Colorado flowers, almost ready for market . . .
The “report” about our recent Denver area trip was so packed with fun news to share that David encouraged me to break it into two blog posts. So here is the second installment of “Rocky Mountain Flowers” for your reading enjoyment.
Early on Saturday morning, we arrived at the Boulder Co. Farmer’s Market and met up with Chet and Kristy Anderson of The Fresh Herb Co. The Andersons had attended our lecture at the Denver Botanic Gardens earlier in the week, but this first-person visit to tour their growing and sales operations provided us with an important reminder: There really is a cultural shift going on in the way people consume flowers — and their demand for local, seasonal and sustainably-grown flowers is due in no small part to passionate individuals like Chet and Kristy and their commitment to flower farming.
We were greeted with broad smiles when we walked up to their stall and were promptly introduced to Chet’s mother, Belle, who has been handling farmer’s market sales from day one, twenty five years ago when Chet and a half dozen other growers first began the Boulder market. We chatted with them while they readied for the market’s opening and then, while Kristy and Belle took care of business at their stall we wandered the aisles with Chet (who, we observed, was treated almost like the unofficial mayor of the market), gaining introductions to numerous other vendors, sampling goods and meeting longtime customers in an early-morning, full market tour. Later, we accompanied Chet back to the 10-acre family farm in Longmont, where he and Kristy had agreed to host a group from the Denver Botanic Gardens on a flower farm tour — a follow-on to our talks earlier that week. We gladly tagged along, cameras and notebook in hand to watch and record yet another facet of this story unfolding.
Chet and Kristy meld their sustainable farming beliefs with smart business practices. They serve as a model for newer flower farmers who want to earn a living wage growing and selling ornamental crops to local customers. A native of Boulder, Chet was well down the path toward a Masters in Urban Planning when he discovered the writings of novelist and environmentalist Wendell Berry.
“I realized I didn’t want to be a pencil-neck,” Chet confides. “I wanted to be a farmer.”
An astute and avid foodie, Chet started The Fresh Herb Co. as a culinary herb source for local restaurants and chefs. In addition to growing herbs, for nearly seven years, Chet and Kristy also produced baby veggies and salad greens for high-end restaurants in Boulder, Denver and Longmont.
“Even when we specialized in herbs and salad greens, we always grew flowers to sell at the Boulder County Farmer’s Market,” Chet points out. When organic salad mixes became more “commercial food processing” and less “vegetable farming,” Chet divested that arm of the business and turned their focus to raising cut flowers. Today, perennials, annuals, ornamental woody plants, hanging baskets and culiary herb plants are raised on more than six of the Andersons’ 10 acres.
In addition, Chet and Kristy lease an 18-acre parcel nearby where they grow numerous varieties of sunflowers, zinnias and ornamental grasses to sell as cut bunches and bouquets. It’s their own little slice of Provence in Colorado! Oh, and there is also a 15,000-square-foot greenhouse that enables Chet to extend the farm’s growing season. We were wowed by rows of luscious lilies growing in the greenhouse; potted herb plants on tables and trays and thousands of seasonal hanging baskets overhead — all are given their early-spring start inside the sheltered setting.
Today, among other outlets, The Fresh Herb Co. sells herbs, flowers and bouquets to 30 Whole Foods stores in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Missouri and Kansas. If you happen to visit Boulder, take in the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market – the only Denver area market where growers are exclusively allowed to sell direct to the consumer. And buy a beautiful bunch of flowers, a mixed bouquet for your sweetheart, a bountiful hanging basket for your front porch or organic herb seedlings for your potager.