Growing flowers has become a very special part of our farm. Local flowers offer benefits to both our customers and the land we farm on.
We think about flowers an inordinate amount of time, we fill our house with flower arrangements for practice as well as vase life trials, and to show each other (“look at what I made for you….”).
Growing flowers has become a special way for us to give our customers something very unique:
Every week’s harvest throughout the growing season is slightly different than the week before. Some new types of flowers start blooming and some are finished their time to bloom. Knowing what’s in season is common for gardeners, but for most, just like with vegetables, we can easily buy products from anywhere in the world, which removes the sense of seasonality. In Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines, keeping in tune with the seasons helps balance our bodies and minds with the right kind of energy to take on the challenges of each time of year. Just as waiting to eat a tomato or zucchini or cucumber until the season that our local climate offers it makes it so much more delicious and special, so too does having sunflowers or tulips or peonies during their season in our region.
You may have noticed that so many store-bought bouquets have similar flowers throughout the year. Since the majority of flowers are grown far away and need to be shipped, this restricts the availability to types of flowers that are easy to ship. There are so many beautiful flowers that are too delicate to be shipped, don’t do well travelling out of water, or are easily squished when layed in a box and moved around on pallets. It’s so much fun to be able to grow flowers that aren’t found in your typical bouquet.
Flowers that are #GrownNotFlown.
Our flowers are harvested straight from our fields and then to our market. These flowers are not frequent fliers. Their carbon footprint for travel is very low.
Flowers without pesticides.
It’s kind of shocking but I guess it shouldn’t be a huge surprise. The beauty industry isn’t known for being the most natural and toxin-free and flowers are beauty embodied. Cut flowers are a global industry and all the same concerns and criticisms that are given to the global food system apply to flowers as well. Pesticides throughout the growing process are common. All the way from seed treatments to fungicide dips after harvest (yeah, the whole flower and stem may get dipped in fungicide). And, depending on the country of origin, there may also be fumigation when the flowers move from one country to another. All of this has led to many florists needing to wear gloves to prevent the rashes that have become fairly common among those handling these flowers on a regular basis. On our farm, we never use any pesticides, not even ones that are allowed for organic use.
Flowers with minimal packaging.
Even if your grocery store bouquet or florist arrangement doesn’t have a ton of packaging, there was a ton of packaging involved for the transport part. Florists often end up with large amounts of waste used to protect the flowers during the long shipments. Local flowers don’t need all those boxes and plastic wrap! We use kraft paper sleeves around each bouquet, in order to protect the bouquets at market. This paper can be composted easily.
I love that people can bring home a visual of the farm that week in the form of a bouquet. It offers another connection to the farm. Imaging a bouquet of mixed seasonal flowers from the farm on someone’s table, while they enjoy a meal that includes vegetables and herbs from the farm really makes me good.
Flowers for other purposes.
Some of the flowers we grow are edible and we sell those at market. We’ve had a local natural esthetician buy flowers for making skin care products like hyrodsols. In the past, I worked on farms that grew medicinal herbs and many of them are flowers. I’ve made flower essences before. Or flower oils for topical use (like we make arnica oil each year with arnica flowers to help our farming aches and pains). When eating flowers or using them for skin care or medicine, it’s even more important to be able to use pesticide-free flowers.
What have flowers given the farm?
Our farm is both certified Organic and a certified Bee Friendly Farm. This means we take our responsibility very seriously to always provide an abundance of flowering plants on the farm.
Habitat and protected spaces.
Cut flowers have tall stems. And the plants stay in place over a long period of the season. We notice garden snakes, toads, birds flying and resting among the branches, ground beetles, and other beneficial Predatory insects. Many species are getting a yield among the flowers.
This is one of our most important practices on the farm. This helps build out soil. Its what allows us to farm without any pesticides. With crop rotation, it’s important to have different species of plants to rotate around the farm each year. That way when something like flea beetles overwinters in the soil, we can plant something there the next year that isn’t appealing to flea beetles.
In any one bed, we likely have 10 or more different cut flowers. These are different species, which make different above ground parts but also different types of roots.
In some cases, new ways of seeing our vegetable crops.
For example, we now grow broccolini with the mindset of a flower farmer (because broccolini and broccoli and cauliflower are all the budding flowers of a plant) so we cut the stems low on the plant in order to get longer and more broccolini stems. Or Cress. It used to be a tough call whether to grow it throughout the season even though it always sold well and is delicious and so nutritious. Now we can also use the seed pods in bouquets once the plant has bolted to a flower stalk. (As seed growers, we have also been able to harvest seed from cress – making this a plant we can harvest for different reasons and different stages of its life. This gives us a more intimate feeling with the plants rather than if we just harvested it at its adolescent stage for the herb – we get to experience and enjoy and impact its full life cycle.
Yes I’ve mentioned biodiversity but the diversity on our farm offers other benefits. Every season has unique challenges, and the weather is so variable (and getting increasingly variable). We have some crop failures every year and it’s been so important for us to have diversity of crops. Diversity is a risk management practice for us – helping reduce financial stress that comes with a crop failure.
This week, from July 18th to 24th is Canadian Flowers Week.
This is a week to celebrate all of these important reasons to choose local flowers.
In the past, there were many more Canadian flower farmers before it became such a global industry. It is now a fairly rare thing in Canada to be able to buy local flowers.
Happily, there is now a resurgence of people interested in becoming flower farmers and there are more and more people asking for local flowers.