Debra Prinzing

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Episode 286: Growing Growers: News from Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers President Dave Dowling and Regional Director Lennie Larkin plus a bonus interview with Elizabeth Bryant

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

As I mentioned last week, I traveled to Corvallis, Oregon, recently to join the 3rd annual Pacific Northwest Cut Flower Growers “meet-up,” and that’s where I encountered the three guests you will hear from today.

I’m going to keep the intros short, because you’ll want to hear the heart of these conversations.

Today’s guests include Dave Dowling of Ednie Flower Bulb Co. and current board president of Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, and Lennie Larkin, a farmer-florist and owner of B. Side Farm & Floral Design in Sonoma County, serving as the west and northwest regional director for ASCFG.

But first, please meet Elizabeth Bryant of Rose Hill Flower Farm, located just outside Portland. Elizabeth is a past guest of this podcast; she appeared with floral designer and friend Kailla Platt a few years ago. Here’s a link to their episode.

Elizabeth is a person with big ideas and beyond that; she’s a big idea person who acts on them. I remember when I first met her and she reached out to me with an unsolicited offer to connect me with people she knew at Slow Food USA . . . she felt they should know about Slow Flowers and hear what I was doing.

That led to an invitation from Slow Food for me to write an article for their newsletter, allowing us to reach the huge Slow Food community with the Slow Flowers message.

Later, Elizabeth instigated the first PNW Cut Flower Growers meet-up, bringing together a core team of volunteers to host the one-day session in early 2015. The vision she held is continuing on today with a dynamic cadre of fellow leaders in the Northwest region’s flower farming and farmer-florist world.

I sat down with Elizabeth during one of our short breaks and asked her to share details about her new project — called “Blooming on the Inside,” involving a flower farm and floral design workshops at Coffee Creek, Oregon’s only correctional facility for women. I know you’ll find it inspiring and I hope that you feel led to show your support by encouraging and even donating to the project.

I hope you’re moved to share your resources to support Blooming on the Inside’s campaign. Money isn’t the only way to help this project — you can follow the link to the funding page and just click on the Facebook logo to post this to your own page — making sure that more people learn about the opportunity. And as Elizabeth says, even a $5 donation makes a big difference!

Okay, next up, Dave Dowling and Lennie Larkin.

Dave Dowling, photo courtesy Butterbee Farms

Dave Dowling owned a successful cut flower farm in Maryland for several years. He placed great emphasis on introducing young people to horticulture through employment on his farm, bringing them to the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers conferences, and mentoring them as they moved into their own cut flower businesses. Dave is responsible for the success of many new growers across the country. His generosity and enthusiasm for sharing are unparalleled.

Annually, ASCFG awards the Dave Dowling Scholarship, open to all undergraduate or graduate students working toward a two- or four-year degree, or a graduate degree, in horticulture or floriculture.  Dave juggles president duties with his “day job,” as sales representative and warehouse manager for Ednie Flower Bulb, based in Fredon, New Jersey.

Lennie Larkin

About Lennie Larkin & B-Side Farm

B-Side Farm sits on one colorful acre next to a small rushing creek in Sebastopol, West Sonoma County, California.
The farm uses organic methods to grow a wide variety of old-fashioned, fragrant flowers for use in our design studio and workshops.
Full-service wedding design is a specialty, and by growing most of the flowers used in Lennie’s designs, she’s invested in every aspect of the process from planting the seeds, to caring for and picking the flowers, to putting the finishing touches on the bridal bouquet before it’s carried down the aisle (a favorite moment, every time).
On-farm workshops offer chances for the public to come out to the farm and get their hands dirty. Workshops include all aspects of flower gardening and floral design – from centerpieces for the kitchen table, to elevated arrangements for special events, to crash courses in flower farming.

B-Side Farm

About Lennie Larkin

Lennie came to farming and flowers from a background in social work and adult education. Naturally, B-Side Farm has quickly become an educational farm where Lennie not only grows and designs with flowers, but teaches others how she’s doing what she’s doing. B-Side Farm workshops are designed to meet every student where they’re at and encourage them to dive a little deeper into the world of flowers – whether in the garden or design studio. The B-Side Blog is a growing resource for both of these arenas.
Before staring B-Side, Lennie spent two years at the UCSC Farm and Garden, and then moved on to run the educational farm at Petaluma Bounty where she taught the public to grow crops for the local community for three seasons. Before that (in what feels like a past life) she worked in refugee resettlement in her hometown of Boston, translated a novel in Brazil, and took advantage of her final season NOT farming by hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Lennie has now calmed the wanderlust and settled happily in Sonoma County where she runs the farm, is the West Coast Director for the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, and teaches flower farming and horticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College. Lennie is a past guest of this podcast

Flowers and floral design by Lennie Larkin, B-Side Farm & Floral Design


My website:
Lennie’s blog post summarizing her OSU Small Farms Conference presentation:
Classes and workshops:

Thanks so much for listening today. The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 162,000 times by listeners like you.

THANK YOU to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to our lead sponsor for 2017: Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit

We’re also grateful for support from Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at

And welcome to our newest sponsor, 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. Find them at

Longfield Gardens has returned as a 2017 sponsor, and we couldn’t be happier to share their resources with you. Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at

And finally, thank you 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

I’m Debra 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

Music credits:
Additional music from:

Floral Friendship: The Florist (Betany Coffland of Chloris Floral) and The Farmer (Lennie Larkin of B-Side Farms) (Episode 188)

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
Betany Coffland (left) and Lennie Larkin (right). This photograph captured the friends holding flowers they grew for Chica Bloom Farm (Betany) and Petaluma Bounty (Lennie).

Betany Coffland (left) and Lennie Larkin (right). This photograph captures the friends holding flowers they grew for Chica Bloom Farm (Betany) and Petaluma Bounty (Lennie).

BsidelogoChloris Floral logoAttention emerging flower farmers and #farmerflorists!

A B Side boutonniere.

A B-Side boutonniere.

I know you’ll appreciate this week’s guests because they are both in the early phases of launching their floral businesses.

Either you’ve already been there so parts of their stories will sound familiar or you’re in the thick of building a floral enterprise – farming and/or design – and will draw inspiration from their candor about the challenges, opportunities and decisions about the direction to take.

With planting and harvesting season and months of weddings upon us, I can assure you that our episode is timely. Like all of my guests on the Slow Flowers Podcast, there is much to learn from what they have to share.

Please welcome Betany Coffland of Chloris Floral and Lennie Larkin of B-Side Farm. Together, they embody a unique collaboration for people who are growing and designing American flowers. Be wowed by the collective beauty of their work.

Betany, performing "Carmen" - Photo by Pat Kirk

Betany, performing “Carmen,” photo by Pat Kirk

This episode was recorded in the San Jose hotel lobby after the conclusion of ASCFG’s “Growers’ Intensive” last month.

Betany Coffland has always possessed an artistic soul. Her first career lies in singing opera where she trained at the Juilliard School of Music.

Often gifted with an armload of bouquets on opening night, Betany frequently imagined herself in a Jane Austen novel.

The quintessential professional, Betany has given us permission to include snippets of her operatic performances, including the French art song, “A Chloris.” Check out her professional opera site here. 

After moving to Sonoma County and reading the book, The Dirty Life, she was inspired to volunteer at a local flower farm to see if she would enjoy getting dirt under her nails and having the outdoors as an office.

A Chloris inspiration, photo by Paige Green

A Chloris inspiration, photo by Paige Green

Betany Coffland, portrayed in an scene inspired by Chloris, the Greek goddess of flowers, photo by Paige Green

Betany Coffland, portrayed in an scene inspired by Chloris, the Greek goddess of flowers, photo by Paige Green

Betany swiftly and deeply fell entranced with how stunning and heartbreakingly gorgeous locally grown flowers are.

For 18 months, she co-owned Chica Bloom Farm, acting as the lead designer and wedding coordinator.

She especially loved getting to know her community through delivering weekly flower CSA bouquets.

In the winter of 2014, Betany launched Chloris Floral. The namesake Chloris perfectly combines her two artistic endeavors, classical singing and floral design.

Not only is Chloris the Greek goddess of flowers, she is also the heroine of Betany’s favorite French art song, “A Chloris,” by Reynaldo Hahn.

This song has special meaning because it was performed by a dear friend at Betany’s wedding to her husband Joseph. Now part of Betany’s repertoire, she continues to perform A Chloris.

A Chloris Floral spring bouquet inspired by Vivaldi's Spring Concerto from The Four Seasons

A Chloris Floral spring bouquet inspired by Vivaldi’s Spring Concerto from The Four Seasons

Betany and her floral arrangement, Inspired by Debussy's symphonic work- La Mer

Betany and her floral arrangement, Inspired by Debussy’s symphonic work- La Mer

Chloris Floral is a flower design studio in Sonoma County committed to using 100% local and seasonal blooms grown using organic practices. By supporting and building upon the strength of the local farming community, Chloris ensures the availability of fresh, locally grown blooms necessary to create achingly beautiful old world designs.

A little bit country: flower farmer, Lennie Larkin

A little bit country: flower farmer, Lennie Larkin

A lush B-Side bouquet, by Lennie Larkin.

A lush B-Side bouquet, by Lennie Larkin.

In her “day job,” Lennie Larkin is the community farm manager at Petaluma Bounty, a nonprofit community farm that  works to create a healthy and sustainable food system for everyone in Petaluma, California.

At Petaluma Bounty, Lennie grows lots of vegetables and a seriously beautiful patch of flowers that are sold locally, including at farmers’ markets.

She will share her story, so I don’t want to give too much away, but let me quickly introduce Lennie’s new flower farming business, B-Side Farm.

B-Side Beauty, by Lennie Larkin

B-Side Beauty, by Lennie Larkin

She describes B-Side as a small, bustling flower farm that grew out of her obsession with fragrant blossoms.

It sits on a fertile piece of land in the rolling hills of Petaluma, in the southern pocket of Sonoma County, California. From show-stopping dahlias to rare foliages and simple herbs, B-Side specializes in favorite old-fashioned flowers, picked daily and bursting with dreamy scents.

Lennie’s flowers and arrangement supply a family of local-minded florists and specialty stores in Petaluma, San Francisco, and Oakland, and she welcomes orders of loose flowers and specialty arrangements for pickup straight from the farm. Read Lennie’s extended bio from her new web site.

NBflowercollectiveLennie and Betany are founding members of the North Bay Flower Collective, a group of flower farmers and floral designers in the North SF Bay Area.

I love the motivation that led to the formation of the North Bay Flower Collective: To lean on each other for support and pull our resources together to build a flower growers’ alliance helping each farmer and florist to grow and thrive. 

Here are the links to Betany’s social sites for Chloris, to Lennie’s social sites for B-Side and to the North Bay Flower Collective.

You’ll want to follow these talented individuals and watch how their coming design season unfolds:

Find Betany here:

Chloris Floral on Facebook

Chloris Floral on Instagram

Chloris Floral Web Site

Find Lennie here:

B-Side Farm on Facebook

B-Side Farm on Instagram

B-Side Farm Web Site

Thank you so much for joining me this week and please return again, as I continue to share insightful and educational episodes recorded exclusively for the Slow Flowers Podcast.

Listeners like you have downloaded the podcast more than 42,000 times. Until next week please 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 Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at