Cut-flower farms take root.
WRITTEN BY KELSEY FITZGERALD
PHOTOS BY JEN BRITTON
From left, Emma and Janey Chase, daughters of Jessica Chase.
Emma holds lilacs grown at Sierra Flower Farm
For Sheila Hlubucek of Drift Farm, her foray into cut-flower farming all began with peonies — and an urge to displace the invasive cheatgrass that had been creeping onto her property at the base of Mt. Rose in Reno.
Now entering her second official year as a farmer-florist (a cut-flower grower with skills in floral design), Hlubucek has expanded her peony patch into a full-fledged cut-flower farm. Throughout the warmer months, a large portion of her 2.5-acre property is checkered with hoop structures and outdoor garden beds of peonies, foxgloves, delphiniums, dianthuses, snapdragons, bachelor buttons, celosias, bupleurums, lisianthuses, and more.
“I’m growing things I never heard of a year ago when I started,” Hlubucek says.
Hlubucek, who runs a bouquet subscription service with her blooms, is one of a growing number of flower growers in the greater Reno-Tahoe region who have entered the industry in recent years. Others include the Sierra Flower Farm (Gardnerville), Prema Farm (Loyalton, Calif.), Bella Vista Farm (Minden), The Greenhouse Project (Carson City), and the Yellow Petal Flower Farm (Dayton) — all of which aim to provide fresh, locally grown cut flowers through farmers’ market stands, bouquet subscription services, arrangements for events, and cut-your-own flower patches.
Jessica Chase, co-owner of Sierra Flower Farm in Gardnerville
A “slow flower” movement is building, says Jessica Chase, farmer-florist and co-owner (with husband, Graham) of Sierra Flower Farm. The movement goes by many names — the local flower movement, the seasonal flower movement, the vase-to-table movement — but all place emphasis on providing (and buying) local and sustainably grown cut flowers.
“It’s taking off across the nation,” Chase says. “I think our area is one of the small holdouts left. I think that you’re going to see a lot of flower farms pop up around our area in the next few years.”
The U.S. cut-flower industry experienced a setback during the 1990s after passage of the Andean Trade Preference Act allowed for the tax-free import of cut flowers from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. The program was intended to provide these countries with alternatives to growing coca (used to produce cocaine), but it resulted in an influx of cheap cut flowers that have dominated U.S. markets ever since.
The trade agreement expired in 2013, and the domestic cut-flower industry has begun to organize and rebound, educating consumers through means such as a Certified American Grown label and connecting farmers through industry associations such as the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers.
Jessica Chase and daughter Emma pick ranunculus blooms
Blooms with benefits
Chase, who launched an urban flower farm in her 2,000-square-foot yard in 2016, has already experienced her share of challenges — a small growing space, wild weather patterns, and the general challenge of figuring everything out from scratch — but says that she is discovering hidden benefits to growing in Northern Nevada. The air, for one.
“It’s a dry climate, so a lot of plant diseases like powdery mildew, which more humid environments are prone to, we don’t have as badly,” Chase says.
Flowers can provide benefits to the farm as well. According to greenhouse manager Cory King of The Greenhouse Project and farmer Dana Reynolds of Prema Farm, whose farms primarily focus on vegetables, incorporating flowers into their offerings has helped all of the plants by attracting pollinators to the gardens.
Last but not least, many flower farmers agree that there’s something about being surrounded by flowers that is good for the soul. Kim Urso, owner of the Yellow Petal Flower Farm, which is now in its first season, was drawn to cut-flower farming after many years of working in the legal field.
“It was time to stop and smell the flowers,” Urso says. “Or, in my case, grow them.”
Several years ago, author Kelsey Fitzgerald and her husband grew flowers for their Reno wedding, with loads of help from her brother and his friends. A few rogue wedding sunflowers still pop up in their garden each summer.
Bella Vista Farm LLC
2685 Billy’s Road, Minden • 775-267-4318 • Bellavistafarmllc.com
Bouquets of dahlias and sunflowers are sold at the flower mart on the property, and cut-your-own bouquets are available in the Bella Vista Farm gardens.
Bouquet subscriptions and floral arrangements for small events are available at this Reno farm.
The Greenhouse Project
1111 N. Saliman Road, Carson City
775-600-9530 • Carsoncitygreenhouse.org
Bouquets are sold at the Downtown Carson City Farmers’ Market, and a cut-your-own flower patch can be found at the greenhouse.
1350 Long Valley Road, Loyalton
775-513-1518 • Premafarm.com
Bouquets are sold at The Village Market farmers’ market (on California Avenue in Reno), the Truckee Community Farmers’ Market, and the Incline Village Farmers’ Market.
Sierra Flower Farm
775-400-0507 • Sierraflowerfarm.com
This Gardnerville farm offers bouquet subscriptions and bouquet delivery; bouquets also are sold at the Downtown Carson City Farmers’ Market and Eddy Street Vintage Market in Gardnerville. Floral arrangements for events available.
Yellow Petal Flower Farm
775-721-1919 • Yellowpetalflowerfarm.com
Bouquets from this Dayton farm are sold at the Downtown Carson City Farmers’ Market; wholesale options are available for florists and events.