Flower Farm Cultivates Community and Imagination through Hands-on Classes
By Violet Stone
Over her 20+ years selling flowers at farmers markets in the Saratoga Springs, NY region, Barbara Jefts of Native Farm Flowers has seen many bright eyed customers admiring her wild and earthy arrangements. “I’d love to learn how to do that!” customers exclaimed as they peered closely at her unique creations. But although Barbara welcomed her customers out to the farm, its distant location from her urban markets made hosting formal workshops impractical.
That all changed in 2008 when Barbara relocated to a unique property under conservation easement just a few miles from downtown Saratoga Springs. With her new proximity to a large population center, Barbara began brainstorming creative ways to bring the community out to the farm.
The result is a colorful schedule of classes and workshops, designed with flexibility to serve adults and youth alike. For customers interested in recreating the beautiful bouquets they pick up at market, Barabara offers a crash course in “Fresh Flower Design”. The class is an introduction to the seasonal varieties of cut flowers, proper harvesting methods and conditioning, and principals of design and arrangement.
Other workshops focus on unique natural crafts. Attendees can explore the farm’s woodlands gathering materials for a Terrarium and take a bit of the forest home with them to watch grow. Ever heard of a “Hypertufa” Creation? Hypertufa is a type of manmade rock made from various aggregates bonded together using Portland cement. Yet another class offers the opportunity to experiment with hypertufa through creating a garden planter, birdbath or decorative accent.
For Barbara, who has been growing cut flowers for over 24 years, welcoming customers on to the farm for classes is simply an extension of her approach to farming. She has founded her business on maintaining friendly, personal relationships with her clientele. The flowers are sold directly to customers at the Saratoga, Troy and Schenectady Farmers Markets, and at the farm by appointment or chance throughout the year. Customers are always welcome to drop by the farm and check out growing methods or lend a hand. Barbara avoids the fees and paperwork required for the “Certified Organic” label, but grows in accordance with sustainable farming methods and strives to improve the health and ecological productivity of the land.
In uncertain economic times, Native Farm Flowers schedule of classes appears to be an ideal approach. The classes should help to diversify the farm’s customer base while enriching participant’s lives through cultivating community and imagination.
To learn more about Native Farm Flowers or to see the full schedule of 2010 workshops, visit www.nativefarmflowers.com
Violet Stone is a communications specialist with the Cornell Small Farms Program in Ithaca, NY. She may be reached at 607-255-9227 or firstname.lastname@example.org