Four women cultivate community with local blooms
On her third generation farmstead in Goodlettesville, Peggy Lynn Marchetti delights in the flowers and culinary herbs flourishing amid rows of heirloom vegetables. Trimming gomphrena stems in her work shed on Green Door Gourmet farm in West Nashville, Laura Dison takes in the view of an acre rowed with zinnias, sunflowers, celosia, and the new plot of dahlias. Tyler Skelton, Kate Burrows, and Carrie Wisinski, of Humble Flowers assemble bouquets for the farmers market in an old cinderblock building—once a welding shop, the vibrant blooms cut from their two fields in the Bells Bend community. Tallahassee May of Turnbull Creek Farm in Bon Aqua has as much affection for the ranunculus that she babies in the hoophouse as the wild Queen Ann’s Lace in her field.
Meet the Flowers Girls of middle Tennessee. While each of these women arrived at her vocation from a different path, they all share a similar devotion to the work. Called Field to Vase, its objectives and outcomes run parallel to Farm-to-Fork. By purchasing locally grown chemical-free flowers you contribute to the community in far-reaching ways. You help support the farmer, whose practices in turn rebuild the natural soil and population of pollinators. And the flowers themselves possess a beauty in rhythm with the season that brings joy.
Peggy Marchetti is the grand dame of local flowers. She grew up on a large conventional corn-and-soybean farm, which she claims taught her nothing about farming. It was in the farm’s kitchen garden where she learned how to grow flowers and vegetables. In 2000, she began farming organically. “We currently grow about 40 different types, colors and varieties. My favorite flowers are peonies, dianthus and delphinium...and who doesn’t love a great sunflower!”
For many years she sold her bouquets at area markets. Now, folks get her blooms as part of the CSA box. They also come to her Madison Creek Farm for the “U-Pick” experience. “We can see 100 -150 people on a Saturday cutting and putting together bouquets. Entire wedding parties come to the farm the day before their wedding to cut fresh flowers. They make it part of their celebration. “
Summers spent as a child on her grandparents’ farm instilled a love of farm life in Tallahassee (Tally) May. But it wasn’t until after her son was born that she heeded that inner call to become a farmer. In 2003, she quit her job as an elementary school teacher in Vermont. She and husband Kipp Krusa purchased land west of Nashville, and soon began farming organic vegetables and flowers. “I love growing both, though they have very different requirements and personalities,” Tally says. “Vegetable growers think of flowers as wimpy, which they definitely are not!” She began selling her bouquets (along with her veggies) through Fresh Harvest Co-op in 2005 and introduced her flower CSA a couple of years later. She’s become widely known for her floral work for green weddings and other special events.
“People are always blown away by the variety and the quality of my just picked, farm grown flowers,” Tally says. “They have a vibrancy, texture and smell that doesn’t happen with supermarket flowers. It’s like comparing a vine ripened tomato to one coming out of a can.”
What many people don’t realize is that 75% of those supermarket blooms come from Columbia, South America. From the time they are cut, packaged and shipped, two week weeks and 2500 miles pass: a staggering carbon footprint. And worse is the toll on the growers, who suffer low wages, and exposure to a barrage of toxic chemicals.
Concerns about chemical use are echoed by Nashville native Laura Dison of Green Door Gourmet whose pesticide-free plantings help the pollinators. “In the time we’ve been growing flowers here, we’ve seen a healthy increase in bees, butterflies and birds,” she says. Laura came to flower farming via unexpected life turns. While in college, she discovered her green thumb working for a landscaper. After graduation, (and unable to find a job in her field of Global Studies) she started with a green florist in Louisville KY who taught her about the art of arranging. Four years ago, she hired on at Green Door Gourmet, initially helping with produce. Her interest in flowers prompted owner Sylvia Ganier to expand operations, now an acre dedicated to domestic and native blooms, organically grown. These days, Laura oversees wholesale and retail sales.
“We sell by the bouquet or bucket, and have several restaurants participating in our CSA,” Laura says. “Field to Vase is really catching on. There’s a natural beauty that communicates a sense of place that people connect to. Brides are learning that they don’t need Baby’s Breath and tea roses.”
The ethos of land preservation through conscious farming practices, and the collaborative network of farmers in Bells Bend community are what lured Carrie, Kate, and Tyler into starting Humble Flowers. While their backgrounds are anchored in agriculture— none had imagined herself in the local flower-growing movement—they chose this niche in which to contribute. At first, Kate was unsure of its importance. “But then I got it. Beauty, and the happiness it brings.” Newest to the business, the trio has been operating since 2013. “We are learning as we go,” she continues. “We’ve gleaned so much wisdom and help from our community.”
They grow a range of perennials and annuals, with admiration for the workhorse flowers of the South- zinnias, celosia, and strawflowers, which can withstand heat and drought. Like the other “flower girls” they like to introduce aromatic herbs (such as flowering purple basil, lacy dill flowers) to their arrangements.
Carrie takes pleasure in the varying and fleeting nature of each season’s blooms. Tyler agrees. “I’ll be working in the rows of cosmos, marveling that these tall glorious plants started from a package of seeds. We think we understand how. That’s science. But there’s more to it. It’s magical.”
Green Door Flowers Laura Dison, flower Manager
7011 River Road Pike Nashville
16 week Flower CSA, Buckets of Blooms, Weddings and Special Events. Arrangements sold at Green Door’s on site market house
Humble Flowers Carrie Wisinski, Tyler Skelton, and Kate Burrows
5486 Old Hickory Blvd. Nashville
615-974-2161 | 262-573-8439
15 week Flower CSA. Bucket Share and Bouquet Share. Individual weekly pre-order pick-up at area farmers markets and Hey Rooster General Store. Weddings and Special Events.
Madison Creek Farms, Peggy Lynn Marchetti
1228 Willis Branch Road, Goodlettesville
Spring/Summer/Fall vegetable CSA includes flowers. U-Cut Flowers June-October. Weddings and other Special Events
Turnbull Creek Farm, Tallahassee May
566 Doug Hill Road, Bon Aqua | 931-623-0631
20 Week Flower CSA. Weekly Bouquets pre-ordered through Fresh Harvest Co-op. Green Weddings and Delightful Occasions.