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Home Blog Small Space Flower Farming–Part II
April 22nd 2015

Small Space Flower Farming–Part II

Written by
Floret

In yesterday’s post on small space flower farming, I talked about the fact that you don’t need large tracts of land in order to have a flower farm or decent-sized cutting garden.  If you missed my post about Sarah Nixon’s vibrant farmer-florist business that is spread across nine urban backyards in Toronto, then you’ll definitely want to hop over and catch up on her innovative business model.  Today, I’m going to share a little bit about a couple other enterprising farmer-florist businesses who have each converted abandoned urban lots surrounded by a sea of blacktop and brick into beautiful, verdant oases overflowing with seasonal flowers.

First up is Erica Maust and Andrew Olson who own and operate Chicory Florals in Philadelphia.  They currently grow on half an acre, split between two sites, one of which is a 1/4 acre vacant lot that until recently had rowhouses.
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That meant that that they found a mix of brick and concrete rubble a few inches beneath the surface, requiring them to do a fair amount of work to amend the soil, such as haul in 30 yards of compost, in order for it to support intensive plantings of flowers.   They have drip irrigation setup for the six 110-foot beds that they connect to their only water source: a nearby fire hydrant.

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“One of the things we’ve enjoyed the most about growing in this particular space is that it’s in a pretty densely populated neighborhood, so we’ve met a lot of residents, and the local kids often come spend time with us after school in the afternoons or in the summer, so we’re able to talk with them about growing flowers and food,” Erica shared.  “We didn’t fence the area or put up anything to protect the field, and have yet to deal with any vandalism on site. The community has really embraced the space, and that’s been one of the most rewarding aspects of growing in an urban environment.”

 

chicory_lookbook (26 of 60)Erica and Andrew utilize the flowers grown on their urban lot for their full service event design studio. Their designs are described as “wild and romantic, unconventional and unexpected” and because they are able to grow their own unique flowers and foliage for their designs, their designs include materials not found in designs by most traditional brick-and-mortar florist shops.

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Utilizing a similar approach in New Orleans is Pistil and Stamen, an urban flower farm and design studio that grows flowers on approximate 1/4 of an acre which is spread across three different lots, each with different lease/rental agreements, in two different neighborhoods in New Orleans.

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Co-owned and operated by Denise Richter and Megan McHugh.  Richter moved to NOLA to help in post-Katrina relief efforts, specifically the Edible Schoolyard program.

IMG_2597One of Pistil and Stamen’s lots is part of a new market that will feature all local produce and products. Outside the market’s new building are 2,000 sq ft of raised beds that they that we are designing and building out as an 100% edible cutting garden. The pair is busy planning their plantings of roses, black berries, kumquat and olive trees, as well as numerous perennial and annual herbs and medicinals, along with more traditional edible flowers.

A second plot houses the pair’s studio and cutting garden.  Pistil and Stamen rents the land from a young couple who are leasing the rest of the property.  They all share the lot which features a super cute silver trailer studio, cooler, and 3,000 sq ft cutting garden where they planted fall bulbs, snaps, and other cool season flowers last fall.

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Across town, another urban flower farm has also–literally–put down roots.  Megan Webbekin left her government job to pursue her dream of farming  and founded NOLA Tilth on approximately one acre of rented land in New Orleans East.  Fishing once sustained this community but the dual disasters of Hurricane Katrina–which destroyed most of their fishing boats–and then by the BP oil spill–that ruined their primary fishing grounds–left the community reeling.  Flowers and herbs from NOLA Tilth are now a small part of the ongoing recovery efforts of this area.

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Rising interest in urban flower farming led to the creation of the New Orleans Flower Growers Association–a small group of urban flower farmers including Webbeking, McHugh, Richter and others who grow seasonal flowers in the Crescent City.  The  group shares seed and plant orders, helps to supply one another with flowers for big events and otherwise supports one another in their urban flower farming ventures.

Their group sounds so fun, doesn’t it? Their association illustrates what a warm, giving, supportive and vibrant community exists as part of the Seasonal Flower Movement.

Looking for more urban flower farm inspiration?  Here are a few other examples from across the country.

Detroit:  Fresh Cut Detroit

Baltimore: Butterbee Farm

L.A.:  Silver Lake Farms  NOTE: Tara Kolla, founder of Silver Lake Farms was also featured in the “Flower Power” article on farmer-florists and the Seasonal Flower Movement in the most recent issue of Rodale’s Organic Life magazine (formerly Organic Gardening)–be sure to pick up a copy if you haven’t already!

Philadelphia:  Love n’ Fresh Flowers

Pittsburg:  Green Sinner

Portland: Sunblossom Farm

St. Louis:  Urban Buds

If you live in these areas, be sure to check out these urban farms and support the seasonal flower movement!

These are just a few examples and there are likely many more urban micro-farms literally sprouting up across the country.  If you know of additional examples, be sure to share them in the comments below.

 

18 Comments

  1. Stan Hamm on

    I am interested in growing bulbs don’t need as much income as advice canna bulbs mostly

    Reply
  2. Mary on

    I am very interesting in a flower farm back yard . my back yard is on 50000 sq. but I would like to plant all flower in my back yard. Do you have any suggestion regard how to plan? Do you have any course to do this?

    Reply
  3. Jenn on

    Loving these last two posts on small space farming! I’m feeling so inspired that there is in fact hope for tiny plots and urban farming! How motivational! I’ve thrown this idea in the hopper and have been eyeing a few empty plots in my neighborhood. Thanks Erin for doing these interviews!

    Reply
  4. Viv on

    Wow!!! Love hearing all about the mini/micro farms out there. I had no idea there was so much growing on a small scale like mine!!!! Powerful inspiration for all of us …thanks Erin for all the info. It was 27 here yesterday morning,–but I’m starting to see a light at the end of this tunnel. I LOVE the idea of vacant urban lots being rented out for growing flowers/food!! Genius plan. I now know that I can proudly call myself a micro flower farmer. Trying to reorganize Sweetbriar from show(retired from that) to GROW,–and also utilizing a huge growing space 1/4 mile away at my parents property. So much I’d like to do…may have to start drinkin’ coffee.

    Reply
  5. Carol Carrier on

    we have grown on 2 acres for the last 27 years, our neighbors generously let us use part of their yards also. It’s good to be able to survey your whole operation merely by walking the yard.

    Reply
  6. Corinne on

    Thank you, I need this ! New season beginning, new inspiration

    Reply
  7. Connie Cavanaugh on

    Looking forward to finding 30 minutes to sit on porch and enjoy the flowers of my labor while enjoying a tall glass of iced tea.

    Reply
  8. Lynn Rapp on

    Again…thanks, Erin. Thank you for sharing so much wonderful and important information with all of us. Thanks for focusing on these regional, inner-city florist/farmers and their businesses. They, and you, are an inspiration and the sharing of these stories is what keeps the rest of us going when confidence and energy is waning. Keep it coming!

    Reply
  9. Evelyn Lee on

    Thanks, Erin, for continuing to help the locally grown flower movement advance through your continued dedication to knowledge sharing. I, too, make use of about 2 acres at Butternut Gardens LLC in Southport, CT, which includes a family home and is spread onto two separate sites. My situation is suburban rather than urban so one of my tasks is to maintain a flower farm AND maintain an aesthetically acceptable presentation in the neighborhood. Even without making use of all space, last year I cut over 44,000 stems of blooms and foliage. Not huge by any means, and not all space planted, but plenty for a one person operation. I, like others, am trying to farm smarter every year. I do not have room for large machinery due to site constraints so I am limited by my own manpower. Having said that, I have been able to do well with farmers’ market, subscription sales, wedding and event work and a local grocery store. This year I am switching out a farmers market for sales to the fabulous floral designers in Brooklyn, NY. I just love what is happening there! Am I frustrated by space constraints? All the time. Am I fortunate to have space constraints since it really is plenty to manage? Absolutely. So, to anyone wanting to start up, be ready to work hard and give it a go small acreage and all.

    Reply
  10. Michelle Shackelford on

    Thanks for this series Erin! So much can be done with a little space. Micro is where it’s at! You rock!!!

    Reply
  11. Kristine on

    It’s so fun to see through your blogs just how many farmers are working hard to make their small farms a viable business and a community resource. It’s very inspiring and encouraging to the rest of us trying to do the same thing. Thank you.

    Reply
  12. Heather on

    Thank you Erin for these posts on urban farming. They are so encouraging. I need to read these to stop making excuses of why I can’t pursue this with all my heart.

    Reply
  13. Kris P on

    Great post and inspiring stories!

    Reply
  14. Lillian-Marie on

    Do you know of any resources that connect those with land to those who are looking for land? We own a large lot down in South Florida that’s just sitting empty save for the giant mango trees. We’re not ready to sell it quite yet, but we’d love to rent it out to someone who wants to garden on it ( I think we have to check any city regulations beforehand though). With the exception of summer, you get three-quarters of the year to grow in Florida!

    Anyways, just thought that there are probably lots of people like us who have land to share but don’t know how to get the word out. If nothing currently exists, maybe we can start something? If anyone is interested, please feel free to get in touch!

    Reply
    • Killoran Moore on

      Hi, Lillian! The UK has a program called “LandShare”, which also has a US website. There are members who have land, members who want land, and people who are just involved to share their wisdom. I haven’t looked at the US website, only the UK and Canadian ones. In the UK it’s pretty popular with thousands and thousands of users. There are only about 800 in Canada (where I’m located, so that’s a bummer). It’s worth a look, though!

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