Flower-farm open house touts ‘local,’ sustainable

By Joshua Lim, The Columbus Dispatch, 6/29/15

In a straw hat and with the sleeves of his checkered shirt rolled up enough that you could see his tattoo of a dahlia, Steve Adams revealed his obsession in the sprawling field of some of the most beautiful blooms in Columbus.

About 100 people attended the open house at Adams’ Sunny Meadows Flower Farm on the East Side on Sunday to hear about how the sharpest-red and deepest-blue blooms rise from the farm.

The open house is part of an annual series of farmers events held by members of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

Renee Hunt, the association’s program director, said tours, workshops and open houses are held each year to give farmers and consumers a firsthand opportunity to learn different practices from a variety of farmers.

“People are sharing what they know so that that information can be taken and be used elsewhere and promote any successful farming practices,” she said.

Adams and his wife, Gretel, started their farm in 2007 because they were passionate about buying and selling locally made products, especially fresh flowers. They grow flowers for mixed-cut bouquets to sell at local farmers markets, to florists and for weddings and other occasions.

Growing flowers for people to give to loved ones to express joy, love, sadness and remorse is something the Adamses don’t take lightly. And they want people to share those emotions with local products.

“People are going to come and see what the other option is for flowers, to see why local flowers are just as important as local food,” Mr. Adams said. “We want people to be buying local flowers, whether they’re from us, or they’re from other growers.”

The U.S. cut-flower industry accounts for $7 billion to $8 billion in sales in a year, according to the Society of American Florists, but only a fraction of flowers come from local farms.

Imports make up 79 percent of the U.S. supply of cut flowers and greens, according to the California Cut Flower Commission.

Adams said flowers from foreign countries might have been sprayed with chemicals that are harmful to consumers.

“For us, sustainability is a farm that can continue to provide fresh quality flowers without synthetic fertilizers and chemical inputs,” he said.

Sunny Meadows does not use herbicides, and it uses compost as fertilizer, Mrs. Adams said. The farm also uses beneficial insects to control pests.

Eric Pawlowski, the association’s sustainable-agriculture educator, said he has benefited from the tours because farmers often provide tips that can make or break a crop of any size.

“It’s not so much the ‘how’ or the ‘do,’ but it’s the ‘what not to do,’  ” he said.

In addition to the annual farm open houses, the association has a number of farm tours and workshops, which started in June and will end in late October. More information is at www.oeffa.org.

Lindsey Baker, 32, a florist in Morrow, Ohio, said she was interested in learning from Adams because she started growing flowers this year.

“When you find out you can grow all this right here in Ohio, we should do a lot more of that,” Baker said. “You’re supporting the family, you’re supporting your local economy, and you’re cutting down on the energy to transport those flowers.”

Alwin Chan-Frederick, 36, said he was impressed by the farm’s sustainable practices.

“Supporting kinds of small businesses like theirs is important for the local community,” he said.