Growing Seasonal and Sustainable Flowers at the Wegmans Organic Farm

At the Wegmans Organic Farm and Orchard in Canandaigua, New York, the grocer is committed to growing organically, and that extends beyond the fruit and vegetables they grow to include the more than 30 varieties of flowers that make up our farm floral program.

Each year, the flowers grown at the Wegmans organic farm are used to create beautiful, sustainably grown private brand Grower’s Choice Bouquets. The Wegmans Organic Farm and Orchard is the only certified organic grower in their store floral program, making the Grower’s Choice Bouquet unique in a number of ways. While most of the flowers and bouquets sold come from far away, all 20 stems that make up these bouquets are grown right at the organic farm and arrive at participating stores within 24 hours of harvest. Because the flowers travel such a short distance, the retailer is able to ship them without the use of preservatives and offer unique varieties that thrive in the region and aren’t commonly found at other florists. Through their commitment to growing organically and avoiding the use of artificial pesticides, the farm floral program gives back to our farm by helping to develop healthy soil and providing a haven for pollinator populations, an important component of every farm.

When it comes to designing and growing the Grower’s Choice Bouquet, nothing is left to chance. In fact, it all starts with a very intricate plan that begins with Organic Farm and Orchard Coordinator Jenna Iannucci, who works closely with our floral merchants to create the “ingredient list” for the bouquets.

“Once I have the color scheme from the merchant, selecting new cultivators is one of the best parts of the growing season. In the coldest, sleepiest months of the year, you get lost in the anticipation and limitless potential of cut flowers,” explains Jenna. “Colors, textures, shapes, height, drought tolerance, and productivity are all essential characteristics considered when selecting bouquet ingredients. Having the opportunity to explore new varieties each season and see the way they respond to the farm’s unique growing conditions and variables is pretty neat to witness and experience! Not everything goes to plan, but with every detour, comes knowledge and experience that is carried forward with you as a grower.”

This year, one of the focal flowers is dahlias, which are planted as tubers and bloom in a variety of shapes and colors. Because they are fragile, intricate blooms that don’t travel well over long distances, you don’t often find them in bouquets. The farm team grows a variety of perennials and annuals to build out the bouquet, including sunflowers, snapdragon, statice, sweet Annie, and shiso, to name a few. Growing so many different flower varieties is an excellent way to increase pollinator populations and create a healthy diversity of bees and insects, who do the important work of pollinating the flowers, along with the fruit and vegetable crops.

Once the ingredient list is set, the farm team maps out the growing plan for the season that will allow for 13 weeks of harvest from mid-July to October. For annuals, the growing season starts in January when the first seeds are sown in the high tunnels. The farm team uses succession planting, sowing seeds through the month of June to allow for the long harvest. In May and June, the beds in the annual fields are made and transplanting of the flowers from the high tunnels to the fields begins and continues throughout these two months. In addition to transplanting the flowers, the farm team plants red clover in the walkways of the annual flower beds to help manage weeds, while also adding nutrients back into the soil and reducing the need for tillage.

The perennial growing season starts in May, when the perennial fields are prepped with reusable landscape fabric to help control weeds and the perennial varieties start to return. Each year, the farm team continues to expand and evolve the floral program with a focus on increasing perennial planting. Not only does it eliminate the need to replant every year, but it also has positive impacts on the environment. The deep roots of the perennial plants enrich the soil and help prevent erosion. They also act as permanent ground cover, reducing the need for tillage that disrupts the soil structure, and helping to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

Starting in late-July, harvest begins, followed immediately by the processing of the flowers, which is done entirely by the farm floral team in the farm barn. To get the flowers ready for customers, the team cleans the stems, hydrates the flowers, and sorts them into piles by variety. They then select the 20 stems for the bouquet, and using a binder, trim the stems and tie the bouquets. The last step in the process is wrapping each bouquet in a new craft paper sleeve, which the team is using for the first time in the 2022 season as part of it’s focus on sustainable packaging. The new sleeve is 100% paper, with no additives or fillers, is recyclable and compostable, and takes the place of the two plastic sleeves previously used for wrapping the bouquets. Once wrapped, the bouquets are sent to participating Wegmans.

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By Published On: August 9th, 2022Tags:

About the Author: Christopher Durham

Christopher Durham is the president of the Velocity Institute. Prior to this he founded the groundbreaking site My Private Brand. He is the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He began his retail career building brands at Food Lion and Lowe’s Home Improvement. Durham has worked with retailers around the world, including Albertsons, Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro Canada. Durham has published seven definitive books on private brands, including Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project and Vanguard: Vintage Originals.