US (VA): Local Flower Farms bring blooms to Virginia

Flowers are a blooming business here in Virginia, where local flower farms have proliferated by 80 percent over the past 20 years. Some call this bloom-boom the “slow flower” movement—a play on “slow food’s” know-your-farmer approach to eating. Others use the term “farm-to-vase” or “seed-to-centerpiece.” Either way, locally grown flowers are a growing field, pun intended.

You’ll spot them at farmers markets, where some growers offer weekly bouquet subscriptions. You can find them online through local collectives. Or you can pick up a basket and pick your own. At Burnside Farms in Nokesville, you can wander the fields, clippers in hand, then pay for your fragrant haul.

Burnside’s proprietors, Leslie and Michale Dawley, mother and son, are third and fourth-generation flower farmers, but growers today are as varied as their blooms. Some are retirees, tending suburban cutting gardens. Others hold full-time jobs and cultivate flowers on the side. Some growers supply grocers and wholesalers, others sell directly to floral designers, but most are happy to take your order, too.

The choices weren’t always this bountiful. Local flowers were steady contributors to Virginia’s economy through the 1980s. But flower farms all but vanished from the landscape as the War on Drugs escalated. In 1991, Congress enacted duty-free trade legislation, hoping to entice South American poppy growers to abandon the crop that fueled the drug trade. With this sweet deal, Congress sent a clear message to farmers in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru: plow under your poppies and grow cut flowers for the U.S. instead. In return, we’ll waive the import duty.


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