On an anomaly of a beautiful day this February a group of 33 flower growers braved the flooded roads of Yolo County to come to Full Belly Farm for the 1st annual impromptu Northern California Cut Flower Growers meeting. 30 woman and 3 men talked flowers for 3 hours and then went on a tour of the Full Belly flower fields. My daughter Hannah and I organized this special meeting with a little bit of self-interest we must confess. We wanted to share stories, learn varieties and hear what works for other growers in our region – trying to break from the all-too-common mold of “farmer secrecy.” We were not disappointed! We learned about new greenery species that we should try, how to pinch carnations, a few must try rose varieties specific for cut flowers and a host of flower growing tips. We had farmers with just a few years under their belts and others who have grown flowers for several decades. In return for all of these great tips we shared everything that we have learned over the past 30 years of growing flowers at Full Belly. What a treat it was to listen and learn from others about favorite flower varieties, time of planting and woes of weather. We all departed feeling ready and excited about the spring to come and definitely wanting to do another gathering in the fall!
Full Belly Farm flower fields have been gracing the farm since our beginnings but really started ramping up in size about 15 years ago when we began our flower offerings for our CSA customers and delivering flowers to retail stores. We now have expanded to 12 acres of cut flowers grown during the course of a year with over 50 different species planted. Last year we picked over 40,000 bunches… Our biggest producer by far is the glorious sunflower, which we plant successively every 10 days from February to August, ensuring a constant supply. Last year we even harvested them the day before Thanksgiving!
We have two distinct planting seasons for the flowers: fall is when all of the spring flowering seeds and bulbs are put in – tulips, anemones, ranunculus, irises and a host of other varieties – planted in the cooler days of October to brave the elements for the next four months. This year those little seeds and plants endured 40 inches of rain and temperatures dipping into the mid twenties. But like clockwork they have rallied into gorgeous blooms which we are now picking and bunching. Our other planting season begins in early March with 100’s of flats in the greenhouse ready to go out as the weather warms up and the risk of frost declines. Direct seeding in the ground with a precision planter starts now in earnest as well as we focus on the summer flower planting of marigolds, zinnias, cosmos and scores of other heat loving flowers. We will pick thousands and thousands of bunches before the summer ends making glorious mixed bouquets.
Every year we try new varieties to add to our ever growing mix and this year is no exception. We have added a new rose veronica, several new cosmos and amaranths and have planted over 50 eucalyptus seedlings to branch out on our greenery in the bouquets. Several years ago we added 40 new lilacs which should be popping their scented heads into the bouquets soon as well. Over a thousand gladiolus have just arrived in the mail this past week so that shall keep us busy in the coming week with planting!
CSA members are invited to join our flowers CSA which runs from April 1 through September 30th. Every week we will deliver a lovely bunch of certified organic flowers to you so that your tables and bedside stands can be graced with them. The bouquets will be picked the day before your delivery so that they are as fresh as can be. Some weeks there will be mixed bouquets and others there will be stems of all one variety. You can be assured that they are local and grown with lots of love.
If you order for the entire season, the bouquets are $8 each ($208 for 26 bunches). Saturday sites have an extra week of flowers this year ($216 for 27 weeks). Otherwise, the flowers are $8.50/ bunch ($34 for a 4-week order).