I didn’t set out to be a flower farmer. In fact, the story of how we came to our farm starts with a fire. We had a fire on Friday the 13th of December, 2019, and were displaced from our home. It was shortly after this that we bought the little farm we call home today. Very soon after that Covid hit, and we were sequestered even more than ever on our little farm.
We have other careers in healthcare, but we have a passion for our Mother Earth and green growing things. Like so many during Covid, we needed something hopeful to focus on, and gardening is inherently hopeful. We started putting in a small orchard of apples, plums, peaches, pears and cherries, as well as berries and perennial veggies like asparagus and sunchokes.
As serendipity would have it, we came across the idea of flower farming. The Slow Flowers movement is following in the footsteps of the Slow Food movement. Farm to table. No chemicals. No (or minimal, thoughtful) tillage, to preserve the biodiversity of living soil. No planes, trains and large trucks to ship them in.
Local flower farms pick blooms at the best time for longest vase life and can grow varieties that you cannot get shipped in from around the world, because they don’t ship well, so the industrial farming complex cannot grow them. And also, many of the mass produced flowers shipped in from around the world to our supermarkets have had the scent either bred out of them or have been so long in shipping that it has dissipated.
There is a beautiful, wordless book called “The Flower Man” by Mark Ludy. I bought this book when I was pregnant with my son years ago. In it the artwork starts out black and white. When the Flower Man moves in, he grows a garden, and gives away a flower to a little girl, and color enters their world. And that beautiful act propagates and spreads joy to the entire community in the end.
We are a little island of country around which the city has grown, with a busy road on one side, and a paved walking path along the other, and apartments and houses all around. We want to create a place of beauty and sanctuary, and spread joy to our community.
Who’s your farmer?
Did I mention that we tied the knot on the farm? This is at our rehearsal.
We were sitting on our deck brainstorming, trying to think of a name that would encapsulate both of us, Joel and Deb, and the masculine and feminine within us both. Something a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll. Think Led Zeppelin, and Steel Magnolias. We were feeling a bit vulnerable after the fire and pandemic, and yet resilient and strong. Superimpose on this moment that my work family had just given me a beautiful outdoor artwork of metal butterflies of all different colors, as I have always had a special affinity for butterflies. And it just came to us, Iron Butterfly Flower Farm!
Immediately Joel started telling me about the band. A Google search also quickly turns up poetry and feminist writings, as well as military operations of the same name, among other things. There’s also a flower called Iron Butterfly, which grows in our zone, and blooms around our anniversary date, which we have of course planted! As we delved deeper into the connections between the name and our vision, we also learned that the popular song by Iron Butterfly, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, is actually an iteration of the phrase In the Garden of Eden. It seemed meant to be.
I soon after wrote this poem, not so much about our garden per se, but where we were at in life at that moment. House fire, pandemic, fear, hope.
I am the iron butterfly
Forged in the fire
Blood, sweat, and tears
See me for who I really am
Not what you assume me to be
I am strong
I am fierce
But I will not crawl on my belly any longer
I will meet my brothers and sisters in the garden
Where hope blossoms
And we will travel across continents on the winds of change
Spreading it like pollen
I am the iron butterfly.
Beyond growing flowers, we want to implement over time regenerative permaculture practices, such as water capture and management to minimize run off, solar, wind, less plastic (there’s a lot of plastic in farming as in life), composting, vegetable gardening, chickens in urban life, hardy native perennials to sequester carbon, feed the soil, benefit the pollinators, and bring in beneficial insects to deter pests in the garden like parasitic wasps, etc. We want to be an example and an inspiration for anyone interested.
Permaculture: Agriculture as a sustainable ecosystem. “The conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive systems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.” Bill Mollison
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