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US (VA): Flower farming is making a comeback as gardeners grow a local niche

In the humid haze of an early summer morning, Ash Hobson Carr walks up and down rows of snapdragons and delphiniums, expertly snipping long stems of bright blooms. On the 6 acres in Highland Springs that she shares cooperatively with two other farming enterprises, Hobson Carr’s Hazel Witch Farm flower business is blooming.

So is Jenny and Paul Maloney’s Wind Haven Farm in King William County, where Jenny’s love of flowers went from a front-yard garden 10 years ago to a thriving wholesale flower business on an 11-acre farm with 7 acres in production. “When I first got into [the local wholesale flower market], there was just me and one other guy,” Jenny Maloney says. “Now there are a slew of people selling wholesale. It has exploded in the last 10 years.”

“We are constantly out there harvesting,” says Britton Barbee, who, with her husband, Walter, runs Prospect Hill Flower Farm, producing flowers on about 2 acres of an old cattle farm in Louisa County. “I was surprised at the demand.” From Bumpass to Williamsburg, from Mechanicsville to Powhatan, everything’s coming up… well, not roses, but dahlias, cosmos, and zinnias as flower farmers reclaim a beautiful business.

Once, flower farms in the United States were prolific, particularly in California. Then, in 1991, the U.S. implemented the Andean Trade Act, which removed tariffs for 13 years on South American agricultural products. The intent was to limit coca farming, the key ingredient in cocaine, in Colombia and create jobs in a country ravaged by civil war. The U.S. is still the world’s largest consumer of cut flowers. But now, most of those blooms come from Colombia. It’s the largest producer of cut flowers in the world, exporting more than 660 million stems in 2020.


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