Local Flowers: The How and Why

Photo Credit Diane Padys Photography

Celebrating Our Mothers in the Best Way

By Alex Smith

If you’ve spent any amount of time in sustainably-minded groups, you’ve met that one person. They own a bike but no car, bring jars to the co-op for their bulk spices, make their own kombucha, and so on. The reason why this person does all this is because of focused intention. And, for the most part, this person will have just as much (maybe more) eco-guilt compared to the person whose only efforts at sustainability are reusable grocery bags and recycling.

The reason I mention this example is to highlight a principle of sustainability. That is, it’s a constant journey. Every new idea you learn exposes you to several more ways to improve. And occasionally there’s something that’s been staring you in the face for a long time and suddenly you notice it. This was my experience about 4 years ago when I started meeting flower growers.

It’s easy to overlook flowers as an agricultural product. Often we think about them as either a nice addition to a garden or a commodity you find at the grocery store. (Or if you live in Skagit, the reason for a month of traffic a year) But pulling back the curtain a bit, you’ll find an $8.5 Billion global industry. And even in a state with a large agricultural presence, roughly 80% of our flowers are imported, often from South America, via massive auctions in major cities. As Annika McIntosh of Hazel Floral puts it, “You might purchase Fair Trade coffee, grass-fed beef and local veggies, but if the flowers on your table are also grown by someone who makes a living wage, it makes the same powerful connection between the consumer and the people & soils that produced it.”

And right now it’s especially important to work with local farmers. That $8.5 Billion number was from 2019. In 2020 we’re likely to see that global market hit hard as weddings and events are canceled or modified. According to Steve Pabody of Triple Wren Farms, “Buying fresh flowers or gardening gifts from local producers has never been more important than it is this Mother’s Day. Traditionally the largest floral holiday in America, Mother’s Day 2020 will see florists and flower farmers weathering increased challenges for distributing their beautiful offerings.”

Photo Credit Diane Padys Photography
Photo Credit Bryn Marie Photography

While Triple Wren doesn’t sell cut flowers direct to consumers, they do sell dahlia tubers and plants for a perennial Mothers’ Day gift. For farmers like Steve who don’t sell direct to the public, there are still ways to support them and access their beautiful flowers. Local florist Pozie by Natalie offers bouquets and arrangements of locally grown flowers, and flowers are available through farmers markets, farm stands, and through CSA add-ons. Look for these options on the Eat Local First Food & Farm Finder.

Photo Credit Annika McIntosh
Photo Credit Annika McIntosh

                                                                                                                                                                                    Supporting our local farmers is important. After all, keeping money in the community will be key to the economic growth that will some day return us to some semblance of normalcy. But it’s not just about the farmers or the economy. It’s also about showing you care by getting the best quality flowers for your loved ones and for the planet. Take it from Celeste Monke of Free Range Flowers. “Like local veggies from small farms, our flowers are fresh, healthy, seasonal and human-powered. An investment in local flowers is an investment in your local economy, local farm and local ecosystem: we plant for insects, birds, people and climate. I encourage anyone able to bring fresh flowers inside and see what happens.” Celeste offers weekly shares of flowers either at Cosmos Bistro or on her farm south of Lynden. Sarah Robinson of Spring Time Farm elaborates: “Our flowers are not drenched in the poisons that many large commercial operations use to the detriment of their employees and our planet, and also have a longer vase life than ‘flown’ flowers as they have traveled a far shorter distance.”

If you’ve ever smelled a fresh rose or a lilac, or seen the vibrancy of a ranunculus just as it fully opens, you know it doesn’t compare to more conventionally available flowers. And that’s what you get by purchasing local flowers: the most dazzling colors and intoxicating aromas that are the whole reason we buy flowers in the first place. So this Mothers’ Day and beyond, treat your mother and other loved ones by getting flowers from a local farm. Or tell your loved ones to buy them for you!

You can find local flowers and nursery goods, plus lots more on the Eat Local First Food & Farm Finder.