Episode 506 Great News about a new Regional Wholesale Hub with Old Dominion Flower Cooperative
May 19th, 2021
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I’ve documented the emergence and rise of regional wholesale flower hubs for more than a decade — you’ve heard it all on the Slow Flowers Podcast!
We have witnessed, encouraged and featured on the Slow Flowers Podcast numerous other regional efforts to bring flowers from the field to the florist and consumer in innovative ways — from legal cooperatives to privately-held wholesaler operations; from casual meet-ups to marketing collectives.
My deepest ties are with the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative whose origins date to 2010 when a group of growers came together at a regional ASCFG meeting held at Charles Little & Co. in Eugene, Oregon. Fortunately, I was there and witnessed those first, ambitious, optimistic conversations that yielded what we here in Seattle enjoy today. At the time, there were only two other models to which the founders of Seattle Wholesale Growers Market could look: Oregon Flower Growers Association, which has a long history in the Portland market, having been founded in the 1940s; and Fair Field Flowers, a small but mighty collective of Wisconsin and Illinois growers serving Madison and Milwaukie florists. Fair Field Flowers ceased operating as a collective on January 1, 2019, but many of the flower farmers who participated still grow and sell flowers; just independently.
And now, we have a new example to highlight. Let’s welcome two of the founders of Old Dominion Flower Cooperative, a Washington, D.C.-area local flower cooperative.
My guests are Melissa Webster, founder, and Megan Wakefield, director of operations — two growers who are part of this group that launched publicly at the end of January. Soon thereafter, Old Dominion joined Slow Flowers Society and reached out to introduce themselves. Here are some statistics from a few months ago — I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers have grown in all categories:
- 22 farms within 90 miles of Great Falls, VA
- 85+ years of combined cut flower production experience
- 40+ acres under production
- 100% female
Old Dominion Flower Cooperative is a community marketplace that brings together local growers, designers, and flower lovers by providing top-quality, seasonal, sustainable, diverse, and locally-grown cut flowers and foliages. They aim to make these floral products accessible to designers and the public, while also respecting the efforts of their local farming community.
Old Dominion Flower Cooperative started in the winter of 2020 with a series of conversations led by local flower growers and floral designers in the greater D.C.-area about how to fill a gap they saw in the local floral industry. They identified that a lot of fantastic flower growers in the area were having trouble breaking into the wholesale market and even more designers and flower shops that want to use local flowers but were having a hard time finding consistent sources of blooms.
With an emphasis on education and high-quality floral product Old Dominion started a six-week training program for member farmers in March. Taught by their mentor Barbara Lamborne from Greenstone Fields and Laura Beth Resnick from Butterbee Farm, topics covered include harvesting, quality control, growing for designers, and conditioning.
I’m excited to share this conversation with you today. Before we get started, let me tell you a little more about Megan Wakefield (left) and Melissa Webster (right)
Melissa Webster is the owner of Old Soul Flower Company. She has been growing for her community for over eight years and is passionate about good stewardship of the land. Melissa received her M.A. from Georgian Court University where she studied food access; soon after she was the farm manager at Common Good City Farm in downtown Washington DC. Melissa spent time as the education director at National Farmers Union where she worked with farmers around the country. Melissa is a strong advocate for beginning and female producers. Melissa owned Ladybell Farms in West River MD, before moving to Great Falls, VA in 2019 with her husband (Ben) and three dogs (Riley, Brixton, and Bean).
Megan Wakefield is the owner of Walking Wild Gardens, based in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. She started gardening with her grandmother when young and later owned a small herbal shop on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. She says her love of gardening, plants, tea, and herbs are all due to her grandmother’s influence. In law school, Megan started getting interested in where her food came from. As a first-year lawyer, she started volunteering on a local farm on weekends. Soon, she was hooked and left her 9-5 legal job to work on farms.
Today, Megan owns Walking Wild Gardens. She teaches gardening workshops, offers consultations, blends tea and builds beautiful gardens. In the end, everything I do is about building relationships with plants.
Thank you so much for joining my conversation today! We are committed to nurturing this new business model for wholesale flower hubs and the stories continue.
Find and follow Old Dominion Flower Cooperative on Instagram and Facebook
Join this week’s Slow Flowers Member (Virtual) Meet-Up
We have a very special Slow Flowers Member Meet-Up coming up very soon and I want to give you all the details.
It’s all about PEONIES and we’re meeting virtually – on Zoom – as we’ve done for more than a year, folks! Join me, Friday, May 21st – 9 am Pacific/Noon Eastern and meet two Slow Flowers members from Alaska’s peony country! Grower Beth Van Sandt of Scenic Place Peonies and designer Brandon Scott McLean of East Hill Floral will share their knowledge and talents — and introduce us to the upcoming Alaska peony season. Beth and Brandon will come to us LIVE from the greenhouse at East Hill Floral. Learn about the selection, cultivation and post-harvest “best practices” for peonies from Beth. Watch an inspired floral design demonstration from Brandon!
Thank you to our Sponsors
This podcast is brought to you by Slowflowers.com, the free, online directory to more than 880 florists, shops, and studios who design with local, seasonal and sustainable flowers and to the farms that grow those blooms. It’s the conscious choice for buying and sending flowers.
And thank you to our lead sponsor for 2021, Farmgirl Flowers. Farmgirl Flowers delivers iconic burlap-wrapped bouquets and lush, abundant arrangements to customers across the U.S., supporting more than 20 U.S. flower farms by purchasing more than $9 million dollars of U.S.-grown fresh and seasonal flowers and foliage annually, and providing competitive salaries and benefits to 240 team members based in Watsonville, California and Miami, Florida. Discover more at farmgirlflowers.com.
For each Podcast episode this year, we thank three of our Major Sponsors:
Our first sponsor thanks goes to Rooted Farmers. Rooted Farmers works exclusively with local growers to put the highest-quality specialty cut flowers in floral customers’ hands. When you partner with Rooted Farmers, you are investing in your community, and you can expect a commitment to excellence in return. Learn more at RootedFarmers.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.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Find the full catalog of flower seeds and bulbs at johnnysseeds.com.
Thanks so much for joining us today! The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 727,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for listening, commenting and sharing – it means so much. As our movement gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of our domestic cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too.
I value your support and invite you to show your thanks to support Slow Flowers’ ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button in the column to the right at debraprinzing.com
I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more Slow 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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