This Summer has felt unusually wet. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re in the Prairies where the slightest increase in humidity makes everything instantly green and the mosquitoes explode, or if a handful of soggy market days has got me feeling waterlogged.
Despite all the rain, I love that we have set out to bike our flowers to market. This small act has sparked the imaginations of flower lovers from all over about what is possible when discussing sustainable flowers. I will admit, as I suited up for another wet ride to market this past weekend, dread cast its shadow on my journey. My muscles ached and my spirit was feeling drowned out. Pedalling to market once a week was not the only physical part of my work week. I am in the garden everyday, hauling compost, weeding beds, seeding successions, and feeding flowers, as well as, harvesting, conditioning and arranging market bunches. Each day I am grateful to have a healthy body that can do this work, and I intend to do it for as long as I can.
Like with any sort of workout, starting is really the hardest part. With my bike wagon filled up with the most spectacular blooms I could have ever hoped to have grown and my pump up playlist pounding in my ears. I depart towards the 124st. Grand Market, where we are consistently met with huge support from the community.
The weather has undoubtedly shaken my conviction this season, but with each market, I not only feel stronger in my ability to make this trek, but that the messaging is not falling short of my audience. There is something extra special about Peony season though, I really don’t think there can ever be enough, and our customers are excited that they get to enjoy them, locally grown.
Despite the short growing season and cold winters, people are realizing that there is another way to enjoy flowers here in Northern Alberta. We don’t need to rely on Ecuador, the United States, or even the coastal flowers of British Columbia. Our thriving flower farming community here can grow beautiful and decadent blooms without the environmental price tag of imports.
The receptiveness of our market bunches was not only encouraging but it also raised some questions, can I grow enough on my own to support this thriving demand on my 1/8 of an acre urban garden?
The reality is that I can’t meet the demand.
Enter Bryanna Yung of Bar OA Farms, a flower farmer on the east side of Edmonton who is also growing flowers in Sturgeon County, Alberta. We started collaborating this season with a couple collaborative buys of wholesale products for our farms. Right away I could see we clicked with our outlooks on the industry and how we run our own flower businesses. It didn’t take long for both of us to realize the strength that emerges with collaboration.
We have teamed up for some projects this summer, one of which is in the beginning stages of developing a Local Flower Co-Op. Currently we are still knee deep in the research stage, but this week when Bryanna mentioned she had a surplus of her locally grown flowers, a light bulb went off.
My flower cart is already trekking to market weekly, and I can’t grow enough to meet the demand. Just as my garden’s Peonies are tapering off, Jaq and Trudy’s Peonies in Red Deer are just starting to take off. As I wait patiently for my stem length to stretch on my Anemones, Bryanna’s garden is pumping out an elegant abundance of tall blooms.
It seemed like the only thing missing was the realization that we can expand our offerings from the hyper-local to the Alberta local. With a growing following for the bicycle powered flower wagon, and more so for the local flowers that ride along in it to market, there is no better place to test out this new collaborative effort.
This weekend we are going to be offering an ALBERTA SPECIAL BOUQUET! We hope that we can satisfy a bigger appetite for local blooms by expanding the network of growers who we source from. Will we see you at the market this Sunday?