The Floral Field Trip was born from an idea of connecting America’s flower farmers with professional floral designers. As designers, Kelly Shore and Mary Kate Kinnane know there is a rich opportunity to highlight each region’s most beautiful flowers and foliages year round. To them, seasonality happens throughout the country, 365 days, 12 months-a- year. They believe that there is always something blooming, but without the knowledge of each region’s growing pattern, they and their fellow floral designers are left to source what grows seasonally in their own region while admiring different parts of the United States from afar!
The women created The Floral Field Trip to share their favorite flower farm sources with their peers. Slow Flowers has signed on as a sponsor of the event and we invited Kelly and Mary Kate to share more details here, in a Q&A format:
Mary Kate, can you discuss your journey as a pioneering Slow Flowers designer — and what you’ve learned about local sourcing?
My journey started as a child when I was immersed in the gardening world through my family’s landscape business. I spent many hours in gardens learning what seasonality looked like in New England and quickly had my favorite list of perennials and annuals that I loved! In college, when I had my first job with a wedding floral designer, my eyes were opened to where flowers were being sourced from and what that looked like in terms of designing for wedding clients.
When I started The Local Bouquet back in 2013 I knew that I wanted to design with 100% American-grown flowers and foliage year round. I wanted to offer my clients a more sustainable and seasonal product that would represent the time of year and the region they were choosing for their wedding. I also wanted to support all of the talented flower farmers both locally and nationally with the money that my clients were investing into their flowers while offering those same clients the best product possible in return!
A lot of what our mission represents is education in that we are always teaching people about seasonality and sustainability whether it’s a bridal client or an attendee who comes to one of our classes. I love sharing the beauty that is right in our backyard and giving people the confidence to explore what seasonality means to them wherever they live!
Kelly, talk about how you were influenced to shift your sourcing practices.
I was influenced in shifting my sourcing practices through my experiences and interactions with flower farmers at my weekly farmers’ market 8 years ago. Through those relationships and experiences working with them on Field to Vase dinners for the community I began to see all that I could source from them for my weddings. It was a slow transition as I was unsure of what was available seasonally and how that could work in wedding designs. What really was a turning point for me was doing my first experiential learning project – Four Seasons of Flowers.
It was through this project that I committed myself to learning how I could make this a real focus in my business. I spent a year learning what grew locally and forced myself to design differently and think outside the traditional box versus how I was trained. I started seeing flowers and foliage differently and allowing myself to explore with new varieties that I had never considered – such as poinsettias in winter as a focal flower. From this project the passion grew and I began to realize that there were flower farms across the country who could offer flowers and foliage throughout the year. Connecting one-on-one with these farmers and learning about their businesses only strengthened my desire to support U.S. floral agriculture.
Why did you decide to collaborate on a new business together?
We met in 2014 and had an instant bond and friendship over being young mothers and entrepreneurs. We also had a mutual passion for sourcing from our local farmers. Through the years we’ve mentored each other as our businesses have grown and as our sourcing practices have expanded across the country. We have partnered on various projects over the last two years and realized that we make a great team. We both had a desire to connect our peers with flower farmers across the country and teach them to source confidently like we do. We balance each other and bring different strengths to the table and just felt that the timing was right in our own journeys and businesses and that we had to jump on this opportunity to empower others. There is a need out there from our peers and we felt the calling to answer it.
Who is The Floral Field Trip created for?
Professional floral designers who are looking to make changes in the way that they source. We are not expecting anyone to go 100% American-grown. But what we do want to do is give our attendees the confidence and resources to see what is available and how it can fit into your business model. Even if everyone makes a 1% change in the way that they source it will only strengthen the flower farming industry and create more growth and opportunity for everyone.
What do you hope to change in the floral marketplace by offering this series?
We hope that it opens up doors to more resources and awareness about the availability of flowers and foliage year-round for designers. We are not looking to cut anyone out of the chain but we also know that we have to be our own advocates for change. If your wholesaler is not bringing in local or American-grown floral product and you don’t have local flower farms near you, then you need to connect with farms across the country who are willing to ship to you. We think this will encourage wholesalers to increase their sourcing from America’s flower farms and we hope to give flower farmers the confidence to grow and ship more when they see that there is a community of designers willing to buy their products. We just want to create an avenue that gives designers the confidence and knowledge to buy the products they want to buy without constraints.
What are the unique facets of the experience?
We’ve created a full-immersion experience – very hands-on. We will spend two days on a flower farm with a focus on a primary crop craved by designers. We’ve chosen Vermont and hydrangeas as our first trip focus — because hydrangeas are a huge part of wedding work and a incredibly important to designers. We want to show how you can use American-grown hydrangeas and all the varieties available from our host farm. We will learn how and what varieties are grown, learn and experience harvesting the flowers, see how these stems are shipped and what to expect when we receive their product.
We’ll also hear the farmer’s story and learn their “why” for growing. It’s not often that designers and flower farmers have the opportunity to get to the heart of issues and learn how we can all work toward change. Real growth happens when we stop to listen and learn from one another.
We also provide the opportunity for designers to design with flowers and foliage from that farm so that they can connect even deeper. No design techniques will be taught – it’s just an opportunity to create to create. We will also, in Vermont, create a foam free ceremony structure using only hydrangea and fall foliage – but it will be a collaborative effort. It’s a challenging practice to learn to work as a team – not always easy but it strengthens community and opens our eyes to be cognizant of different ways to learn and grow.
There will also be breakout sessions where we discuss how to talk with clients about how you source and what does that mean for your business flow and bottom line.
What does the future look like beyond 2019?
Next year we have two trips in the works and hope to add a third. We want to go to every region in the U.S. and to farm that offer a primary floral crop or a wide selection to designers. Our ideal attendee is one who continues the journey with us on all the trips to build their personal directory of resources.
What else do you want to share as encouragement?
We have a sale going on until midnight tomorrow (Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2019) with a $250 registration discount. The ticket price includes your stay on an organic family farm in a yurt village and three locally-sourced and chef-prepared meals each day. We do offer a payment plan of two installments.