As the consumer trend toward buying local flourishes, a new wholesale flower co-op in Ann Arbor is aiming to expand that idea to include locally-grown flowers.
A group of 11 local flower growers banded together to create the Michigan Flower Growers' Cooperative, the only flower co-op in Michigan. Members host a wholesale market on Wednesdays for area florists and designers who would like to support local Michigan flower growers.
They launched their new co-op in July at Passionflower, a studio florist shop owned by Susan McLeary at 2401 S. Industrial Highway in Ann Arbor.
The three co-owners of the co-op are all farmers from the Ann Arbor area: Alex Cacciari of Seeley Farm, Trilby Becker of Sunseed Farm, and Amanda Maurmann of Gnome Grown Flower Farm. Maurmann also serves as market manager.
"We're lagging a little behind the local food movement, but it's the same intention," Maurmann says.
Maurmann says she hopes the co-op will inspire Ann Arbor-area consumers to consider the source of their flowers as they are increasingly doing with meat, eggs, and produce.
"People may see a flower stand at an airport stand and grab them without thinking twice about who grew those flowers," Maurmann says. "I'd love for people to start paying attention to where their flowers come from. If you see someone at the farmers market, for instance, selling a local bouquet, grab that instead of roses from Ecuador and you'll be contributing to Michigan's economy."
Maurmann says year-round production is not practical due to Michigan's climate, but the co-op hopes to expand its selling season next year by opening much earlier.
"We're aiming to get the biggest bang for our buck in the longest season possible," Maurmann says. "So next year, we plan to open in April with that first round of flowers that bloom in spring, like anemones."
The market takes a 30 percent commission on sales, but reducing the marketing and transportation costs for small farmers and providing them with a robust list of customers should mean that local flower farmers still come out ahead, Maurmann says.
Currently, about 20 buyers are showing up regularly at the Wednesday wholesale market, but Maurmann says that number grows by a few buyers each week.
Though this is the first flower co-op established in Michigan, Maurmann says she hopes it won't be the last.
"We hope that more will pop up," she says. "Michigan is a huge state, and third in the country for agricultural goods. I'd love it if other growers in Grand Rapids or Traverse [City] would start up their own flower co-ops."
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos courtesy of the Michigan Flower Growers' Cooperative.