|Katie Savalchak, one of MOFGA’s journeypersons, grows flowers for cutting at her Sacred Bough Farm in Hancock. Photo courtesy of Katie Savalchak.|
By Karen Volckhausen
I was interested to read in the spring issue of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers Quarterly the angst expressed by Frank Arnosky, president of the association, over the future of flower farming. He noted declining enrollment in university agriculture and horticulture programs and the increasing problem of finding workers for his large flower operation. To recruit interns from Texas A&M, he offered an hourly salary, housing and a generous scholarship – and got zero responses.
This took me back 10 to 15 years, when we aging vegetable farmers wondered if anyone would take our places. Was small organic farming going to die?
What a turnaround has occurred! As reported in the last issue of The MOF&G, Maine saw a 40 percent increase in young farmers between 2007 and 2012. MOFGA’s journeyperson (JP) program has played a tremendous role in this increase!
What about flower growers? What is our future?
I turned to the JP program to see if anyone is focusing on flower growing. The answer is yes! The number is small but growing: one in 2012, three in 2013, four this year.
The June 23 edition of The Portland Press Herald noted that the number of Maine famers selling flowers has doubled in the last five year. The future looks bright!
Half the flower-growing JPs farm in Hancock County. I spoke with Katie Savalchak of Sacred Bough Farm in Hancock. This second-year JP has worked in vegetable and dairy farming. I was curious about what motivated her to become a flower grower.
“In the beginning, I didn’t know an iris from a lily,” she said, but as she observed others’ flower gardens, she found herself swooning over their beauty. This inspired her to start learning about flowers, and once she did she was “grabbed.”
She started her own gardens, expanding them until she was in business. She now sells wholesale to florists and designers, has a flower share CSA program, and does limited events.
“I continue to be amazed by the process of converting tiny seeds into stunning abundance,” she said.
Our other Hancock County flower-growing JP, Evie Rivera, manages Darthia Farm. She started an apprenticeship on this diversified, MOFGA certified organic farm when she had no interest in flowers, but under Cynthia Thayer’s guidance, she too has become hooked and is working to make flowers a more central part of the operation. You can find her lovely bouquets at the Winter Harbor Farmers’ Market.
So hats off to our flower JPs and all the flower growers in Maine! You are our slow flower movement.
About the author: Karen Volckhausen grows MOFGA certified organic flowers at Happy Town Farm in Orland.