our recording, I received a follow up note from Rachel wanting to tell me that she’s also going to be able to source Connecticut-grown flowers this coming season.
Evelyn Lee will be delivering flowers straight from her Butternut Gardens Flower Farm in Southport, Connecticut, from mid-Spring through Fall. As Evelyn wrote in an email:
My farm is not large by any stretch, but in past years I have supplied several farmers’ markets, my own CSA, and have created wedding flowers using what I grow, and other blooms as needed. This year, I will forego the farmers’ markets and commence a wholesale delivery service in addition to continuing my CSA and my own wedding work.
Since I already have the great fortune of knowing several Brooklyn designers, and I LOVE what is going on in your little stretch of Paradise, I decided it was, “Brooklyn, here I come.”
This first year will be somewhat of an experiment for all of us, but I have great reason to believe it will be the start of bigger and better things! As I shift away from the farmers’ markets and into this new endeavor, I am making some shifts in what I grow. For example, I will replace some of the brighter colors (tons of red dahlias, for example) with more muted tones appropriate for a greater number of events, and I will likely reduce the number of varieties I grow so that I have larger quantities of offered product. Having said this, it is important to me to continue to grow certain flowers or foliage, which might not be so readily available elsewhere.
In Connecticut, we actually have a number of growers, most small in size, and some more specialized than others. This year I will be compare notes with these other growers along the way in hopes of identifying ways to create economies, combined flower deliveries and best ways to pool efforts and product so that we might work together productively as we move ahead.
HOW COOL IS THAT? Congratulations to both Tiny Hearts and Butternut Gardens for taking the leap to pursue NYC, the vast market for flowers. I’m eager to hear how this season unfolds and I’ll make sure to follow up for a report later this year.
PS, thank you Luke Franco, for sharing your original piece, “Scabiosa,” with the listeners and readers of The Slow Flowers Podcast. What a sultry piece for a sultry flower!
One more quick announcement: If you are in the PNW, please consider making a day trip on Saturday, April 18th to Triple Wren Farms in Ferndale, Washington (Whatcom County), owned by Sarah and Steve Pabody, past podcast guests. They’re hosting an Apple Blossom Celebration and Open Farm, 1 p.m,-7 p.m., a new venture that showcases Sm’Apples, the apple orchard they manage, and the beautiful flowers they grown at Triple Wren Farm.
Steven and Sarah have arranged to have a professional photography on hand to take family portraits in surrounded by the blossoming apple trees, and they will also have fresh flowers and raw honey for sale. Their invitation sounds so enticing: “Have you ever stood and breathed in the luxury of six acres of apple blossoms? Have you ever visited a working American specialty cut flower farm?
As sarah said when she invited me to attend: We’re trying to increase local awareness of American grown flowers and we hope to encourage others to do the same in their corner of the country..
Thanks for joining me this week and please return again, as I continue to share insightful and educational episodes recorded exclusively for the Slow Flowers Podcast.
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The slow flowers podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at shellandtree.com.