Debra Prinzing

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Episode 464: Petals & Politics — Natasha Harper-Madison’s story, from wedding and event designer to Austin City Council Member

July 29th, 2020

Natasha Harper-Madison, from floral entrepreneur to elected council member in Austin, Texas (all photos courtesy Natasha Harper-Madison)

Today’s guest is Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, representing the city of Austin’s District 1. She may not seem like a typical Slow Flowers Podcast guest, but I know you’ll find our conversation inspiring, uplifting and a call to action. Natasha is a former floral entrepreneur and very early Slow Flowers member; I’ve been watching her path to public service on social media over the past few years and I just decided to reach out and ask her to share her amazing story.

Natasha now represents Austin’s District 1, the community where she grew up

As you will hear in the conversation that we recently recorded over Zoom, Natasha and I originally met when she joined Slow Flowers through her Austin-based wedding and event business Eco-Chic Flowers and Events, later rebranded as The Floral Engagement. Natasha was a sustainability pioneer and early adopter in the commitment to sourcing locally-grown flowers and to avoiding the use of any floral foam in her designs. You’ll hear us talk about her friendship with Mickey Blake, inventor of Floral Soil, a company here in Washington that had once developed a plant-based foam alternative to single-use plastic options on the marketplace. Mickey was a past guest of the Slow Flowers Podcast back in 2014, when we were huge supporters of her effort. Sadly that project is no longer operating, but I just wanted to mention it because it’s another thread that previously connected Natasha and me with a shared mission for sustainability.

The Harper-Madison family, including Natasha, her husband Tom Madison, and their “bigs” and “littles”

Inviting an elected official to be a guest on the Slow Flowers Podcast isn’t typical, but I am so grateful to learn from a “friend of Slow Flowers,” a former florist, who is now on the front lines of governing and addressing social and racial justice issues in a major U.S. city.

Here’s a bit more about Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison. She represents Austin’s District 1, the part of town where she was born and raised. Her upbringing endowed her with an intimate knowledge of her community’s strengths and its unique struggles. The lessons she learned as a successful small business owner on the Eastside led her down a path towards advocacy. She served as president of the East 12th Street Merchants Association and also founded East Austin Advocates, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting under-represented residents with the resources they need to succeed.

Her community-level activism sparked Council Member Harper-Madison’s interest in seeking public office, a goal she achieved with her first campaign for City Council in 2018.

She is the chair of the Health and Human Services Committee and sits on the Housing and Planning Committee, Judicial Committee, and Regional Affordability Committee.

As Natasha explains, the decision to run for public office was a family decision

In between championing the interests of her constituents, Council Member Harper-Madison is the proud wife of an Austin firefighter, the mother of four children, and a thriving breast cancer survivor.

Thanks so much for joining my conversation with Natasha Harper-Madison of Austin’s District 1. I was very struck by a few of her statements: “This gig is not for folks who need instant gratification.” and “Sacrifice is not synonymous  with suffering.”

I so admire Natasha for her willingness to, as she says: “sow the seeds of heirloom plants today — plants she may never personally see come to fruit or bloom.” I feel so moved to have had this conversation with a former colleague who’s taken a path of great personal sacrifice to address the inequities in her community — and I believe there is a ripple effect of Natasha’s actions and leadership, not to mention her ambitious vision to improve her community’s lives. That ripple effect may inspire you to take action about something you believe is hurting your community.

This conversation reminds me that we all can do better. Thank you, again, Natasha!

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Thank you to our sponsors

This podcast is brought to you by Slowflowers.com, the free, nationwide online directory to florists, shops, and studios who design with American-grown flowers and to the farms that grow those blooms.  It’s the conscious choice for buying and sending flowers.

And thank you to Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for Slow Flowers Journal, found in the pages of Florists’ Review. Read our stories at slowflowersjournal.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. Learn more at shop.syndicatesales.com.

Longfield Gardens, which 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. Check out the full catalog at Longfield Gardens at longfield-gardens.com.

Rooted Farmers works exclusively with local growers to put the highest-quality specialty cut flowers in floral customers’ hands. When you partner with Rooted Farmers, you are investing in your community, and you can expect a commitment to excellence in return. Learn more at RootedFarmers.com.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 627,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for listening, commenting and sharing – it means so much.

As our movement 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.

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:

Welcome Home Sonny; Gaena
by Blue Dot Sessions
http://www.sessions.blue

Lovely by Tryad 
http://tryad.bandcamp.com/album/instrumentals
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

In The Field; Acoustic Shuffle
Music from:
audionautix.com

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