Flower Farms:
“Buy Local” For Flowers, Too

By Martha Jackson Suquet

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” - Luther Burbank, botanist and plant breeder

Despite a few last gasps of colder weather, it finally feels like spring is here in the Berkshires. Trees are budding, grass is growing, and local farmers markets are opening up for the season. And of course, flowers are blooming—in garden beds, in the wild, and in our local farmers’ fields and greenhouses.
When we say “buy local”, many people probably think first of local food. You may be looking forward to seasonal delights like fresh greens, strawberries, or snap 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 farm economy, and our ecosystem. Flower farmer Georgia Barberi of First Flower Farm in Great Barrington notes that, “the local flower movement has really lagged behind the local food movement", even though flower farming can help preserve farmland, protect biodiversity, and provide meaningful work in the same way food farming can.
(Image courtesy First Flower Farm)

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 aren’t just a just a colorful add-on to eating local – they're a key part of the food and farm system. Local flower farms support the local economy, too – for many farmers, high-value flowers are a key part of their farm’s viability.

Do you need even more motivation to choose local blooms? “Non-organic, imported flowers...have just as much of a negative environmental impact as conventional, imported food”, says farmer Megan Bantle of Full Well Farm in Adams, MA. “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 like you won’t find your favorite heirloom tomato variety at many supermarkets, you won’t find the most interesting flowers there either.
Asking a flower farmer about their favorite varieties feels like asking someone to choose a favorite child. Barberi, who runs First Flower Farm, says that really she loves “whatever is coming into season next.” 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, NY feels similarly: “My 'favorite flower' is almost impossible to name, because it changes with the season.” She’s partial to ‘Victoria’s Secret’ tulips and later in the season she looks forward to 'Sahara' rudbeckia and 'Creme Brulee' phlox. Full Well’s Megan Bantle loves ‘Purple Jean’ ranunculus, calling them “the croissants of flowers” with their many layers of petals.
(Image courtesy of Markristo Farm)

Where can you find local blooms for your table or your next event? Farm stands, local co-ops, and farmer’s markets are all great places to shop for the freshest seasonal flowers. If you know you’ll want fresh bouquets weekly, a flower CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share is a great investment. Check out Berkshire Grown’s online Food & Farms Finder for a complete guide to your local flower options, or pick up our new 2021 Guide to Local Food & Farms at your nearby grocery store or farm stand. And if you’re looking for help with an event, many flower farmers are also expert floral designers. Local flowers from Berkshire farmers offer variety, seasonality, and another great way to support our local farmers while bringing beauty to your table.
Shopper at the Markristo Farm/Bridlewood Blooms booth at Great Barrington Farmers Market
Massachusetts Flower and Nursery Growers
According to the State with over 30,000 acres of land in production, Massachusetts flower and nursery growers are the largest agricultural sector in the state, critical for our local and state economy.

Shop local at these Berkshire Grown business members: Clark's Nursery, Jaeschke’s Orchard, Taft Farms, The Berry Patch, Ward's Nursery & Garden Center, Whitney's Farm Market and Garden Center, and Windy Hill Farm.

Many businesses, such as florists, restaurants, caterers and event planners depend on purchasing flowers wholesale. Wild & Cultivated and Cedar Farm Wholesale specialize in growing unusual flowers and sell wholesale. Turtle Tree Biodynamic Seed Initiative, sells biodynamic and organic vegetable, flower, and herb seeds direct to customer, with wholesale available. New business member Starry Ridge Farm has a “build your own bouquet” flower truck available for pop-up events.

Read Berkshire Grown's 2021 Guide to Local Food & Farms for more about these garden centers and flower growers.

Click here to find more family-owned flower farms, greenhouses and garden centers across Massachusetts. 
Choosing Pollinator-Friendly Native Plants in Home Gardening or Landscaping

Mass.gov offers tools for developing pollinator-friendly landscapes using native plant species
Whether you are interested in improving pollinator resources on your own property, looking for guidance developing a landscaping plan, or trying to determine which native plant species to stock for sale, these curated lists of native pollinator-friendly container plants and seeds will help you make the right decisions. Click here for downloadable resources. 
The 2021 Guide to Local Food & Farms is here, pick one up and keep it handy!
The hot-off the presses 2021 Guide to Local Food & Farms is the Berkshire region's most comprehensive reference for finding local food, farms and restaurants that source from local farms and food producers.

This valuable resource connects you to farmers markets, CSA's, farms stands and farm stores, specialty producers, Berkshire County food pantry sites, local food & lodgings, and other business members who support Berkshire Grown and its mission to keep farmers farming.

Complete with contact information and a handy map, the 2021 Guide is now on the news stands throughout Berkshire County and the surrounding region. In addition you can find the 2021 Guide digital version and the Find Food and Farms searchable map on the Berkshire Grown website.
ROUND-Up at Guido's!! When you shop at Guido's Fresh Marketplace in both their Great Barrington and Pittsfield locations during May and June, please round up your change for food security -- Share the Bounty, a Berkshire Grown program, will benefit from these proceeds. Thank you Guido's!

What is Share the Bounty? Berkshire Grown purchases CSA shares from farmers in the winter months, tiding them over with funds to help purchase seeds and supplies prior to market season. During the harvest season these farmers provide fresh, locally-grown food to local food pantries and community kitchens. You can learn more about Share the Bounty here.
Connect with farmers and producers at farmers markets throughout the Berkshires!

Click here for this valuable Berkshire Grown resource - a searchable map, websites and information about each of the 2021 Berkshire Farmers Markets in the region - from VT, through the Berkshires, into NY and down to CT.
Many summer markets have already opened for the season. These markets will open soon:
May 29: Lee Farmers Market, Otis Farmers Market

Watch for more markets opening in early June!

Shop Local. Shop Fresh. Keep Farmers Farming!
The World is Converging on the Need for Sustainable Agri-Food Systems

FAO leads UN commission to call for actions that favor responsible consumption and production patterns

Published by Morning Ag Clips on May 16, 2021

In a sign that food security and nutrition are increasingly seen as key vectors for sustainable development, the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD) approved a resolution likely to enrich and intensify discussions at the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit.

The agreement, as well as the UN Secretary General’s report to the Commission to which FAO made substantial contributions, span a vast array of themes – from the need to make healthy diets affordable to all and the importance of assuring income opportunities for all even as capital-intensive industry transformations may reduce the need for existing types of jobs and labor, to stopping illicit cross-border financial flows and the need for governance and ownership of big-data to make sure its benefits are available to all, including smallholders and marginalized people. The breadth of topics illustrates just how complex a task the shift to sustainable agri-food systems will be.
Spreading salt on sun-dried tomatoes in Egypt. (FAO)
“Agri-food systems lie at the heart of sustainable development,” QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) told commission delegates through a video-message. Even before the world population has reached an expected 10 billion in 2050, “food systems are already exceeding planetary boundaries for key resources,” he said, pointing to other problems including unbalanced dietary patterns that are leading to both chronic and infectious diseases and the scale of inequalities that make access to affordable healthy diets a challenge.

Read the entire article here.
Berkshire Grown connects you with local farmers, restaurants, and food producers. DONATE TODAY to celebrate local farms and food, sustain our Berkshire food economy, and Keep Farmers Farming! Support your favorite local eating establishment.
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Margaret Moulton, Executive Director
Jordan Archey, Program Manager, Food and Farm Business Members
Kate Burke, Project Coordinator, Farm to Food Access
gramAndrea Caluori, Program Manager, Workshops, Mentorship, Technical Assistance
Sharon Hulett-Shepherd, Community Membership and Office Manager
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