Kellee Matsushita-Tseng, Emily Saeger, and Molly Culver, based in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and Brooklyn, respectively, found their initial paths to farming through an interest in growing food and local food systems.
Drawn to the physicality of the work, they all found that farming was also a meaningful way to engage with social and environmental justice issues important to them. As Emily describes, while some of our connection to agriculture has been lost, local and sustainable farming helps restore that relationship. “We still have a long way to go, but I think [as] we move back to hyper-localized food and flowers, it creates stronger ecosystems and communities.”
Molly’s farm work similarly grew out of a desire to “contribute to growing food systems that respected land and culture.” Sustainable agriculture works against extractive capitalism, helps to balance and enrich local ecosystems, and provides food security, among a myriad of other benefits. Meanwhile, it keeps regional cultures alive and builds community. “What I’ve seen in my years of farming is that people love to connect with farms and where their food comes from,” Molly says. “It is grounding, reassuring, and fulfilling.”
All three farmer-florists see issues of social and environmental justice as especially relevant to flower farming and the floral design industry. Through education and conversations with people in their lives, they aim to share knowledge about how flowers are produced and sourced. “The reality is that flowers are a huge industry [and] there’s a lot of waste in it,” Emily says.
“There’s also a lot of, I would say, harmful industry practices—especially in terms of workers’ rights.” Improving the floral industry as growers, designers, and consumers necessitates a cultural shift, in which we move away from disposable consumerism and decouple our relationship to the global extractive economy, Kellee says. “We have to think about the larger context of production,” which includes the social and environmental impacts connected to the cultivation and distribution of conventional flowers.