In late January, we hosted a very special luncheon at the Honeysuckle Hollow flower shop. I invited a group of flower farmers and florists from the tri-state region (Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota) to sit down together in hopes of promoting the growth of local flowers in our area. Growing flowers has been largely outsourced to other countries in the past twenty years. The recent trend, however, which is gathering huge momentum in the last few years has been to bring flower farming back to the USA. The local flowers movement mimics that of the local foods movement, which took place earlier. Such phrases as “slow flowers” remind us of the “slow foods” movement and the “field to vase” concept is much like the “farm to table” concept that many people are already familiar with. Essentially it means that more consumers are interested in where their flowers come from. It means that some of us florists are seeking out flowers grown in the USA or even closer to home when the growing season permits. It is a very exciting time to be involved in the floral industry as far as I am concerned. We are seeing a huge regrowth of flower farmers all over this country, and they are passionate and determined to bring flowers back to our towns.
Just like with our food, having choices about where we buy flowers is important. Knowing where our flowers come from is too. It doesn’t mean you have to buy local always, but it does mean that we are conscious consumers. For example, I do not always buy exclusively from local growers, and I do buy from worldwide sources (especially in the winter) because there is beautiful product out there, and I love to see the variety around the globe. Admittedly, I am foremost a flower lover, so I am always an admirer of beautiful blooms wherever they may turn up. That being said, I do declare myself to be a florist who cares about helping and promoting the local flower movement in our country. I am listed on www.slowflowers.com as a florist with a commitment to local flowers.
I have been following the movement in other states and have seen that people are gathering together to promote local flowers in their areas. I decided that we needed to do something like this in our neck of the woods, and so began the process of organizing a meet-up where the flower farmers and florists could gather.
I asked around to find out who would be interested, and word spread. I prepared a simple, yummy lunch for our group and set a table with my grandmother’s white linens that she gifted me. Summer baked a delicious and beautiful “naked” carrot cake, and we ordered up some lovely narcissus (mini daffodils) from a family farm in California (www.californiaorganicflowers.com) in the spirit of promoting USA grown flowers and having a little spring beauty at our table. Napkins were wrapped with jute and ferns and a tea kettle was boiling when everyone arrived.
We spent a good deal of the meeting introducing ourselves, telling our stories about what we do and how we began. We all submitted questions of interest and did our best to answer them for each other. Ideas on flower farming, the local flower movement, specific varieties, pricing, marketing and floral arranging trends were discussed freely. I asked each person to bring a packet or two of seeds to share as a metaphor for the “seeds of change” in our area. It turned out to be a wonderful seed exchange with some of our members providing personally gathered seeds from their gardens, others offering seeds from amazing seed resources around the country, such as the newly offered seeds from Floret (www.FloretFlower.com). We all went home with something we are excited about planting, and we’ll have some of each other in our gardens this year.
We talked for hours (yes, seriously, for at least 5 hours) and could probably have continued were we not limited by our own busy lives. We were a small, mighty group of 11. It was our first annual meeting, and I know of a good many more people who have since asked to be included next year! If you are a florist, flower farmer, wholesaler or otherwise in the floral trade, and you would like to be included, please be sure to get in contact with me so that you can be added to our list!
Thank you to those pioneers who did come to the luncheon this year:
Jamie Rohda from Harvest Home Flowers in Waverly, Nebraska.
Adam and Jennifer O’neal from Pepperharrow Farm in Winterset, Iowa.
Laurie Hodges of Lincoln, Nebraska (will be moving to Valentine, Nebraska soon).
Katie Vontz of Ayr, Nebraska (currently moving to Columbus, Ohio to work with Sunny Meadows).
Laurie Lukken from Grandma’s Garden in Salix, Iowa.
Alissa VanZweden from Alissa’s Flowers and Seedtime & Harvest in Hull, Iowa.
Sheila Fitzgerald from Blooms in Omaha, Nebraska.
Todd Flynn from Schoolmarm Farms in Ainsworth, Nebraska.
I still can’t believe how far you all drove to be here at our shop!!!! Yay for us that we attracted national attention for our meeting with well-wishes and materials being sent from Debra Prinzing, the “mother of the Slow Flowers movement” and many comments over social media from flower farmers and florists around the country. We even appear to have inspired other similar meet-ups in other states wanting to promote local flowers. It is great to be part of something big and exciting. For me, it has been a most amazing and rewarding journey entering into the floral world again after almost 20 years and seeing the incredible change in the marketplace. The type of natural beauty being created through this flower renaissance is what I always believed possible. It is my sincerest pleasure to be able to contribute to such a movement.
It will be fun to see what occurs in the year to come but for now, I had the chance to make new flower friends and spend an afternoon discussing one of my greatest loves….FLOWERS. I left with new flower friends, seeds for my cutting garden, and new contacts for places to buy some really outstanding local flowers this summer for my customers. Thank you to each of you who came. It was an amazing, inspiring day filled with so much information my notebook is bursting at the seams.
And so today, I sign off with a toast to seasonal, local flowers and those who grow and sell them!