We are living the dream of starting our own flower farm this year. We’ve been growing flowers for ourselves at the Chicago Honey Co-op for a while but this is a whole new scale. Successful farming necessitates super-human amounts of savvy, physical endurance and years of dedication, but our primary aim is just to make a beginning.
Bordered on three sides by subdivisions and on the fourth by a highway, there is something poignant about our little farm. The Meier across the street is bursting with exotic orchids from Thailand, tulips from Holland and roses from Ecuador, so, why Slow Flowers?
About 85% of flowers sold in the U.S. are grown thousands of miles away, mainly in South America and Africa, where pesticides which are illegal in the states are used in largely unregulated methods and child labor is still common. The carbon miles used in transport are multiplied by “cold chains”—refrigerated warehouses and trucks at every point along the way, and the elaborate packaging used to ensure that flowers remain pristine. Locally grown flowers are a much more beautiful, heart- happy solution.
Carlo Pertrini, author of the Slow Food movement says in his manifesto…
“A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life. May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow-long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.”
At first the Slow Food movement was confusing to me, what about the working family that has negative -$200 in the bank and just 15 minutes to feed their kids between two jobs? Why wouldn’t they feed them 3 hot burgers for $1? How is “slowing down” going to work for them?
But gradually I began to understand that the movement towards sustainable food ( and flower!) culture needs to be about pleasure rather than penance, or else no one will be interested.
Our brilliant farmer friends friends, Katie Prochaska and Mike Bollinger start seedlings for us on their River Root Farm in their unheated mobil high tunnels. I met them a long time ago at The Good Life Center in Maine- where they were the annual stewards. With lots of humor and relaxed humility they were my first glimpse of the new face of farming. With naturals like these two leading the way, it doesn’t look like such a tough row to hoe after all…