MINNESOTA, USA — On a double lot in the Longfellow neighborhood, Molly Gaeckle started her flower farm seven years ago. Her family and friends supported her that first season by buying floral subscriptions and giving her the confidence to keep going.
Since then, business has boomed. Four years ago, demand became so strong she had to start leasing land in Hudson, Wisconsin and hired a few employees.
When Belinda and Julie stopped by her city farm in April, Molly and her team had just started spring planting. On the small lot in the middle of the city alone, they can grow 15,000 tulips.
Northerly Flora is just one of many flower farms to pop up in the last decade. They are part of a larger trend taking root across the country, that some are calling the "slow flower movement."
Much like the slow food movement that emphasizes eating local, sustainable food, the slow flower movement encourages people to buy flowers grown organically by local farmers, rather than flowers imported from other countries that are grown using chemicals and pesticides.
The difference between the two, Molly says, is like the difference between an imported tomato that is perfectly round but doesn't have much taste and a juicy, locally grown heirloom.
"We are able to grow really delicate, really interesting flowers that have organic curves and have more connection to the place we're in — and there's a huge demand for that,” she said. “I think it's more beautiful and more interesting than these very straight uniform bunches of imported flowers."
Many of us don't realize what we're missing because the U.S. market is flooded with imported flowers. In 1991, Congress eliminated tariffs on cut flowers from several South American countries, putting most American flower farms out of business.
Today, nearly 80 percent of the cut flowers sold here are imported, which means we are mostly buying only those varieties that ship well and have been bred to fit into boxes.
Susan Rockwood and her husband are in their ninth growing season at Arcola Trail Farms in Stillwater. She points out that local flowers are fresher and last longer because local farmers can cut them at the ideal time and get them in their customers' hands the next day.
The mother-daughter duo behind One Wild Flower Farm in Amery, Wisconsin have recently got into flower farming and appreciate the cooperation between local farmers who all have a slightly different business model. Some farmers sell to co-ops or farmers markets, and many have customer subscription services and self-serve flower carts. Others, like Natalee and Erica, focus on weddings and special events.
When Erica and Natalee started designing flowers for weddings, they mostly used imported flowers. But during COVID, they decided to plant their own. Once they started using their own flowers in bouquets, their business tripled.
“There’s just something in that ingredient of using local grown flowers — our own flowers — it just skyrocketed,” Natalee said as her mother nodded. “It’s been amazing.”
As this year’s crop gets ready to bloom, all of the farmers Bel and Julie talked to anticipate another busy year. They're confident that as more people discover the beauty of local flowers, the more demand there will be.
"I would just like to encourage people to pay attention to what they're buying and see if they notice a difference. And if they're committed to the environment and if they're committed to fresh and these organically grown flowers, to see if that concept doesn't resonate with them and really think about it almost like food — you know, knowing where your food comes from, how it's from nowhere as well as from how they're grown, and see if that doesn't make a difference. And I think it will."
If you'd like to find local growers near you, you can find them on The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers' website.
Check out these other small farms growing fresh flowers in Minnesota:
Twin Cities metro:
- Nightingale Flower Farm, Champlin
- Camrose Hill Flower Studio and Farm, Stillwater
- Florwegian Flower Farm, Buffalo
- Otten Bros. Garden Center & Landscaping Flower Farm, Delano
- Flowers in Bloom, Edina
- Hillside Blooms Flower Farm, Randolph
- Prairie Garden Farm, Starbuck
- Foust Flower Farm, Lester Prairie
- B and D Farm, Northfield
- Rustic Designs Flower Farm, Belgrade
- Lavender’s Blue MN, Watertown
- Irondale Acres, Ironton
- The Romestead Flower Farm, Cambridge
- Hope Blooms Flower Farm, Grove City
- Michelle's Flowers, Montgomery
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