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November 21 2019

Meet a Grower: Butterbee Farm

Tags: Farmers

L.B. and I took a walk on a brisk November morning to Bird in Hand for a chat for the blog. Let's jump right in:

I'm meeting my dad later for an end-of-season review.

Oh yeah? He's involved with the farm?

He named it. He's a great storyteller. When I was young he made up stories about an insect called Butterbee. He could make a flutter sound with his calloused fingers from working as carpenter.

Totes adorbs.

We arrive at the coffee shop. I go for a hot green tea and chocolate croissant. L.B. gets coffee.

What about Moms? What does Wendy do for Butterbee?

She's great. She is a health care provider and facilitates support group meetings.

You have a lot of strife among your staff?

Ha. Ha. No! My mom mentors me with leadership skills.

Like your newly elected position with the ASCFG?

Yes! I will be the Secretary starting in January. I'm excited to be getting in the same room with Jennie and Lenny.

Smart. Get some inside information.

Uh? Information about what?

Do you want to make an announcement? You know, for the blog.

I still don't know what you mean.

No, I get it. Making a move for the big chair. Taking down Jennie.

I think you are just trying to get some buzz for your blog.

That's right. Because whether you like it, or you don't like it, you better learn to love it, because it's the best thing going today! WOOO!

Everybody's looking at us.

Sorry. Sorry everybody.

What are you talking about?

The nature boy? Ric Flair? No? OK... What's a typical day like on the farm?

Every morning I meet my team at 7 am by the barn. We fill buckets with water, and then head out into the field to harvest. We cut as fast as we can until the late morning; then we either have deliveries or we spend the rest of the day planting, weeding, preparing new beds, and seeding. Everyone goes home at 4 pm.

Ugh! 7AM? What about off-season?

We take naps! Just kidding. Now we have heated greenhouses so we are still planting and preparing beds long after frost hits outside. We also have special projects we've been putting off. Liz and Jascha are building our new propagation house for starting seedlings.

This all sounds like a lot of work. Don't you have any other options?

Haaaahahahahahahahaahahaha! I could have been a contender! Farming is the best thing ever, don't knock it til you try it! I got into it by accident- my friend worked on a farm in New Hampshire and I hated college and thought I would try farming one summer to get away. I got hooked!

Wow, Marlon Brando. That's an old reference even for me. Bravo. Ok, there's Liz and Jascha. Who else is on the Butterbee crew?

Courtney and Erica are also on our badass team this year! We had Alex and Cathy work with us as interns through the Beginning Farmer Training Program. Jascha and Spencer, who work on the property we lease land from, lend a hand too. Curtis, Jess, and Alex swooped in to save the day when we really needed extra help. So many amazing people make this farm happen!

Who is the hunkiest dude in the flower biz?

Jascha. And Bob Wollam.

Wow. Really? Nobody else comes to mind?

Not really.

Moving on. Beginner Farmer Training Program. What that all about?

The BFTP is a program run by the nonprofit Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. It connects interns, or "trainees," with farmers so that aspiring farmers can experience hands on learning with mentors. I did the program when I started my farm, and my husband did it the year after. It's so helpful not just for learning to farm but also making farmer friends!

What about that time there was a police chase through your farm. Were you trying to reboot the Dukes of Hazzard?

Haaahahahahaha Yes that happened! Someone robbed a bank and he tried to get away by driving through the farm. It was crazy! Also, it turns out that when the police crash into your car while they're chasing a robber, no one reimburses you.

So the farm is on land owned by your old boyfriend's family. How weird is that?

This is true. Sometimes it's a little weird but mostly it's just kind of amazing how life works out, you know?

Are you coming to flower trivia night? Any predictions, trash talk?

I have assembled the BEST trivia team ever to walk the planet. Liz has won trivia here at the farm. Spencer plays trivia on the regs and knows a weird amount of random stuff. Courtney has been a flower farmer almost as long as I have. Alex is a farmer AND a florist, so she will know some stuff that the rest of us don't. If anything I'm the weak link here! Competing teams, IT'S ON! YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW!

What's the future for Butterbee?

We're at a really cool place with farm. We are starting to pull back from field growing. We have more greenhouses. Including the Frost House - named for Ellen

Nice.

And we are investing in the future with perennials and woodies.

What else do you want readers to know? Literally dozens of people read this blog.

To my dozens of future fans, I'd like to say: buy local! You don't have to buy everything locally- but try to invest just a little in your local economy every single week, whether it's your farmer's market, a craft show, your florist, your bakery... it makes a HUGE difference! It's better for the environment, better for building community, and more often than not, the products you are buying locally are higher quality.

Alright. Thanks for the chat, but I gotta go sling some Butterbee flowers. Obviously, I ain't no Bob Wollam. I just can't get by on my good looks.

Yep. I'm gonna pick up some treats for the crew on my way out. I learned that from LoCoFlo.

Important lesson. STELLA!

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August 07 2019

Hunnid Bands Bucket

Tags: Farmers, Flower Profile

We got the Money Plant. It has a lot of names and a lot of stories. And it's weird: how it looks, how it grows, how to harvest it, how we prep it, how we use it. Even how we get it. All of this makes it one of our favorites.

Lunaria (from the Latin meaning moon-shaped) is the botanical name. Money Plant is the most popular common name. It is also called Chinese Coins, The Pope's Money, Silver Dollar and Coins of Judas. Obviously, the unique silver color and flat round shape of the seed pods are what gives Lunaria so many monetary nick-names.

Not to be outdone by Jess, Stacy grew ours. It's a biennial. Stacy planted the seeds last Fall and it sprouted up this Spring. Lunaria is easy to naturalize - it reseeds itself. Set it and forget it. When they're young, they flower and their seed pods are green. As they season, the seed pods brown and the stem turns a pied purple. The signature silver color of the pod is achieved by letting the plant age in the ground. But that is when the work begins.

After cutting the plant, each of the pods has a dull husk that needs to be peeled back, like gold foil on chocolate coins, to reveal the shiny silver disks. Do that 100 times per plant and it's finally ready to go. It's a real money shucker.

That's one reason so few people are growing it, but the response we get from customers is worth all the hassle. One Lunaria lover stopped by Open Studio because she remembered it growing in her grandmother's yard. The nostalgia even prompted her to pack Lunaria as her carry-on to share the memory on a trip to visit her mother in California. Yeah! Maryland flowers going to the west coast.

According to Feng Shui, the Money Plant is to be placed in the Bagua area of shop to enhance the energy of wealth and prosperity. We just display it among our other seasonal local flowers. It's a treasure, even if we are still looking for those hunnid bands.

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June 21 2019

What's Your Statice?

Tags: Farmers, Nerdy AF, Flower Profile

Ours is German. It's unremarkable all alone in a bucket straight from the farm. But Statice, Ellen says, is a floral work-horse. Old Reliable. AD ('All Day' if you are familiar with the confusing nickname of football player Adrian Peterson - sometimes misnomered AP). What I'm getting at is Statice is a hearty and versatile cut we use year-round from Winter wreaths to Summer bouquets. It's a two-way player. It's a multi-instrumentalist. It's a flower for all seasons. It gets the job done!


LB (Statice: sassy) with her Statice

And that's why Ellen loves herself some Statice. She also loves to enumerate:

  1. Statice looks the same fresh or dried (there's your versatility and longevity)
  2. Statice is a competent local substitute for the oft-requested and locally-scarce Baby's Breath
  3. With a name like 'Statice' the jokes write themselves. Baller.
  4. Statice is a staple for arrangements out of water: arches, bouts, head crowns, aisle swags and the such.
  5. Not a lot of growers sell it, so it provides a unique look in our arrangements.

Despite the high regard it holds today here at LoCoFlo, it took a few seasons for Statice to reach its current status (it didn't even get an at-large bid in last year's inaugural Flower Madness Tourney). Our first deliveries came from Greenstone Fields in 2014. After a few weeks, we saw the upside, and went all in. The next harvest, Ellen bought the entire crop.

Statice: flush.

As quickly as Statice came into our lives, it was gone. Hey Lloyd, Ellen was ready to be heartbroken (she really said 'heartbroken'). The Greenstone Statice bonanza lasted only one year.

Statice: sadness.

There were no other Statice growers nearby. Ellen started to recruit. Butterbee accepted the challenge and ordered up the plants from Dave Dowling at Gloeckner in the Fall of 2017. A year and a half later, we bought Butterbee's entire crop.

Statice: back in business.

Fake ending. More Statice. When LB delivered the Statice, local flower OG Bob Wollam came into the studio and said "Oh, you've got Limonium (fancy name for Statice). I used to grow a purple variety."

Statice: so many emotions.

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September 11 2018

Meet a Grower: Bloomhouse

Tags: Farmers, Hilarious

LoCoFlo was very excited to buy the first flowers grown by some spanking new local farmers last week! Bloomhouse is an ambitious new business founded by Jess and Sam, former best friends who are participating in Future Harvest’s Beginner Farmer training program. If they sound like contestants on “The Amazing Race” - that is exactly what I thought when I interviewed them about their business.

In addition to Bloomhouse and learn-working at Butterbee Farm in the program, Jess joined us late last year to be the new Stacy. Still on probation, she is really making a go of it as a designer. When I asked to interview her for this blog, she wanted to make sure Sam was included (“Sam doesn’t want to miss out on anything!”). So we face-timed her in…

Jess, Sam and their first Bloomhouse check

How did all this begin?

Sam was rehabbing an ankle injury last year by hobbling around a park and thought there needs to be a better place to rehab ankle injuries.

OK. Strange. Very millennial - like an episode of “Girls” - then Bloomhouse was born. Why not “Broken Ankle Flowers”?

Ha. Ha. Jess needed to be included in the name. We found the LoCoFlo website. That helped us to discover all the other growers in the area. We went to Bob Wollam’s farm for his annual festival and was inspired to build a place like that.

Acres of flowers, residences, flower interns, venue rental, dog park, ferris wheel, a true compound? This is sounding a little like Waco.

Yes! Like Chip and Joanna!

I was thinking more like David Koresh.

(blank stares)

This was back when you were in the “best friend zone”.

We’re still best friends.

But you can really have only one best friend. And Jess found a new best friend at LoCoFlo. Anyway, Do you have $10,000,000?

No, but we just sold $24 of flowers to you and we will each have $1,000 at the end of the farmer training program and Jess’s fiance Toby has equity in his house.

You’re on your way. And, Tobs will be an investor?

He will have a music studio on the compound.

And when was this ankle-injury-inspired business plan conceived?

Just last year. We came up with the name while watching football.

Wow. And you have already sold flowers?

Yes. We are growing at Toby’s house for now.

Jess at the Food Market with Bloomhouse flowers

Who are your flower mentors?

Definitely LB at Butterbee. Also, Maya at Hillen Homestead

What about local flower O.G.s like Dave Dowling, Bob Wollam and Leon Carrier?

They are so accomplished and know so much, we get nervous.

What else do we need to know about Bloomhouse?

Jess is the muscle and Sam is the business.

Nice. At LoCoFlo Ellen is the macaroni and I am the cheese. Partnerships like that can’t lose!

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July 31 2017

Baltimore In Bloom

Tags: Friends, Farmers, So Local

Last weekend we were thrilled to host Dave Dowling, President of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers and Mimo Davis of Urban Buds: City Grown Flowers in St. Louis Missouri for a whirlwind tour of flower farming in and around Baltimore.

We’re so proud of our Baltimore flower farming community and we were excited to introduce Baltimore to our out of town guests.

We started at the Sunday market to visit Elisa Lane of Two Boots Farm. Elisa started farming in Baltimore City when she co-founded Whitelock Community Farm in the Reservoir Hill. She and her husband now farm in Hampstead, Maryland. Each year she grows more and more flowers (because it’s addictive!)

Next we headed over to Ananda Growers. Jen and Abhi are first year growers growing in East Baltimore in the shadow of Dr. King’s image. In addition to Ananda Growers, Jen also runs a youth farming program called Common Ground Youth Farming as part of her OSI Fellowship.

Next, we traveled a few blocks east to visit Walker at Tha Flower Factory. A big sunny half acre in the middle of East Baltimore, Tha Flower Factory is in it’s 2nd year of growing. Watch for big things from this urban farm.

Next we headed north to Hillen Homestead. Maya has been growing flowers in Baltimore City for five years. With two sites, she is the biggest producer of flowers in the city.

At her original plot on Hillen Road, we checked out a plethora of gorgeous blooms including lisianthus, zinnias, love in a puff, snaps and amazing dahlias!

After a quick stop at the Crown gas station for a snack (Turkey Hill lemonade and chips for everyone…just call me…the hostess with the mostest”) we drove 45 miles west to visit our friends at PlantMasters. Mimo was especially excited to see Leon and Carol Carrier’s farm because of all of the ways the extend the season for sales in early spring and late fall/winter. Their new hoophouse is filled with gorgeous Cafe Au Lait dahlias.

Of course, we couldn’t be touring around without Bob Wollam getting in on the action. It was pretty great to see these two flower friends reunited.

Our last stop on the tour was Endless Row Farm, owned by Leon and Carol’s son Lee. The name is so fitting! This farm is so beautiful! It reminded us all of the wide rows at Mel Heath’s farm.

As we headed back to Butterbee Farm for dinner, my heart was so full. I’m beyond grateful to be part of this amazing flower farming community. From teeny tiny first year farms, to farms that have been producing local blooms for over 30 years, all of these growers play a crucial role in making the Mid-Atlantic such a special place for growing flowers.

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November 19 2016

Getting Smart and Sciencey at the Flo

Tags: Farmers, Friends, Nerdy AF

Spent some time this week with amazing Chris Wien, Emeritus Faculty member at Cornell who continues to do valuable cut flower research in his retirement. Flowers growers in our region cheered a few years ago when this giant in the cut flower world decided to make Annapolis his new home after leaving Ithaca.

This week, the designers and I got to contribute our experience with lisianthus to be included in his research on spacing, stem production and bloom time. We also got to here all about the creation of the black pear pepper and it’s journey to market beginning at the USDA research lab in Beltsville.

We’re so grateful to be part of this weird, wonderful flower growing community!

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