Consciously grown, harvested with heart
By Liz Hansen
I don’t think anything could better symbolize the complex eloquence of nature than the intricate beauty of a flower. Of the 270,000 or so species found on the planet today, we’ve managed to incorporate flowers into our everyday lives in countless ways. Arrangements are just the tip of the iceberg. We use them for a variety of cultural and ceremonial uses, from dyes to fragrances, spices to bouquets, and though many might wonder why it would be important to add flowers to your locavore list, we’re set on convincing you that it’s the best way to go. Local flowers are just as beneficial as your local foods and other goods. Celeste Monke, farmer, florist, and owner of Free Range Flowers, is here to tell us exactly why local flowers are so important!
Her farm is one that flower lovers like me fantasize about. Rows upon rows of colorful, fragrant flowers ranging in all varieties, nestled against a picturesque backdrop. The flowers that are grown here are mostly for their aesthetic appeal, but many varieties have multiple uses that could double as medicinal or edible ingredients. Celeste is both a farmer and florist and has run Free Range Flowers, an eight-acre flower farm on the outskirts of Bellingham, with her partner Jay Roelof for the past three years. She is a wealth of information, and in a Country where over 80% of cut flowers are imported, she understands why prioritizing locally grown flowers is new to many folks.
Buying from local growers like Celeste you contribute to a farm that is centered around sustainability, community, and quality. Your dollars go toward supporting a farm that is dedicated to running a healthy, and productive farm that also produces a long-lasting, high-quality product. Flowers can be grown perennially, eliminating the need for replanting season after season, and thus the necessity of heavy machinery that can be a hindrance towards soil ecology, water flow, and small animal habitats. With a background in horticulture, Celeste and her partner Jay focus on growing practices that are gentle on the environment.
One of the coolest things about Free Range Flowers, is they don’t need to use pesticides. Simply put, Celeste doesn’t have a pest problem. The fact of the matter is, the numerous plant species that exist on Celeste’s flower farm create a harmonious system of balanced insect populations. “We grow so many different species, it helps keep it biodiverse,” says Celeste. Which means, the more organisms there are in an ecosystem, the more it is able to keep itself in check. Therefore, in this type of agricultural environment, pests are no longer considered pests, but rather food for other insects that provide the provisions flowers need to thrive. Thus, eliminating the need for farmers, workers and consumers to be exposed to any kind of pesticide. Additionally, local flowers don’t travel for days on end from one side of the globe to the other, so there’s no need for weird preservative chemicals or dyes. “That’s some pretty gross stuff to sniff”, says Celeste, and I wholeheartedly agree. Free Range Flowers are beautiful all on their own, without chemical intervention, and will still look fresh and bright for days or even weeks to come.
Free Range Flowers also gives Celeste and her customers a great deal of autonomy. How many florists will let you choose the flowers for your arrangement directly from the field? You can even ‘pre-order’ flowers in advance, and she’ll grow them with care, just for you and your special occasion. Keep in mind, it might take a whole year or more to grow some flower varieties and it’s worth planning ahead. You may also be surprised to know, that even while the fields are covered in snow, Celeste still has product for you during the holiday season. November is the month for mums, and in December, Celeste will have a selection of beautifully dried flowers and wreaths, along with potted amaryllis and paperwhites. You can order custom garland and wreaths by emailing Celeste or purchasing one ready made at the Commercial Street Night Market on December 21st.
So, the next time you’re thinking about picking up a bouquet for your honey, grab them something that will keep their noses and hearts happy. Local flowers are where it’s at!