Michigan Flower Growers' Cooperative bursts forth with a riot of spring blooms
Members have seen demand skyrocket during the pandemic
Published in May, 2021
After a long cold winter, the sun has returned, and flowers have sprung up from the earth. The new life that the springtime brings serves as a reminder that even after the seemingly never-ending winter, there is hope for a fresh start. For the members of the Michigan Flower Growers' Cooperative, the first flowers of spring represent months of work and signal the start of the busy season.
MFGC was founded in 2016 in Ann Arbor by Amanda Maurman of Gnome Grown Flower Farm, Alex Cacciari of Seeley Farm, and Trilby MacDonald of Sunseed Farm who were looking for ways to break into the lucrative wholesale market. By banding together with other growers and aggregating their product in a weekly marketplace, the farmers were able to attract wholesale buyers who were looking for large quantities of high quality, distinctive flowers and foliages not found in other wholesale markets. The MFGC's seventeen grower members are from southeast Michigan and Northern Ohio, and deliver their freshly cut product to the Growing Hope marketplace early Wednesday mornings before the market opens. Registered wholesale buyers with a MFGC Buyers' Pass can shop during wholesale hours from 8-10:00 am, followed by retail hours from 10-12 p.m.
Adrianne Gammie has "worn just about every hat" since the MFGC's beginnings five years ago. Currently, Gammie is serving on the Operations Committee, where she helps with logistics and planning. However, Gammie is first and foremost a flower grower and designer dedicated to creating beauty and sharing it with her community. Gammie grows over 250 varieties of flowers at her farm Marilla Field and Flora. She has a soft spot for blue flowers, especially Tweedia. Small and star-shaped, "It's not a show-stopper, it's kind of a random flower," she says, "but I've put so much work into figuring out how to grow it because I love the color so much."
Before Gammie entered the flower growing business, she was a fruit farmer's daughter. She had
left the world of agriculture for a competitive career as a fashion designer, where she spent a decade traveling the world. After becoming pregnant, Gammie found herself out of a job. With a baby on the way and employers having reservations about hiring an expectant mother, Gammie landed a job in Toronto outside of the fashion industry as an assistant to an event designer. Through this career change, she was dismayed to discover "Some serious ecological sustainability issues in the floral industry, and growing things locally solves a lot of that." An astonishing 80% of the US's flowers are imported from Columbia and Ecuador. The reason for this: cocaine. The war on drugs fueled the floral industry in South America in the early 1990s when President George HW Bush's administration allocated billions to curb drug exports.
Gammie traded fashion design for floral design and quite literally got back to her roots. Taking a hands-on approach to creating a more sustainable route to farming, Marilla is a no-till farm, which helps to curb CO2 emissions and preserve healthy microorganisms in the soil, which support plant growth and resilience. "The no-till thing is the biggest thing I think you can do for the environment right now as a farmer," Gammie says."To sequester as much carbon as possible on your acreage and keep that from getting back into the atmosphere is really important for the planet."
The co-op offers resources and instruction to members about sustainable growing practices, as well as best practices for business and marketing. Their Instagram feed (@miflowercoop) offer a glimpse of what is available at that week's market. Ranunculus, tulips, and anemones are in season, with peonies and many other favorites on the way in June.
It's been a good year for local agriculture, and the floral market is no exception. "Global floral shortages are still pervasive," says Gammie, and "demand is still far outpacing even the local supply." The co-op's members are happily struggling to keep up.
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