Episode 394: The Wholesale Florists’ Outlook with Tom Jennings of Green Mountain Florist Supply in Burlington, Vermont
March 27th, 2019
A few weeks ago, I traveled to the charming town of Burlington, Vermont, located on Lake Champlain, with beautiful views of the Adirondack Mountains in the distance.
Green Mountain Florists Supply hosted me, along with Susan McLeary of Passionflower, to teach for its spring education series. Owners Tom and Kim Jennings and their amazing staff made sure we had not only a wonderful time but a perfect environment for lecturing and teaching. The images shared here are generously provided by Green Mountain Florist Supply and Vermont-based photographer Amy Bennett. Learn more about Amy’s work here.
But let me back up and first tell you how I got there.
I believe in serendipity and connections, and this story is a perfect example of that. My trip to Burlington began in 2017 when Holly Chapple invited me to teach creative writing for florists at her 2nd Flowerstock festival.
There I met Vermont-based florist Jayson Munn, one of those quietly talented guys who gets things done, and anticipates everyone’s needs before they know them. Jayson’s presence definitely supported Holly and all the thousands of tiny moving parts of the Flowerstock machine, and yet he had time to chat and we got to know one another.
Last October, when I returned to teach at Flowerstock again, Jayson and I reconnected in person and he mentioned wanting to invite me to Vermont for the workshop series he coordinates for Green Mountain.
So it happened and the visit was a delightful experience! When I arrived at Green Mountain Florists Supply, I was warmly welcomed by Tom Jennings and the team of professionals. They set up a beautiful teaching space, where I gave a morning presentation — basically the story of Slow Flowers.
Once the other instructors, staff and students had devoured a delicious catered lunch seated among the showroom displays, Tom kicked off our afternoon with a presentation on flower sourcing behind-the-scenes. He and his team unveiled an illustrated timeline of special events and wedding flower ordering, using a 15-foot-long scroll of paper with drawings by Peter Baldor, the company’s Road Supply Sales Manager. As it turns out, Peter is also a humorist and cartoonist known as “Baldy” and I’ve added a link to his “In the Hothouse” web site in our show notes — check out his quirky, plant-focused world view through hand-drawn scenes.
Bailey Hale of nearby Ardelia Farm & Co., followed with a presentation including his story and insights about flower farming in Vermont.
As a bonus, I was invited to design with a vase-full of perfectly formed white ranunculus stems that Bailey harvested from his winter greenhouse, demonstrating a large arrangement of all-American grown floral elements.
That interlude led to our 3-1/2 hour afternoon devoted to creative writing for florists, flower farmers and farmer-florists. What a fabulous group of willing participants. I loved meeting such wonderful women, each of whom brought her unique point of view to writing about flowers, color palettes, personal stories and design. I hope to share some of their pieces in a future post, so keep an eye out for that. Suffice it to say, we had a rewarding day together.
The following day, Susan McLeary taught her distinct bouquet design techniques and floral wearables — and I was able to watch a good portion of the morning session before heading for the airport.
The visit to Vermont was not complete without me asking Tom Jennings to sit down and record an interview for this podcast. Established wholesale florists are in a unique position these days. They are juggling customer demands to bring the world of flowers to their doorstep, while also responding to increasing requests for seasonal, locally grown options. I value Tom’s perspective and I know you’ll learn from this conversation.
Here’s a little more about Green Mountain Florists Supply:
Serving floral professionals in Vermont, New York, New Hampshire and beyond, Green Mountain is Vermont’s premier provider of wholesale cut flowers and floral supplies.
The company opened its doors in 1982 in Middlesex, Vermont, under the astute leadership of Tom’s parents, Charles and Sue Jennings, who saw the need for a first-rate flower supplier in the region. After graduating from Middlebury College, Tom joined the budding new business in 1983 and assumed ownership in 1997. Since then, Tom has continued his parents’ commitment to superior service and long-term relationships — values that still guide us today.
As a floral industry expert, Tom and his outstanding team of floral professionals create a unique wholesale experience like no other. With locations in Middlesex and South Burlington, and scheduled delivery routes that extend throughout the three-state region, Green Mountain brings the freshest products right to customers’ doors. At the South Burlington showroom, where I taught, wholesale shoppers can choose from the latest floral supplies and home décor. Artfully arranged each season, the environment serves as an ideal setting for educational opportunities and hands-on workshops. Green Mountain’s Mobile Showroom brings hardgoods, tools and floral supplies to those customers who can’t make it to either wholesale branch for their floral needs.
Find and follow Green Mountain Florist Supply:
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See Green Mountain Florists Supply images on Flickr
Thanks so much for joining me today. Last week, we announced a giveaway of Andrew Mefferd’s new book The Organic No-Till Farming Revolution — and we’ve drawn one winner from all who posted comments in the show notes by Saturday, March 23rd. I loved reading listeners’ comments about the best tips learned from my interview with Andrew.
Our winner is: Melissa Garcia Perry of Howland Whistle Flower Farm who commented, “So timely! Listened to this podcast while tackling our new acres. Bumping up from super-small urban flower growing to acreage is full of challenges and has me questioning my methodologies. I want this new land to be No-Till but there are so many other growers around me telling me this is a fantasy. Andrew’s best tip for me was witnessing for himself how the absolute pro growers at Bare Mountain Farm simply covered sunflowers beds, stalks and all, with tarps and let their ground peeps do the work. Yes! I can do that.”
Congratulations, Melissa: We’ll get your address over to New Society Publishers so they can send you a copy. And thanks to all who commented and entered!
Don’t forget that Andrew has generously created a coupon code “slow” to give you 20% off your purchases or subscriptions – through the end of April – at his site, Growing for Market. Follow our link in today’s show notes to take advantage.
I was hoping to continue our #fiftystatesofslowflowers series today, with Hawaii, but was unable to entice anyone to join me.
I’ve had our most active Hawaii members on the podcast in the past, so follow a link to my interview with Alison Higgins of Grace Flowers Hawaii in Hanokaa on the Big Island — she has a lot of great stories about local flowers and the floral business of destination weddings you’ll want to hear if you missed the original air date. We need more active members — growers and floral designers — in Hawaii, so spread the word!
Next week, I promise you, we will hear from another State Voice — we have four I states coming up — Idaho, Illinois, Indiana & Iowa, so that will bring us through the month of April.
I also have an reminder for ASCFG members or prospective members. The organization’s popular Mentor Program continues for the 2020-2021 seasons and if you’ve been thinking about apply to serve as a flower farming mentor or to be considered as a mentee, take note of the March 31st deadline.
And to learn more, listen to our past interview with ASCFG mentors and mentees in episode 295 from 2017. This is an incredible opportunity and the deadline is quickly approaching.
Thank you so much for joining me on this Slow Flowers journey as I seek new and inspiring voices, people with passion, heart, commitment and expertise to share with you. I hope today’s episode gave you at least one inspiring insight or tip to apply to your floral enterprise. What you gain will be multiplied as you pay it forward and help someone else.
Truly, we have a vital and vibrant community of flower farmers and floral designers who together define the Slow Flowers Movement. As our cause gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of the American cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious.
I know you feel it, too. I value your support and invite you to show your thanks and with a donation to support my ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button in the column to the right.
I love hearing from listeners and here’s an encouraging note that I received from Michelle Haynes of Rusty Dog Ranch, who contributed a donation in support of the Podcast. She wrote:
“Debra ~Thank you for your wonderful podcasts! I am at the very beginning stages of setting up a cut flower farm and native plants habitat here in rural north Texas. I’ve created beds and planted seeds inbetween my day job, and I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m trying not to overthink it. Your interviews and stories keep me company and encourage me during this solitary work. Every time I hear the name of a flower, one that’s contained in one of my seed packets, I think, “Well, THEY did it, so why can’t I?!”
The Slow Flowers Summit is coming up soon — on July 1 & 2nd in St. Paul, Minnesota. More than half of the registration slots have been grabbed, so don’t miss out on this opportunity to join with Slow Flowers thinkers and doers in person.
One of our past year’s speakers dubbed the Summit a “floral mind meld,” and I love that concept. Come and be a part of the incredible and uplifting experience! You can make your way to slowflowerssummit.com to learn all about the many opportunities to join us — from flower farm tours and dinner on a flower farm to business and branding presentations to interactive and inspiring design sessions . . . all designed to serve you! Subscribe to Summit news and updates at slowflowerssummit.com.
Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for Slow Flowers Journal, found in the pages of Florists’ Review. It’s the leading trade magazine in the floral industry and the only independent periodical for the retail, wholesale and supplier market. Take advantage of the special subscription offer for members of the Slow Flowers Community.
NW Green Panels. Based in Madras, Oregon, NW Green Panels designs and constructs a wide array of wood-framed greenhouses offering versatility, style and durability. Their greenhouses are 100% Oregon-made using twin-wall polycarbonate manufactured in Wisconsin, making NW Green Panel structures a great value for your backyard. The 8×8 foot Modern Slant greenhouse has become the essential hub of my cutting garden — check out photos of my greenhouse in today’s show notes or visit nwgreenpanels.com to see more.
Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Visit them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com.
Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.
The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 428,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for listening, commenting and sharing – it means so much. Thank you all!
Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast.
Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto iTunes and posting a listener review.
The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.
The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at soundbodymovement.com.
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In The Field