Connecticut Cut Flower Farming
"Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in flowers."
~Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Naval Treaty
First kale enjoyed superstar status, then cauliflower stole the crown, and last year broccoli won top spot in 39 states. Watch out veggies, sustainably grown local flowers are set to become the next farm-to-table star.
Last month I shared flower farming momentum as a continuing U.S. trend in 2019. I saw the trend in action when I attended UCONN Extension’s Second Annual Cut Flower Growers Workshop on January 14th. Approximately 115 people attended, hailing from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, and New York. Most attendees were women, with men comprising around a tenth of the audience. As further evidence of this budding (pun intended) trend, the experience of farmers in the audience numbered five years or less. There were 15 florists and 20 growers. That leaves a majority of attendees who might want to cash in on a 2014 report indicating floriculture was “among the most profitable crops for farms with 10 acres or fewer.”
What were some attendees’ stories?
Situations at my table varied. A mother of four grew flowers in her yard and posted on Facebook when she had mason jar bouquets available. The youngest among us partners with her husband on a relatively new farm raising pork and vegetables. This year she’s
Photo: A spring arrangement from the author’s garden.
Photo credit: Michele MacKinnon
adding flower share options (like Community Supported Agriculture [CSA] shares) to their product mix. Another young woman is the floral innovator at an established vegetable farming operation where the owner realized “there can be value in growing things that aren't food.” Their farm’s “market stand was overflowing with perfectly timed mothers' day bouquets, astonishing tulips, and technicolor ranunculus,” at a time of year when most farm stands are closed. In another twist, a fine gardener exploring an additional income sought wisdom from table conversations and the day’s presenters.
What were the speakers’ topics?
A first year grower painted a realistic picture of her challenges yet encouraged the audience to follow in her footsteps. When a leased-land arrangement fell through she dug up her front yard and planted 300 dahlias. She viewed her first year as a learning experience and didn’t plan on selling her wares until she could offer a consistent quality bloom. However, the resulting rainbow won over passersby and brought in ad hoc sales. Listen to other Connecticut grower stories from Debra Prinzing’s podcast with Connecticut-Grown Flowers with Evelyn Lee of Butternut Gardens and podcast with Connecticut artist-florist, Michael Russo of Trout Lily Farm.
A Maine grower shared tips for overwintering dahlia tubers, a precious investment, and some of the inexpensive technology used to monitor moisture and temperature levels. Another experienced floral designer encouraged farmers to gain strength in numbers by joining a relatively new Connecticut Flower Collective, a cooperative that brings small farms a wholesale opportunity for selling their flowers. Many farmers feel confident about their growing ability, but less so with the sales side of business.
What’s in it for you?
Judging by the numbers and vibe in the room, it’s just a matter of time before gorgeous local flowers are Connecticut’s farm-to-table favorite .