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Local flower farmer on cutting edge of floral industry

By on September 11, 2017
Dana Dore-Hadad of Spencerport, poses next to rows of zinnias growing at her cut-flower farm, Chicory Blue Gardens. K. Gabalski photo

Dana Dore-Hadad of Spencerport, poses next to rows of zinnias growing at her cut-flower farm, Chicory Blue Gardens. K. Gabalski photo

Monarch butterflies flutter, hummingbirds dance and happy bees buzz over the rows and rows of colorful flower blooms at Chicory Blue Gardens in Spencerport.  The cut flower farm gently hugs the south bank of the Erie Canal just east of the village with fields of perennial and annual flowers, herbs and foliage including snapdragons, zinnias, sunflowers and ornamental grasses.

Dana Dore-Hadad began the business nine years ago on just one-quarter acre of land.  Today, she rents two acres for flower growing on farmland owned by Homesteads for Hope.

The flower farm is the manifestation of a life-long dream for Dana. “I was a plant science major who always wanted to grow flowers,” she says. “When the kids got old enough, I decided it was time to give it a try.”

The name Chicory Blue Gardens is derived from Dana’s favorite wildflower -Chickory.  “It grows wild along the side of the roads in New York, it’s very beautiful,” she says.

Chicory Blue Gardens sells flowers each week during the growing season at the Brighton Farmers Market – held Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Brighton High School.

In late summer and early fall, the gardens are alive with color as the annual flowers reach their peak. Chicory Blue Gardens grows a long list of annual and perennial flowers, foliage plants and herbs for bouquets including sunflowers, dahlias, scabiosa, gypsophila, amaranth, cosmos zinnias, tansy and basil. K. Gabalski photo

In late summer and early fall, the gardens are alive with color as the annual flowers reach their peak. Chicory Blue Gardens grows a long list of annual and perennial flowers, foliage plants and herbs for bouquets including sunflowers, dahlias, scabiosa, gypsophila, amaranth, cosmos zinnias, tansy and basil. K. Gabalski photo

Dana also sells flowers for weddings and special events.  Her blooms can be found at local supermarkets and she offers a flower CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which runs from June until Labor Day.

The floral design aspect of the business developed naturally from the growing aspect of the business, Dana says. She has studied floral design and continues to hone her skills on a regular basis to stay on top of current trends.

Dana also works to stay on top of trends in the cut flower market itself. “I try to look for something that will catch a person’s eye,” she says. “Right now that might be bi-color or red sunflowers. I find that what I like other people like.”

Professional organizations such as the Association of Speciality Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG) are helpful as well, Dana adds.

When Dana first began growing flowers to sell, “there were only a handful,” of other farmers doing the same. Today, flower farming is growing in popularity, especially with the “slow flower” movement spear-headed by Debra Prinzing’s book Slow Flowers.  The movement promotes consumers making a conscious choice in their cut flower purchases to buy domestic, local blooms.

“It goes hand-in-hand with the local food movement,” Dana says.  “Eighty percent of cut flowers come from South America.”

Flower farming and the buy local movement have also gotten the attention of Congress. In 2014, the bi-partisan Congressional Cut Flower Caucus was formed to address the issues faced by cut flower growers across the United States, Dana explains.

Growers across New York State are also recognizing the importantance of locally grown cut flowers. Dana says she will be attending the 2018 Empire State Producers Expo which will be held in Syracuse in January. For the first time, the Expo will feature whole-day sessions on flower farming.

She says growing cut flowers is not easy, but very rewarding.  “Flower farming is really hard, like gardening on steroids,” she says. However, “I love growing flowers because they bring joy and peace of mind to people.”

Cheery, yellow sunflowers are ready for cutting. The last planting of sunflowers was completed in late August. The blooms will be ready for fall bouquets in October. K. Gabalski photo

Cheery, yellow sunflowers are ready for cutting. The last planting of sunflowers was completed in late August. The blooms will be ready for fall bouquets in October. K. Gabalski photo

Growing flowers has also facilitated meeting many interesting and kind people including both customers and fellow flower farmers. “You never stop learning,” Dana observes. Local growers, “all try to help each other with advice and support during times of bad weather and insect or disease pressure,” she says. “Many of us grow flowers for farmers markets, weddings and wholesale to florists.”

Chicory Blue Gardens follows organic growing practices, Dana explains, which means bees, butterflies and birds can safely enjoy the farm. It also means customers can use edible flowers for cooking and garnishing food and cancer patients on chemotherapy can enjoy her bouquets.

Dana says she foresees growing flowers for many years to come. Chicory Blue Gardens is always working to extend their harvest season and their floral offerings, she explains. This year, roses are available, and utilizing high tunnels in the future would also help to extend the farm’s season, she says.

For more information, contact Dana at chicorybluegardens@gmail.com. Website: www.chicoryblue.com;  Instagram:  flowersat.chicorybluegardens; Facebook:  chicorybluegardens.facebook.com.

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