credits to Eliza Milio at University of California, Santa Cruz, Center for
Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
For a special occasion, a special someone, or simply just “because,” flowers are a luxurious staple
in our traditions of gift giving and nesting. Although not the center of attention amidst the local
food movement, the toxic cut flower industry
is getting more press and conjuring a rising
interest in “local” and “organic” bouquets. If done right, flowers can be as lucrative as berries
and tree fruit in compliment to a diversified crop production. From Oregon
, to North
, and Pennsylvania
, Flower CSAs are popping up as both
independent enterprises and as complements to existing production farms. To learn about growing
& marketing flowers in a CSA model, I spoke with Molly Bullock, the Cut Flower Program Manager
at Red Fire Farm
Massachusetts. Red Fire has over 100 acres in diversified produce production, and runs an
established flower CSA off of 1.5 of those acres. This supports a 150 member flower share with
additional bouquets going to farmer's markets, the farm stand, and appearing on their wholesale
availability list weekly.
(This interview is summarized and edited for brevity and cohesion)
How are flowers incorporated into a diversified vegetable crop plan?
We have separate crop plans. We have our own field for flowers and the process for constructing a
flower crop plan is identical to that of veggies; I wouldn’t recommend trying to do them together.
It’s really, really important to not over plant. One thing I’ve learned this past year is to have
many successions and smaller plant outs to avoid waste and maintain quality product. It really is
painful to watch flowers turn in the field and not be able to get to them in time.
Who are your customers and how do you market to them?
Most of our customers are existing veggie CSA members that “add on” flowers to their share, but we
also have a number of members who only pick up flowers. A lot of the flower CSA members have
received their share as a gift. The veggie CSA at Red Fire is over 1000 members; when those members
come to pick up their share they see the bouquets, and I think a lot of them like what they see and
want to join. So in a way, since we already have a lot of CSA traffic, the flowers market
themselves. Most advertising is word of mouth, in addition to a radio ad and information on our
What are the greatest overhead costs and expenses associated with flower production?
The time of the flower grower is the most expensive. It’s time consuming. Harvesting stems takes a
long time, so harvesting crews should be a calculated cost as well. Additionally, if you plan to
have wholesale or wedding clientele, it’s especially important to hire someone with design
experience. Outside of labor, cooler space is integral to flower production in addition to lots of
trellising- most flowers need this. Fortunately, the cultivation and transplant equipment are all
virtually the same that you’d be using in your veg beds.
Advice to heed…
Farmers hear all the time about how much you can profit from having flowers on your farm-but, often
don't realize how specialized it is and how much work it takes. At Red Fire Farm, we are harvesting
Sunday-Friday (although really you need to be out there everyday); we harvest from 5:30-10:30 AM and
then spend the afternoon making the bouquets. I think you really need to invest in people who have
had some training in this- efficiency is crucial, and it takes a trained eye to put something
together that looks beautiful and can be marketed at high dollar value.
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Jane works as a Field Production Specialist at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable
Food Systems, where her days are filled with tractor work, irrigation coordination, orchard
care, and educating apprentices and interns. Her favorite way to end a long day's work in
the sun, is running down the hill to Mitchell's Cove and jumping in the Pacific.