Producer spotlight: Local, Salmon-Safe flowers at PCC

Sound Consumer | July 2013

Throughout the summer PCC is selling Salmon-Safe certified local flowers from a local floral cooperative.

"Local flower farmers understand what varieties grow best in their region, and in each season," says Diane Szukovathy of Jello Mold Farm, one of the co-op's founding members.

The Seattle Wholesale Growers Market cooperative began selling bunches and bouquets through PCC last year in a pilot program. In 2012 it was awarded U.S. Department of Agriculture funding that allowed all cooperative members to be assessed for Salmon-Safe certification. Now, 12 of the co-op's 16 members have achieved Salmon-Safe certification and all of their flowers sold at PCC are certified Salmon-Safe.

"I'm inspired by these entrepreneurial farmers determined to take on cheap, imported flowers with their profound ecological impact," says Dan Kent, executive director of Salmon-Safe. "We're thrilled to join PCC in helping tell the story that there's a sustainably produced alternative that's helping to support our local farmers and conserve Puget Sound streams."

Dan Pearson
Dan Pearson

Dan's Dahlias

Dan Pearson has been growing dahlias since he was 10 years old, selling them from the roadside of his family's dairy farm in Oakville, Wash. He used the proceeds to put himself through college and now, 25 years later, he's growing more than 600 varieties of dahlias. Sunflowers, asters, zinnias and more also are blossoming on his 4-acre Oakville farm.

The flowers are sustainably grown without chemicals or pesticides. Located in the heart of dairy farm country, the farm has easy access to organic fertilizer. Dahlias are relatively pest-free and Dan says he has no need to spray for insects or disease.

Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall
Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall

Jello Mold Farm

Szukovathy and her husband, Dennis Westphall, farm a 7-acre operation that grows field and hoop house annuals, perennials and woody crops in Skagit County. Their riverside land is certified Salmon-Safe and, like many co-op growers, they're committed to sustainable stewardship.

They set aside acreage for wildlife habitat, use compost to build healthy soil, minimize water usage with drip irrigation and mulching techniques, and recycle everything. 

The couple grows 150 to 200 kinds of flowers and is featured in "The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers," a book illustrating the emerging Slow Flower movement. (The book is available at PCC.)

Sarah and Steve Peabody
Sarah and Steve Peabody

Triple Wren Farms

Steve and Sarah Peabody started their farm smack in the middle of Sm'Apples U-Pick Orchard in Ferndale, Wash., just last year. They use sustainable, organic practices such as locally sourced composted manure for soil and natural pest control (including their hard-working poultry).

The farm thrived during its first year, with a diverse, sturdy sunflower crop at the core of its offerings and many other exciting floral "experiments." They now have flourishing pollenless sunflowers, woody ornamentals, and plenty of miscellaneous annuals and tubers.

Why buy local flowers?

Flowers are years behind food when it comes to consumer awareness about origin and growing practices. The same consumers who take care to buy organic, local food often are not aware of the impacts of monoculture and chemical use in the flower industry, or that most flowers are imported from far away.

Currently 80 percent of cut flowers sold in the United States are imported, primarily from South America. The cut flower industry has lost its incredible botanical diversity, reduced to 30 to 40 products that grow at the equator and survive shipment around the world. They carry a carbon footprint up to 16 times heavier than regionally produced flowers.

More about: co-op, flowers, Salmon-Safe, sustainability, sustainable seafood