Seeds of change: sustainable flower farms
From old-world roses to pretty peonies, Victoria’s slow flower movement is blooming.
Many of us are aware of the concept of food miles, but what about flower miles? Imported flowers are usually inexpensive, but they come with other costs including a sizeable carbon footprint. Federal Department of Agriculture figures reveal that more than nine million roses were shipped from Kenya to Australia in February last year.
In response, small flower farms in Victoria are banding together to promote the benefits of buying local, seasonal, bee-friendly flowers.
Husband-and-wife team Ashley Wren and Danielle White run Crofters Fold Estate, an artisanal, bee-friendly, micro flower farm in Pipers Creek, near Kyneton. Their blissful estate is home to Scottish Highland cows, Suffolk sheep, grape vines and rows of roses and peonies.
They were driven by a desire to “sow the seeds of a flower-farming renaissance” and are founding members of Consortium Botanicus, a collective of like-minded flower growers and florists from 16 farms in central Victoria. The group shares knowledge and promotes small-scale flower farming.
“The US and UK are a decade ahead of us in regards to the slow flower concept, so we’re trying to lead that movement from the Macedon Ranges,” Danielle says. “Just like with the slow food movement, we’re getting a message out to people that knowing the provenance of your flowers is important and we’re using the beauty of flowers to start that conversation.”
If you stop and watch Mother Nature, she gets it right most of the time.
Rich volcanic soil, cold winters and dry, warm summers make the Macedon Ranges ideal for growing perennials. Fragrant blooms aren’t just beautiful, they also attract bees that play a fundamental role in keeping the food chain healthy.
Growing what fits with the climate is a key philosophy that underpins Crofters Fold Estate. The farm’s old-world perfumed roses, peonies, and pinot grapes are grown without the use of pesticides, with companion planting and weed chipping (removal by hand) preferred over spraying.
“If you stop and watch Mother Nature, she gets it right most of the time. The lessons are there if you care to watch and see,” Danielle says.
The farm’s small size allows the couple to harvest immediately before sale instead of using energy-sapping cold storage and refrigerated vans. It also means they get to meet the people who buy their flowers. Small-batch sparkling wine is made from hand-harvested pinot noir grapes, too.