Episode 566: Growing Cut Flowers on an Urban Roof with Joanna Letz of Berkeley’s Bluma Flower Farm
July 13th, 2022
In February 2018, I wrote an article about a Berkeley, California, based grocery store called Berkeley Bowl. The family-owned company opened in a former bowling alley in 1977, blocks away from the famed UC, Berkeley, and it has become an neighborhood institution in this college town. My story was about Berkeley Bowl’s floral department and its relationship with local flower farmers.
Today’s guest, Joanna Letz, owner of Bluma Flower Farm, was part of the story and I interviewed her about being one of Berkeley Bowl’s consistent sources of organic flowers.
At the time, Bluma was based in Sunol, about 30 miles inland from the East Bay region, but soon after we published the story, Bluma moved back into the city to its current location — a Berkeley rooftop where Joanna and her team produce hyperlocal, certified-organic flowers.Here’s a bit more about Joanna:
Joanna grew up in Oakland and Berkeley, California, attended Berkeley High and then ventured across the country to Bard College where she majored in history and human rights.
During a study abroad program that spanned five countries in eight months, she looked at the impact of globalization on small farmers, realized the importance of small organic and diversified farms, and was inspired to create a farm of her own. She started farming in 2008 working with and learning from many long-time organic farmers in California.
Falling in love with the life and work, Joanna apprenticed on numerous farms including: Heaven & Earth Farm and Green Gulch Farm & Zen Center. She received a certificate in Ecological Horticulture at the UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden Program (CASFS) and went on to be the Garden Manager at Slide Ranch. At Slide, I grew over 100 varieties of vegetables and flowers.
But, from the beginning, she pursued her dream of one day starting her own farm. In the fall of 2014, that dream was realized and Bluma Farm was born!
I am so happy today to introduce you to Joanna and share her story. She recorded the interview from her farm, six stories high against a brilliant summer sky. I can’t wait for you to join us, so let’s jump right in and meet Joanna Letz.
What a fun conversation! It’s so impressive to learn how this beautiful and sustainably-focused micro farm is cranking out gorgeous blooms on only 1/4-acre of growing area. It’s inspiring to witness Joanna’s focus on community and on sharing Bluma Flower Farm with others. She writes: “For me, farming is a way of life- a re-connection to the cycles of life. I always wanted to work with my hands, be outside, and be of service to people and the planet. I believe enjoying fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers is a basic human right and hope that my farm can encourage others to grow plants and flowers too.“
Find and follow Bluma Farm:
Bluma Farm on Instagram
Bluma Farm on Facebook
Thank you to our Sponsors
This show is brought to you by Slowflowers.com, the free, online directory to more than 850 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.
Thank you to our lead sponsor, Farmgirl Flowers. Farmgirl Flowers delivers iconic burlap-wrapped bouquets and lush, abundant arrangements to customers across the U.S., supporting U.S. flower farms by purchasing more than $10 million dollars of U.S.-grown fresh and seasonal flowers and foliage annually. Discover more at farmgirlflowers.com.
Thank you to the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org.
Our next thanks goes to Red Twig Farms. Based in Johnstown, Ohio, Red Twig Farms is a family-owned farm specializing in peonies, daffodils, tulips and branches, a popular peony-bouquet-by-mail program and their Spread the Hope Campaign where customers purchase 10 tulip stems for essential workers and others in their community. Learn more at redtwigfarms.com.
And thank you to the 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.
Thanks so much for joining us today! The Slow Flowers Podcast is a member-supported endeavor, downloaded more than 866,000 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.
If you’re new to our weekly Show and our long-running Podcast, check out all of our resources at SlowFlowersSociety.com and consider making a donation to sustain Slow Flowers’ ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button in the column to the right.
I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Show & Podcast. The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. 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. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more Slow Flowers on the table, one stem, one vase at a time.
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