As a suburbanite whose wildest dreams, greatest fantasies, and everyday needs can be met within a 20-mile radius of where I eat/sleep/breathe, there is never any need to go beyond my comfortable bubble.
This all changed two weeks ago when I made the trek down to Willow Oak Flower and Herb Farm in Severn, MD (which turns out isn’t really a trek at all—more like an awesome opportunity to listen to “Call Me Maybe” 11 times in a row).
I was looking forward to learning more about this local, family run business for a number of reasons:
- Their dedication to the environment. At Willow Oak, they grow everything free of inorganic pesticides and herbicides. They use minimal amounts of commercial grade fertilizers to grow their flowers, and ALL vegetables and herbs are grown organically.
- Purchasing flowers grown locally versus flowers shipped from millions of miles away makes a supply chain cleaner and easier to trace.
- Willow Oak teach classes on how to garden effectively, organically, and sustainably (I love when a business has the “When you teach a man to fish…” mentality).
- They offer a range of fun and creative events, including some that are perfect for the reason I was looking for flowers in the first place: Mother’s Day! Check out the website for a chance to make up for that lovely finger painting you did as a kid (on the wall – oops) by making mom her very own arrangement AND a time to take her to a proper English Cream Tea (eating your veggies is more fun when they are in tiny cucumber sandwiches)
Maria founded the farm in 1979, after studying biology and Pharmacognosy. (You mean you didn’t know either that that’s the study of medicines from natural sources? Cool.) During her time in graduate school, Maria “worked with a lot of chemical solvents—[and has] a lot of experience with what chemicals can do to you physically if you work with them all day long. [She] remember[s] driving home one night and having double vision from working with ethyl acetate.” This scary experience helped cement the foundations of what her farm is all about: growing plants in a way that is beneficial to the environment and making them available to customers aiming to be more earth-friendly with their purchasing decisions.
During my visit, I learned that the majority of their plants are grown in Maryland—practically in my backyard. This means that only ethical labor contributes to this portion of their supply chain. During the winter months, however, they do outsource to a larger-scale supplier, ditto for when they order roses— meaning that their supply chain sometimes gets trickier to trace.
This is where YOU, as consumer, wield a lot of power. Ask yourself: Do I want to buy flowers when I don’t know where they are coming from? (See our convo with FTD for more on that!!) Or do you want to support your friendly grower the next county over? If you’re sending flowers during the winter months, do you REALLY need to send flowers that aren’t in season where you live? Or might an in-season option be just as lovely? We explore how to ensure your purchase doesn’t support bad practices elsewhere in this series…but if you decide to ditching the flowers sourced from thousands of miles away and buy locally, here are some great sources that will help with this process:
- The Flower Expert is a great resource if you are interested in finding out what flowers are in season near you.
- The Association of Specialty Cut Flowers offers an easy way to find flower farms close-by.
- Also--The 50 Mile Bouquet—offers some great information on ways to make flowers a part of your everyday life organically and locally.
Check out Maria holding flowers grown at Willow Oak. Her daughter, Heather Carr, created this arrangement right before I arrived.
GOOD LUCK, HAPPY PICKING, AND LOVE TO ALL THE MAMAS OUT THERE!