Flower Power

By JASON SUBIK

The Leader-Herald

FONDA – When Mackenzie Egelston arrives at the Jayflora Designs flower farm to pick up her bi-weekly bucket of fresh picked flowers, she tries to get there before most of the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture members have arrived.

“If you get there earlier when all of them are still out there, there are 30 or 40 bouquets just sitting there. There’s just like a huge area of beautiful flowers,” she said. “My favorites are the dahlias, but most of the time I have to say ‘oh my gosh, this one is really pretty, what is it’s name?’, because I really don’t know.”

For the second flower growing season in a row Jayflora Designs has operated a Community Supported Agriculture flower farm, in which members like Egelston pay an upfront membership fee for either four or six weeks worth of cut flowers, which they pick up at the farm on a bi-weekly basis during the season.

Jamie Sammons is the owner of Jayflora Designs, which she and her business partner/fiancee Jed Radcliff operate on a two-acre farm on Getman Road. Sammons, who graduated from SUNY Cobleskill in 2012 with a bachelors degree in horticulture, said she fell in love with growing flowers during an internship she had in college at Balet Flowers and Design in Malta. She said it was at Balet Flowers that she learned about which flowers grow well in New York state and under what conditions. She said she decided to start her own flower farm and to tap into the niche of producing flowers not typically found from florists who shop mainly from wholesale flower distributors.

“On my farm you’re going to see a lot of different flowers that you’ve never, ever seen before from a traditional florist because a lot of flowers don’t ship well. You don’t really see dahlia’s at like your grocery store and they’re beautiful,” she said. “I grow a lot of heirloom varieties, like chrysanthemums. Traditional florists will have chrysanthemums, like up the wall, but I grow some of the varieties that have kind of been dropped out because they don’t ship well or for whatever reason the wholesale florist didn’t like them, but they’re beautiful. That, to me, is unique, and I love growing them and people like it because they’ve never seen them before.”

Sammons began her business after college growing flowers on a plot of land at the Sand Flats Orchard and Greenhouse, where she had worked for 15 years. She said she started selling flowers at the Mohawk Harvest Cooperative and for weddings.

Egelston hired Sammons to do the flowers for her wedding, which was held in January, when fresh flowers aren’t growing.

“She did an awesome job planning way ahead. She collected a lot of stuff that dried really well. She is so creative that she was able to use a lot of stuff that was locally grown here. We just used dried flowers and it looked amazing,” Egelston said. “Everyone just freaked out about the flowers at our wedding. They were so different. She has this distinct way of designing. When I saw that she had the CSA I wanted to do it, because who wouldn’t want to have beautiful flowers every two weeks?”

Sammons said she decided to expand her business to include a CSA flower business as a means of providing her with some income during the winter months when she isn’t typically doing weddings.

“What [my CSA members] are getting is a gift certificate and a promise for the season for that year,” she said. “It basically helps me with all of my startup costs because I’m not getting very much income during the winters.”

To create the CSA Sammons said she did a lot of research online, including using the #slowflowers on social media websites like Instagram.

“All of the local growers in the United States are really pushing the local flower movement and they are just so giving with information. There’s a movement called slow flowers. It’s knowing where your flowers are from,” Sammons said.

For its first season Jayflora Designs had about 20 members for the CSA and about 40 this year.

But even as the business grows it still faces many of the same challenges of traditional farming.

“This whole season we had a potato leafhopper problem and they basically destroyed my dahlias. They are just now bouncing back. There are always challenges in farming. One year it could be really wet, another year it could be really dry. Last year was a good year, but you just never know. That’s farming. The CFA members know that they are going to get something, but it may not be what they’ve had previously because some flowers may just not do this season what they did last season, for whatever reason,” she said. “”It’s farming. Some people might think flower farming isn’t real farming but I am busting my hump sun up to sun down. I don’t come in until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. at night and just because I’m not walking in cow manure doesn’t mean I’m not farming. I am so passionate about it. It just does it for me. I fell in love with growing, with everything about it.”