Episode 313: Rachel Lord of Alaska Stems pursues a different floral path
September 6th, 2017
Welcome to the first week of September! Summer isn’t quite over but we’re all well aware of Fall’s pending arrival. As someone who manages to turn every trip into a working vacation, I’m excited to bring you my last interview recorded when I spent several days at the magnificent Scenic Place Peonies in Homer, Alaska, in late July.
Today’s guest, Rachel Lord of Alaska Stems, is one of the many volunteers who came alongside peony farmer (and my lovely host) Beth Van Sandt of Scenic Place Peonies and floral designer Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore.
I first met Rachel in 2014 when I spent several beautiful days in Homer, principally as the keynote speaker for Homer Gardeners’ Weekend. Rachel donated flowers to be used in the design workshop I taught for the Homer Garden Club and she also invited me over for a tour of her flower farm.
It turns out that Rachel is unlike most other flower growers in Homer. She has decided that while she loves growing peonies for her design work, there is an opportunity in the market to grow a diverse mix of everything else that a full-service floral designer needs — annuals, perennials, woody shrubs for foliages, herbs, bulbs and much, much, more.
Rachel shared her talents with Beth and Kelly and others involved in decorating Scenic Place Peonies for the Field to Vase Dinner held on July 29th. If you need any encouragement that you can grown beautiful, organic cut flowers and serve a marketplace that perhaps isn’t as large as you’d like it to be, then listen up. You’ll gain insights and inspiration from Rachel’s story.
Here’s a little more about Alaska Stems, excerpted from the web site.
Alaska Stems is a locally-owned flower farm and design studio located in Homer, Alaska. Rachel and her husband Ben Gibson grow over 40 varieties of cut flowers for sale at local markets and for use in Rachel’s natural and elegant designs for weddings and events. Their flowers can be seen at businesses around town, at the Homer Farmers’ Market, at weddings and special events, and always on our table – and we hope on yours as well!
Rachel and Ben started selling flowers, vegetables, and herbs in 2011, after adding a large high tunnel to their garden. Their love of flowers was solidified that year when delivering the farm’s first bouquets. As they write: “There is no denying that fresh, local flowers light up not only a room, but the people in that room. This is soul food, and it is brilliant to witness and foster in our community! Since then, we have focused exclusively on growing flowers and floral design work.”
Alaska Stems is truly a small farm with less than a half-acre in production, three high tunnels and approximately 6,000 square feet of outside raised beds. The gardens support the Lord-Gibson family, as well as their flowers, and it’s not unusual to find veggies in Rachel’s floral arrangements! The couple believes strongly in local food and flowers, sustainable growing practices that nurture plants and soil for the long term, and connecting with the community to promote and encourage these things.
When Rachel isn’t working at Stems, she can be found filling in at Cook Inletkeeper – a regional non-profit organization that works to protect the Cook Inlet and the life it sustains, valuing clean water and healthy salmon for everyone. Rachel also sits on the Board of Directors for the Homer Farmers Market.
Ben and his family own and operate Small Potatoes – a local sawmill that produces rough cut lumber and beautiful tongue and groove boards. He sawmills, carpenters, advises, and generally is a (fairly reluctant) man-about-town.
Eldest daughter Sadie arrived in August 2013, and her sister Linnea came on the scene in November 2015. Farming with two little ones is an exercise in patience, joy, love and commitment.
Please enjoy this conversation and here’s how to find Alaska Stems at the farm’s social places:
Find Alaska Stems on Facebook
Follow Alaska Stems on Instagram
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Thank you to family of sponsors
And thank you to our lead sponsor for 2017: Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers. To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.
Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com
Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com
Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.
Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.
Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org
I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.
The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.
The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.