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US (NY): Long Island flower farmers serve a premium niche with colorful blooms

Flower farms once dotted Long Island like freckles. Local growers produced roses in glass greenhouses and populated acres with mums for cutting, the vase-bound flowers a major commodity in the region.

"That's completely vanished," said Krystyna Read, president of the Long Island Flower Growers Association, of the industry fallen victim to high production costs and rapid shipping of cheaper imports, primarily from year-round growers in South America. "Some people are growing some boutique roses, but there's not the mass production like there used to be on Long Island for roses and cut-flower mums." Instead, most large horticulture operations on the Island now produce bedding plants, perennials, and shrubs, leaving the cut-flower business to a growing number of small farmers who are passionate about producing specialty blooms for a niche, mostly high-end market.

Read's late grandfather, Edward Reckner began Reckner Greenhouses and Farms LLC in Melville as a vegetable farm in 1951 and transitioned to flower farming two decades later. Today, the business, run by Read and her brother, Alexander Reckner, still grows two acres of dahlias and another of assorted flowers "to maintain income during the summer and because it's a tradition in our family to grow them," she said. But the business has pivoted away from flowers, with its primary income coming from bedding plants and vegetable and herb plants.

Long Island "used to have ... back in the '70s and the '80s, a lot more [rose and cut-mum production] because there wasn't so much being brought in from South America," Read said. More than three-quarters of the cut flowers sold in the United States are imported, with Colombia by far the biggest producer, according to federal data.


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