Flower farms: “Buy local” for flowers too
Shopper at the Markristo Farm/Bridlewood Blooms stall at Great Barrington Farmers Market. Photo courtesy of Berkshire Grown
“Flowers always make people better, happier and more useful; they are the sun, food and medicine for the soul. —Luther Burbank, botanist and plant breeder
Despite a few last breaths of colder weather, it finally feels like spring has arrived in the Berkshires. Trees are budding, grass is growing, and local farmers’ markets are opening for the season. And, of course, flowers bloom – in garden beds, in nature and in the fields and greenhouses of our local farmers.
When we say “buy local”, a lot of people probably think of food first. You may be looking forward to seasonal delights such as fresh greens, strawberries or snow peas. But what about the flowers on your dining room table, at your next event, or in the bouquet you buy to brighten a friend’s day? Flowers are a key part of the local agricultural economy and our ecosystem. Floriculturist Georgia Barberi of First-Flower Farm in Great Barrington noted that “the local flower movement is really lagging behind the local food movement”, even though floriculture can help preserve farmland, protect biodiversity and to provide meaningful work in the same way. subsistence farming can.
And all of that beloved local food, whether grown on farms or in gardens, depends on pollinators, and those pollinators, in turn, depend on flowers. So flowers are not just a colorful addition to local consumption – they are a key part of the food and agricultural system. Local flower farms also support the local economy – for many farmers, high-value flowers are a key part of their farm’s viability.
Do you need even more motivation to choose local flowers? “Imported non-organic flowers…have as much negative impact on the environment as conventional imported food,” said farmer Megan Bantle of Full Well Farm in Adams, Massachusetts. “If it’s bad for your health, then it’s also bad for the health of the soil and the ecosystem, even if you don’t eat the product. And just as you won’t find your favorite tomato variety in many supermarkets, you won’t find the most interesting flowers there either.
Asking a grower what his favorite strains are is like asking someone to pick a favorite child. Barberi, who runs First-Flower Farm, says she really likes “everything coming in the next season.” Right now, that includes brightly colored tulips and the white, ruffled petals of ‘Festiva Maxima’ peonies. Christa Stosiek of Markristo Farm/BridleWood Blooms in Hillsdale, New York shares the same sentiment: “My ‘favorite flower’ is almost impossible to name, because it changes with the season.” She loves ‘Victoria’s Secret’ tulips and later in the season looks forward to ‘Sahara’ rudbeckia and ‘Creme Brulee’ phlox. Full Well’s Megan Bantle loves ‘Purple Jean’ ranunculus, calling them “flower crescents” with their many layers of petals.
Where to find local flowers for your table or your next event? Farms, local co-ops, and farmers’ markets are all great places to pick up the freshest seasonal flowers. If you know you’ll want fresh bouquets every week, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) flower share is a great investment. Check out Berkshire Grown’s online food and farm locator for a comprehensive guide to your local options, or pick up its new 2021 guide to local foods and farms at your local grocery store or farm. If you’re looking for help with an event, many horticulturists are also experts in flower design. Local Berkshire Farmer Flowers offer variety, seasonality and another great way to support farmers while bringing beauty to your table.