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Flowers add color to regional markets

By WHITNEY PIPKIN
AFP Correspondent

(July 11, 2017) Laura Beth Resnick moved back to the Baltimore area from New York City in 2013 to start a vegetable farm. But, after seeing that local markets were “getting pretty saturated” with growers hawking tomatoes and herbs, Resnick took another route.
She, like a growing number of local farmers, decided to grow something a little less edible but, it turns out, just as in-demand: Flowers. 
“Flowers have been a great fit,” said Resnick, 28, who now runs Butterbee Farm in Pikesville, Md., with her husband, Jascha Owens. “I really think I would not have been as happy doing vegetables, because I love the collaborations I get to do with florists and with people who appreciate beauty.”
Resnick isn’t the only local farmer devoting some acreage — or an entire farm business — to the art of growing flowers as more shoppers apply a buy-local ethos to what’s in the vase as well as what’s in the kitchen.
Priscilla Wentworth also started with vegetables when she began pursuing her small-farm dreams in Southern Maryland last year.
But, when her Anchored Roots Farm expanded to more land and greenhouse space in Hollywood, Md., this year, she pivoted the farm’s focus toward flowers.
“It turns out, our small community is really supportive, and we enjoy brightening peoples’ day with flowers,” said Wentworth, who arranges bouquets each Saturday for a farmers market at the historic Sotterley Plantation in Hollywood. “We started out growing vegetables — and still love to do so — but there are many vegetable farms already in St. Mary’s County, where we live and plan to sell our products.”
Even for growers who are focused on providing produce, adding flowers to the mix is a way to brighten up a farm stand or a weekly farm box for customers.
According to the national Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, locally grown blooms are the next frontier for shoppers weary of how far the grocery-store variety typically has to travel.
Flowers grown closer to where they’re sold can last up to three times as long as those shipped internationally, according to the Maryland Cut Flower Growers Association, and often come with stronger scents, brighter colors and in more varieties.
A map on the association’s website, MarylandGrownFlowers.com, shows nearly 40 businesses focused on local blooms sprawled across Maryland counties.
“Flowers are really the next thing in local,” said Carin Celebuski, 58, who learned the flower-growing business during an internship at Butterbee Farm. She and her husband, Vince Matanoski, plan to sell flowers along with eggs and honey from their newly minted Ladybrook Farm in Monkton, Md., before adding lamb and goat meat and milk products in the future.
“A lot of vegetable farmers have started growing flowers, too, because it really attracts people to their farmers market stand,” said Celebuski. “I think it’s kind of the next big thing.”
Even more established vegetable growers like Two Boots Farm in Hampstead, Md., have added flowers to their offerings, including greenhouse-grown varieties that can be sold year-round.
Urban farms like Hillen Homestead in Baltimore have found flowers to be a good fit for limited growing spaces located close to their customers. In addition to blooms, Hillen Homestead and Butterbee Farm offer interactive programs for customers, such as pick-your-own days and flower arranging classes.
Brides who want to source wedding flowers close to home have also driven the growth in local flowers, as have florists who are committed to sourcing what’s in season, such as Local Color Flowers in Baltimore. Larger retailers such as Whole Foods Markets and Wegmans Food Markets have taken an interest in sourcing locally grown flowers as well.
Resnick said Ellen Frost of Local Color Flowers helped convince her to grow flowers in the first place.
“She said she would buy everything from me if I grew it,” said Resnick, who’s now president of the Maryland Cut Flower Growers Association. “She said, ‘Just try it.’”