Debra Prinzing

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Episode 408: Botanical Couture in Charleston, S.C., with Toni Reale of Roadside Blooms and Laura Mewbourn of Feast and Floral, plus our State Focus: Missouri

July 3rd, 2019

American Flowers Week 2019 is coming to a close after we enjoy the fireworks and sparklers of July 4th Independence Day celebrations. I hope you and your flowers were part of the festivities!

Laura Mewbourn (left) and Toni Reale (right), photographed when I visited her shop last summer.

My two guests today have played an important part of this year’s American Flowers Week campaign as co-creators of one of our nine Botanical Couture looks. Please meet Laura Mewbourn of Feast & Flora Farm, based in Meggett, S.C., and Toni Reale of Roadside Blooms, based in North Charleston, S.C., who teamed up to design an incredible and deeply meaningful floral fashion look that represents coastal South Carolina’s unique heritage and cultural roots.

The women collaborated with their friend Giovanni Richardson, an oral historian representing the region’s Gullah Geechee community of South Carolinians who descended from West African and Central African enslaved people. Giovanni served as cultural and historic advisor to the project, which incorporated locally-grown flowers into the colorful  wardrobe of a Gullah Geechee woman.

Production day at the Seashore Farmers’ Lodge No. 767; Toni Reale (left) attaches a vibrant palette of Lowcountry S.C.-grown blooms, including those from Feast & Flora Farm (right). (c)
@philipcaseyphoto

Click here to see more photos of this project, featuring flowers grown at Laura’s farm and an historic setting where independent black farmers erected a fraternal common house in 1915, as well as the marshland of coastal Charleston.

I could go on and on about how inspiring I found their dress, styling and setting, but you’ll want to meet Laura and Toni right now. Let me give you a little background on their stories:

Attaching blooms, one at a time (left) and the dream team (right); (c)
@philipcaseyphoto

Laura Mewbourn grew up surrounded by gardens and flowers and had her first garden plot when she was still very young. Just a couple generations ago, farming was a way of life for Laura’s family, but when it was time to decide on her college major, she landed on English Literature and Language. Life had other ideas for Laura, though. In 2015, she completed the Growing New Farmers program through Lowcountry Local First. She apprenticed on a vegetable farm and landed a full-time job at a hydroponic farm.

I had a wonderful visit to Charleston, S.C., last summer to speak at the Southern Flowers Symposium, where Laura Mewbourn and I finally met in person.

She continues in her own voice: “I absolutely loved it and knew I really wanted to start my own farm. In the meantime, I pruned tomatoes, welcomed a new baby into my family, and took coursework in floral design.

In 2017, I was fortunate enough to purchase a home on acreage just outside of Charleston, SC, and before I knew it, my dreams of flower farming and growing vegetables were off and running with the launch of Feast & Flora, supplying friends, family, and the Charleston community.”

Find and follow Laura at these social places:

Feast & Flora on Facebook

Feast & Flora on Instagram

Toni Reale was a featured floral designer at Southern Flower Symposium in 2018. You can see her hand-tied bouquet at left.

Toni Reale founded Roadside Blooms with a story to tell and a mission to share, believing that beauty and sustainability don’t just co-exist, they work in concert. With over 8 years of experience in the event-planning and floral-design industries, Toni’s many adventures have led her to this chapter (ask her about the time she converted a 1971 British ice cream truck into a mobile flower shop; or about her Environmental Geology background).

A leader of Charleston’s “green and local” movement, Toni has served on various nonprofit boards, including the Charleston Green Fair, and has been recognized as one of Charlie magazine’s “50 Most Progressive” in Charleston in 2014.

She says this: “At Roadside Blooms, we are committed to using American-grown flowers and foraged elements. It’s an important part of our team’s story, and we take great pride in it. Our arrangements prove that sustainability and style aren’t mutually exclusive, all while elevating the grandest of galas or the simplest of ceremonies. We speak the language of flowers and believe every petal, leaf, and twig has a story. Each stem organically influences the direction of our designs and reflects the beauty of local, seasonal flora while embodying the beauty of our surrounding natural world.”

Find and follow Toni at these social places:

Roadside Blooms on Instagram

For more about this gorgeous floral project, read Laura’s recent article, “Botanical Couture and the importance of American-grown.”

Toni recently wrote about the experience on her blog, as well: “American Flowers Week 2019.”

Lowcountry Flower Farmers in Charleston, S.C., brought a popular design event to a local farmers’ market to promote American Flowers Week in 2018

Thank you so much for joining my conversation today and for hearing Laura and Toni’s stories. You’ll want to also check out their local organization, Low Country Flower Growers, where farmers and farmer-florists from Myrtle Beach to Savannah, along coastal S.C., have come together to educate themselves, their peers, and their customers – florists and consumers alike. It was a delight to spend time in Charleston with these wonderful talents – people committed to a sustainable floral landscape, last August when they invited me to speak at the first Southern Flower Symposium. And yes, you heard correctly, another symposium is in the works. We’ll post details as soon as they’re announced — and you check out updates on their social places — which I’ll share!

Cassie Hartman, with “Stella,” her mobile flower shop (c) Springfield Business Journal

Our theme for 2019 – Fifty States of Slow Flowers – continues today, with Cassie Hartman of Ozark Mtn. Flower Truck in Springfield, Missouri.

Cassie grew up there and returned there after college. She wanted to bring a small piece of her European travels to the community and that’s where Stella, a 1970 Volkswagen Truck, comes in!

As Cassie says, Stella enjoys parking in front of our favorite local businesses – sometimes getting so excited to meet new customers she breaks down on the side of the road and we just start selling there! Whether you’re grabbing flowers on your way to a friend’s house or just wanting to brighten your home, Stella and Cassie dream of bringing that “big city” feeling to Springfield making fresh cut flowers more accessible and spontaneous for the Ozarks.

Find and follow Cassie at these social places:

Ozark Mtn. Flower Truck on Facebook

Ozark Mtn. Flower Truck on Instagram

P.S., It was so completely cool but utterly unplanned . . . two of today’s guests have used vintage vehicles as mobile flower shops! That’s a fun coincidence.

OUR BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

Before we wrap up, I promised to announce the dates and location of the 2020 Slow Flowers Summit, so here we go . . . drumroll please!

We will bring the Slow Flowers Summit to Santa Cruz, California, on June 29-30, 2020, with a Slow Flowers farm-to-table dinner on Sunday, June 28th.  Our partners include UC Santa Cruz’s famed Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) and Bonny Doon Garden Co., owned by member Teresa Sabankaya.

Yes, after holding the Summit first on the west coast in Seattle in 2017; moving to the east coast in Washington, D.C., in 2018; and landing in the central part of the country in St. Paul, MN, this year, we’ve decided to continue the rotation by returning to the West.

You have a full year to plan, but more details will be announced in the fall. Visit slowflowerssummit.com for updates and I can’t wait to see you in Santa Cruz! Below are photos of the recently renovated and restored Cowell Rancy Hay Barn at USCS-CASFS, our venue for the Slow Flowers Summit 2020! (c) Cesar Rubio; and Teresa Sabankaya (right) of Bonny Doon Garden Co., outside Santa Cruz, Calif.

THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS

Today we welcome a new sponsor to the Slow Flowers Podcast, FarmersWeb. FarmersWeb software makes it simple for flower farms to streamline working with their buyers. By lessening the administrative load and increasing efficiency, FarmersWeb helps your farm save time, reduce errors, and work with more buyers overall. Learn more at www.farmersweb.com

Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for Slow Flowers Journal, found in the pages of Florists’ Review. It’s the leading trade magazine in the floral industry and the only independent periodical for the retail, wholesale and supplier market. Take advantage of the special subscription offer for members of the Slow Flowers Community

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.

Our Slow Flowers Summit hosts, Green Earth Growers, welcomed us to Prior Lake, Minn.

Thank you for taking the time to pop in the ear buds and join the Slow Flowers Podcast. Thank you to our entire community of flower farmers and floral designers who together define the Slow Flowers Movement. As our cause gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of the American cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too. I value your support and invite you to show your thanks and with a donation to support my ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button in the column to the right.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 490,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for listening, commenting and sharing – it means so much.

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 soundbodymovement.com

Music Credits:
Heartland Flyer; Betty Dear; Gaena
by Blue Dot Sessionshttp://www.sessions.bluehttps://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Lovely by Tryad http://tryad.bandcamp.com/album/instrumentals
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

In The Field
Music from: audionautix.com

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