Tuesday, March 04, 2014



-14° here on the mountain this morning. Clear as a bell, windless, quiet except for two crows sitting atop the aging white pine, apparently suggesting to each other that I hadn't made it to the compost pile yet with yesterday's food scraps. Crows are very intelligent birds and I marvel at their behavior. There is one at the flower farm that was born last year and all summer it showed no fear of me and actually landed by me many times as I worked. I always made it a point to speak to it and to look straight at its eyes. This helped with any bonding that occurred. Scientists have studied crows in their pursuit of facial recognition which has become such a big part of anti-terrorism efforts. In the next few years as our credit cards fade into more sophisticated means of financial transactions, our eyes, our finger prints will become more important. Crows are already ahead of us and have actually helped with the road we are taking.

So just as crows may be playing a part in how we recognize each other and how we do business, there is a movement in America to look more closely at the distance between consumers and what they need to survive. I am not certain where the Buy Local movement started but it was probably related to food production and probably was encouraged by pollution, contamination, food delivery costs and other negative factors. Bad things often spawn good, the common example being that the tragedy of wars has led to some of the greatest medical advances, the best medical equipment developments in the world. 

A couple times a year I break out the box of letters for our road sign and put "BUY LOCAL" up top. I have never seen people stop because of what it says nor have I heard a customer ask my opinion or ask why I put the sign up. I am guaranteed of getting a lot more comment when I suggest on the sign that voters turn down a budget or postpone buying a new piece of equipment I don't think the town really needs. I continue to put out "BUY LOCAL" anyway in hopes that I might convert just one more family to thinking about where they buy their flowers. Movements  start slowly, take some time and require the faithfulness of the sign maker in me I guess, hence I continue.

I like to have people think about buying flowers locally for several reasons. The perennial flowers that we sell are flowers that we have grown on before we ever sell them. We like to insure that our plants have truly been zoned accurately as opposed to being marketed as if they are hardy for any climate. We like to be sure that what people buy will grow as successfully for them as it has for us. We like to sell things that haven't had regular baths in chemicals and we like to be able to provide the little pieces of growing information that doesn't come from a big box store plant tag or a  sales person that was working in the plumbing department yesterday or the appliance section the day before. 

Buy Local is not easy, especially with anything a farmer is involved in, flower farmers included. People have this thought that it's cheaper if it is local and it's cheaper if it's from a farmer. That may or may not be true. Sometimes people have no clue what anything costs and their only prior experience is buying fruit or vegetable produce that has been labeled "organic" which they determine translates to expensive. 

Buying locally grown flowers for example has advantages and disadvantages. If you are purchasing perennials, local should mean that the producer knows about the temperate zones and can assure you that the tree, shrub or perennial flower or herb will grow and be successful where you live. Locally grown annuals such as cut flowers offer positives and challenges depending on what flowers you want. Two days ago I received a call for sunflowers for a July 5th wedding. I cannot do this and the flowers will have to come from California, Mexico or South or Central America where the growing season will permit a good looking flower to be available then. Absent a greenhouse and sixty days prior growing time, there's no way I could come across with sunflowers by July first since we still have frost into early May here and the math just doesn't work. If you want roses, they need to be shipped in, if you want lilium they need to come out of a Vermont greenhouse, ...the examples go on and on. But during that rather brief window of late June into October there are flowers in Vermont that are being grown and will look very good at your special event. They will look better, last longer and be cleaner than anything else you can find and for those flowers there should be no choice in your mind but to buy local.

So as Spring approaches and you think more and more about your gardens, give local farmers more of a chance to teach you what they grow and what you might be very happy with. Respect the shortcomings of a zone four climate and the influences of a fluctuating jet stream and higher  (or lower) temperatures. If you are thinking about local flowers for an event later in the summer, plan ahead, find a local grower, discuss what you think you want and learn what will likely be available and what might be considered as back up should weather change, insects arrive, or critters eat the beautiful flowers you were counting on. Each of these examples can happen and that's what farming is all about.

I cannot guarantee whether or not it will rain on July 28th this year but I can guarantee that by discussing your proposed flower needs with a grower, you will get an up-front view of what is possible and you will know if those opportunities meet your needs. As we get a little closer to  mud season I'll try to write a few suggestions about what else is involved in buying local flowers for special events. It's not difficult but your goal is to have people say nice things about the flowers you use for special events, and to get there takes a little planning. We'll help!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where blue jays call for more food at the feeders as doves pick up odds and ends from the snow covered ground as flocks of grosbeaks come and go.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens  and as George Africa
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
And always here to help you grow your green thumb!

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