For Kelly Morrison of Color Fields Farm just outside of Durham, North Carolina, a passion for farming may have skipped a generation, but thanks to inspiration from her paternal grandparents (tobacco farmers) and her maternal grandparents (homesteader gardeners), Kelly has follow in the family’s footsteps of an earlier generation.
She studied environmental studies with a major focus on sustainable agriculture at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, and worked on farms around the area.
Shortly after graduating, Kelly moved to New York City and spent time working at Hilltop Hanover Farm and Queens County Farm, one of the oldest farms in the country.
According to Kelly, this is how she developed a keen understanding of proper gardening and harvesting practices -- first through vegetables and then through flowers -- equipping her with knowledge she uses now to run her own two-acre enterprise, Color Fields Farm, started in 2014.
Along with farming, Kelly also incorporates the flowers she grows to design wedding commissions. After receiving a copy of Debra Prinzing’s book The 50 Mile Bouquet, and learning about the Slow Flowers Community, she knew she was not alone in her endeavors, and related to the" slow food" message which translates to flowers.
With several other farms in her area, Kelly established the Piedmont Wholesale Flowers Cooperative, based on a model at the Seattle Wholesale Growers’ Market. The new cooperative is in its second full year of operations selling to clients around the Raleigh-Durham-Piedmont area.
At the Slow Flowers Summit, Kelly will talk about her experience building a “floral hub” in her community, one of three expertson a panel discussion, including Amanda Maurmann of Michigan Flower Growers Cooperative and Christine Hoffman of Twin Cities Flower Exchange. Our contributor, Mackenzie Nichols, caught up with Kelly to chat about her career in horticulture.
Q. Why have you chosen a career in horticulture?
A. It takes a lot of work and money to start farming, and you have to be a little crazy to stick with it. I worked for farmers before starting my own farm, and the passion is just in you. People have been gardening and farming in my family for generations. Even if I didn’t farm as a career, I would still be growing.
Q. What advice would you give to farmers who want to join or start their own cooperative?
A. Reach out to other people growing flowers in your area and reach out to florists. If there isn’t an interest (in establishing a flower cooperative), it can be hard to make happen. Also, invite flower farmers who have professional growing experience. A lot of us [at Piedmont Wholesale Flowers] are technically beginner farmers, but we’ve been doing this for three to five years and selling to florists. So, I suggest you set a standard of what you want to sell to florists, and make sure there is community interest.
Q. How has the Slow Flowers message influenced you personally?
A. I was just talking to another farmer about this. If it hadn’t been for Debra bringing this message to everyone’s consciousness, none of us would be doing this work. We’d still be selling sunflowers at the market. I can’t articulate how important she has been for farmers and in educating florists about locally grown flowers. She has made it so we can do this as a profession.
Q. What advice would you give to those interested in developing their careers in farming, arranging, and horticulture in general?
A. Invest the time working for farms. Work for a florist. You can learn and get paid to learn. For five years I worked on farms before starting my own. The more time you spend learning the craft, the better.
Q. What are some of your favorite flowers to grow and why?
A. I love hardy annuals. Spring is so hot and short here, so I plant foxglove and snaps in the fall. It looks like hell all winter, and around this time I start seeing small growth. I love foxglove always and forever.