[Editor’s note: The COVID-19 crisis may have temporarily closed many local businesses, including florists, but these flower farmers’ 2020 CSAs are open to subscribers. In fact, some farmers report an increased demand for their local, sustainably grown fresh-cut flowers. Before signing up, check each site for delivery options, which are subject to constant change.]
Before Dana Vargo could plant a single bulb or seedling in her Farmingdale yard, she had to remove old car parts, abandoned refrigerators, shards of glass and discarded bricks. “My garden used to be the area dump,” says Vargo. “Today,” she says, “it’s full of worms.”
Soon Vargo’s garden will be full of an eye-popping array of flowers—all raised without pesticides. The flowers will be destined for members of her club, Flowers From the Farm NJ. Members who sign up before the end of April will receive weekly or biweekly bouquets that might include parrot tulips, orange ranunculus and nigella in spring; calla lilies, annual caramel phlox and yarrow in summer; and heirloom mums, asparagus fern and dahlias before the first frost.
“Local flowers have become a bigger part of the whole movement of buying and eating local, supporting local farmers, and doing something good for the earth,” says Vargo, whose customer base has grown sevenfold since starting her flower club four years ago. Her bouquets cost $17–$24 each, depending on the subscription.
Often referred to as flower CSAs, these clubs are similar to their fruit-and-vegetable CSA counterparts. Both follow the community-supported agriculture model, whereby customers pay a flat fee before the growing season to receive produce from May through October.
The Garden State has at least 10 flower CSAs. No two are exactly alike. One might provide table-ready bouquets in vases, while another offers a bucket of flowers for customers to arrange themselves. Pickup is at the farm or at a farmers’ market grocery store or garden center. “You have to research a CSA to make sure you get what you want,” says Vargo.
Fresh-cut flowers purchased through a CSA connect members to the local environment, as well as to themselves. “People react to flowers,” she says. “They make even the grumpiest person smile.”