Debra Prinzing

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Episode 296: The Farm-to-Florist Wholesale Story Continues in Montana and North Carolina

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Local flowers grown and designed by Kelly Morrison, co-founder of Piedmont Wholesale Flowers. (c) Kissick Weddings

Many of you feel that pull — the desire to come together with like-minded Slow Flowers folks and create community, cooperation — and commerce — around local flowers. It’s a powerful urge, and I’ve been fortunate to observe and come alongside individuals all around N. American who are making something happen as a response to that pull.

Some of the ideas I’ve been tracking in my annual Slow Flowers Floral Insights and Industry Forecasts, since our first report in 2015, embody these themes. I just shared my thoughts about this with a group of Michigan flower farmers who are exploring a new wholesale model, so the timing is ideal given today’s podcast topic.

Fresh, local, and seasonal flowers at Piedmont Wholesale Flowers © Ali Donnelly

If you haven’t noticed, I’m here to tell you: New, Farmer-Driven Wholesale Hubs are meeting the growing demand for local, seasonal and sustainable flowers coast to coast.

On the heels of recent podcast episodes featuring an update about the Sonoma Flower Market’s second year and the new Twin Cities Flower Exchange’s launch (featured in Episode 290) and the episode celebrating the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market’s successful 6th Anniversary (featured in Episode 294), today I am delighted to introduce you to two emerging wholesale flower hubs, run by flower farmers and tailored to their floral customers. Both flower farmers are Slow Flowers members and I’m delighted to share their stories with you.

Kelly Morrison, co-founder of Piedmont Wholesale Flowers

First, meet Kelly Morrison of Color Fields Farm and the new Piedmont Wholesale Flower Market, based in Durham, N.C. Our interview is followed by my recent conversation with Carly Jenkins of Killing Frost Farm and the Westside Flower Market in Missoula, Montanta.

These conversations really underscore the following themes I’ve been tracking in my annual forecasts:

  1. Cooperation and community – this idea needs no explanation other than to say, when flower farmers and floral designers convene, something explosive takes place – a harmonic convergence of nature and art, creativity and ingenuity. Wholesale hubs for local flowers foster that convergence.
  2. Micro regionalism – across North America, as farmers and florists form unique alliances for commerce, marketing and promotion, the net benefit means more local flowers available to more consumers.
  3. More farms selling direct – Flower farmers are increasingly taking power into their own hands to market their crops rather than abdicate to a wholesaler who may or may not represent their brands as they like.

And if you have any doubt about this cultural shift spreading far and wide, these two women’s stories will give you something exciting to consider, perhaps about your own marketplace.

I met Kelly Morrison in person when I traveled to the Triangle NC area last September as a guest of Jonathan and Megan Leiss of Spring Forth Farm and Maggie Smith of Pine State Flowers, where we held a mini version of the Slow Flowers Creative Workshop and had a blast designing with gorgeous locally-grown flowers.

So it has been wonderful to correspond with Kelly about what’s happened since — and that is the debut of a local wholesale flower cooperative instigated by Kelly and two other flower farmers, Jillian Mickens of Open Door Farm and Katy Thelen of Happy as a Coneflower Farm.

Here is a little more about Kelly: A first generation farmer, Kelly comes from a long line of southern gardeners going back as far as anyone can remember.  Plants and their stories are passed down in her family like heirloom jewelry or antique furniture. They are something to be shared. They have a history and a story to tell. They are intimately tied to their season. This connection to time and place drives Kelly’s work as both a farmer and a designer. Her goal is to bring the story and seasonality of flowers to her clients’ special event and also to their lives.


Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill: Slow Flowers on the Road

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016
Some of our group gathered in the flower field at Spring Forth Farm to grab a photo before dusk.

Some of our group gathered in the flower field at Spring Forth Farm to grab a photo before dusk.

Spring Forth Farm, owned by Jonathan and Megan Leiss, is a modern homestead, a small-acre flower farm, and a beautiful North Carolina gathering place for kindred spirits in the Slow Flowers Community.

I arrived in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area after already traveling for 10 days (Iowa, Pennyslvania, New Jersey and New York). So while I was exhausted, it took no time to be energized by conversations with new friends who grow flowers and design with those flowers.

Jonathan and Megan Leiss took the lead in hosting a Slow Flowers Meet-Up/potluck on their farm on Sunday, September 19th and we had a fantastic turnout of folks attending from across North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee! As you will meet Spring Forth Farm and its owners in a future Slow Flowers Podcast episode, I’ll save their story and photos for that episode’s show notes. We didn’t capture too many after-dark photos during the Meet-Up, but here are a few, pulled from various guest’s social media feeds.

Laura Dison of Green Door Gourmet in Nashville, Tennessee, posted this great image of our Meet-Up after dark.

Laura Dison of Green Door Gourmet in Nashville, Tennessee, posted this great image of our Meet-Up after dark.


Melissa Cipollone of Southern Drift Farm in Guyton, Georgia, added this Instagram post.

Hungry for community and connections, no one was disappointed. Dusk soon fell but the twinkling lights were just enough for us to gather underneath a quartet of pop-up market tents, lashed together to create one large pavilion for a circle of chairs.

Then . . . the rains came and we were treated to much-needed precipitation (from the farmers’ point of view) and quite a funny and wet experience that didn’t stop the conversation. But boy, was it hard to drive back to Durham in that weather (hat’s off to my wonderful hostess Katy Phillips, owner of Poesy Flower Farm, for her driving skills in the downstorm).

Thank you to everyone who attended the meet-up, for sharing your enthusiasm, your stories and your friendship. We witnessed important connections beginning . . . ones that will likely lead to a larger, super-regional Slow Flowers presence in other parts of the South.


On the following morning, the skies opened to blue and the sunshine came out — a perfect late summer day with temperatures in the mid-70s. The next part of my visit began with a Slow Flowers Creative Workshop planned by the core team behind our Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Meet-Up and hosted by Maggie Smith of Pine State Flowers. Maggie’s story will also be the subject of a future Slow Flowers Podcast, so stay tuned for that episode in the coming weeks. She owns a charming retail shop in a small building filled with character and history — can’t wait for you to learn more!

Stretching our floral vocabulary with a writing exercise!

Stretching our floral vocabulary with a writing exercise!

About 20 of us began the workshop with a mini-storytelling exercise to stimulate the way we describe flowers, foliage and botanicals — and to think about new ways of writing and blogging about what we create. Imagine taking a full-day workshop curriculum and boiling it down to 45 minutes! So I hope the participants were inspired enough to explore those ideas and exercises in the future.