Flowers as Food

By: Larry Johnson

Many years ago I grew only vegetables in our family garden.  We wanted the food.  Flowers, I thought, were pretty but they just took up space in the garden.  Then I noticed my wife bought lots of flowers to decorate the house and our screened porch.

I was looking to start a farm-based enterprise as an income source.  Soon I was growing flowers for sale to individuals, florists, a grocery store, and a farmers’ market.  The flower farm started in Minnesota in 1999 and has expanded and continued for the past twelve years in Wisconsin.

yarrow-editedNow I see that flowers are “food for the soul”, both for me and for others who enjoy the pleasures of color, texture, and aroma.

People often believe that a flower farm must be gorgeously ablaze in color all of the time.  Actually, the opposite is true.  Flowers are picked at just the right time (partially open) to maximize longevity and pleasure for consumers.  A field filled with fully open flowers means the flowers weren’t sold and I’ve missed an income opportunity.

Still, some flowers remaining in the field are beneficial.  When we host events at the farm our guests get to walk the fields and enjoy the color and bees and hummingbirds have food.

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For some people, just seeing the flowers is not enough – they want to do some weeding!  At times “city folk” have volunteered to get dirty on their hands and knees to fulfill a need to connect with plants, soil, and weather.  They feel refreshed after a few hours of sweat and toil.  My tongue-in-check label for this activity is “extraction therapy”.  The volunteers extract weeds from my fields while they extract distractions from their souls.  Afterwards we provide a meal, are entertained with good conversation, and have fewer weeds.

Flowers, I’ve come to see, are food for the eye, nose, and, yes, the soul, too.