Vendor Profile: Local Flowers Expert Interview
Flower season is nowhere near being over just yet! This year, we conducted a flower expert interview to provide our customers with some more knowledge of how your purchase supports the local economy and informs them of local flower practices. We’ve got some of the most perfect specimens from Many Graces Flower Farm and Rooted Flower Farm in Hadley. Check out a couple of our local flower vendors and learn why it's important to support local flower growers!
Some of the flowers you typically buy in a grocery store come from halfway around the world and may have affected pollinator colonies and water sources with unethical practices. Local flower growers help reduce the number of resources and waste needed to grow. These growers are part of the Slow Flower movement which is a movement that promotes flowers grown locally and within the United States.
“RFF” is Rooted Flower Farm | Hadley, MA | www.rootedflowers.com
Rebecca Sadlowski is Rooted’s founder, farmer, and curator of designs. A fourth-generation to the Sadlowski family, she runs Rooted on the family farm in Hadley. Rebecca has a passion for growing and loves creating unique, organic designs with the farm's seasonal elements.
“MGFF” is Many Graces Flower Farm | Hadley, MA | www.manygraces.com
Many Graces is an organic flower farm and floral design studio based in Hadley, MA. Owned and operated by Rebecca Maillet—a queer, working class person—and her staff of six, Many Graces is committed to keeping the land healthy through their organic & sustainable farming practices, and to providing their event clients, customers, and CSA members with beautiful, lovingly-growing flowers.
With just over 2.5 acres of flowers & foliage planted in 2019, Many Graces grows a wide variety of specialty cut-flowers for event design, their CSA Bouquet Subscription, and their wholesale and retail clients. The animating principle behind Many Graces is a deep desire to share beauty with others, and to generate that beauty in the most ethical and responsible ways possible.
Left: Root Flowers Farm | Right: Many Graces Flower Farm
What are the benefits of buying local flowers?
RFF: Growing practices, relationships, and economics are three standout benefits. Generally speaking, local flowers are treated with fewer chemicals (if any), which is fabulous, not only for our community but the environment as a whole. On our farm, every dollar you spend is invested back into the business which helps to support other local businesses and members of the community.
MGFF: There are so many benefits to buying local flowers! First, you’re supporting our local economy by purchasing locally-grown flowers. Second, local farms often grow specialty and heirloom crops that you won’t find offered in the global cut-flower market. And third, you get to have a direct relationship with the farmers in our area that are doing the essential work of caring for the land in organic and sustainable ways.
How can customers tell if the flowers they’re buying are local (aside from any signage at the store)?
RFF: I do not think one can expect a customer to identify local without a label. Even labeling can be tricky. Within the last five years, I have seen labels in select stores go from “Grown in Columbia” to “Arranged in the USA.” The global floral community has gotten us out of touch with seasonality.
This is where the benefit of local relationships can be important and insightful. Try following your local farmer on Instagram or Facebook to get a look behind the scenes. Knowing the farmer and having their product in stores is a security blanket for what is truly in season. Technology is pushing the limits for growers, so it’s not crazy to see some items out of their “typical” growing season with advances in-season extension.
Here are two tips! If the leaf looks very waxy and can hold out of water for days, maybe weeks - it is probably not local and, if the water in your vase turns color from dyes.
MGFF: Local flowers always have a natural variation that you won't see from factory-farmed flowers--this is just one of the things that makes them so unique and eye-catching. For example, you'll find varying stem lengths, bloom size, and coloration in local flowers, and fragrant flowers are always more fragrant when you buy them locally. On top of all this, local flowers are always going to look fresher, more vibrant, and more unique than non-locally grown blooms. Why is that? Because we are harvesting the flowers you see at market often just one day prior to delivering them, we have well-honed post-harvest processes that ensure the longest vase life for the flowers as possible, and because locally-grown blooms aren't farmed (at least in our region) on a factory-scale and so the natural variation of each plant and stem is allowed to remain.
Many Graces Flower Farm
How do you know when to harvest/pick your flowers so they look fresh and vibrant at the market?
RFF: Research, trial, and error. One does not want to cut a flower when it is fully open. Most blooms are best cut when petals are 1/3-1/2 open to allow for maximum vase life. Time of day is a factor. We do most of our harvesting in the morning and some in the late evening. If you cut during the hottest point of the day (between 3pm-5pm) when plants are most wilted, they may not rebound back.
MGFF: Knowing when to harvest and how to care for flowers post-harvest is a science. Just like people, each flower variety is unique and wants something slightly different for it to have the best vase life. We harvest 90% of our flowers in the early morning hours (beginning our days at 6 am) and allow them to condition (get rehydrated) in our cooler before we work with them. We are also always considering the weather when we harvest, and we always move our newly harvested stems out of direct sunlight immediately. Taking the field heat off of the flowers as fast as possible is essential for their vitality later on!
How can your flower vendor strengthen the rural economy in Western Massachusetts?
RFF: Carry local flowers regularly with proper labeling. Show pictures of the growers. There are real people behind the relatable products. Communicate to growers what is selling well in stores and what is not - they know their customer base best. The Valley has a great deal to offer and we are excited to be a part of it. Thank you, River Valley Co-op!
MGFF: Understanding Many Graces’ impact within the larger economy here in Western MA is always at the front of my mind as a business owner. We employ young people who have an interest in becoming farmers themselves, we pay our staff competitive wages, and we are committed to working in the community with other local businesses to support and uplift one another. The more we can positively impact our local economy through connection, collaboration, and honoring human labor in meaningful ways, the more our economy here in Western Massachusetts is strengthened, thereby simultaneously helping to secure the future of small businesses and farms like ours.
Rooted Flowers Farm
Flower season extends to the beginning of autumn at the co-op where we’ll have our distinctive mum display from The Flower Hutch in Townsend, MA around September 9th! There you’ll be able to put some of the above practices into play for the upcoming autumn season. Add some local color to your home inside and out by shopping local and support your neighboring farms and greenhouses.