Cala Farm preserves tradition by growing flowers that honor the dead

As you enter the greenhouse at Cala Farm, the scent of cempasuchil hits you. A handful of the 1,000 potted plants already have flowers. But by mid-October, the 24-inch-tall plants will be in full bloom, sprouting flowers in orange, white, yellow, and even a combined red and orange blossom.

Cempasuchil, or marigolds, are the traditional flower that adorns altars on Día de Los Muertos on November 1 and 2. And these plants will adorn altars in homes, businesses, and even at the state capital in St. Paul.

It’s a late September day. And there’s a chill in the air. Rodrigo Cala, who, along with his family, owns Cala Farm, stands in the greenhouse among the plants. He began growing cempasuchil three years ago. That first year, he had 200 plants.

“That first year was to test the waters. To see if it would be accepted by the community and if it was feasible to grow marigolds here,” Cala said. The idea to grow cempasuchil wasn’t his, Cala said. It was another farmer, Elizabeth Montesinos. Currently, they are the only two who raise cempasuchil.

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