Native Poppy proudly partners with local, woman-owned flower farms to source sustainably-grown flowers – including our very own flower garden.
One of our longest-running grower partnerships is with Psalter Farms, a San-Diego based urban flower farmer who forms cooperative relationships with her neighbors to transform their yards into mini flower farms. We connected with Psalter Farms’ founder Rachel Nafis to learn more about her work.
Q: You specialize in growing flower varieties that are highly-coveted by high end florists. What’s your favorite bloom to grow?
Rachel: It’s difficult to choose a favorite flower (a bit like choosing a favorite child of mine, which would be impossible!) but if I have to choose, it would be dahlias. I find the beauty of dahlias with their ethereal bobbing heads to be incomparable, but they also hold a special place in the genesis of my flower farm. It’s after adding two rows of dahlias to our vegetable garden one fateful March that I fell in love with growing flowers and made the switch to flower farming.
Something very cool about dahlias is that they can come in an infinite number of shapes and colors because their seeds are each genetically different, like humans!
Q: What interested you most about flower farming when you first got started?
Rachel: Prior to flower farming, I grew vegetables for a small vegetable CSA. I was already captivated by farming and being intimately connected to the land as my occupation, but what drew me to flower farming in particular was the beauty of working with flowers.
Q: Tell us a bit about your growing methods! Are your flowers certified organic?
Rachel: Because I grow in my neighbors’ yards in multiple locations in my neighborhood, I am not able to be certified organic; however, my farming practices go far beyond the organic certification.
We use no chemical pesticides, and we practice no-till farming techniques that minimize disruption of the soil and cultivate a thriving network of fungi, bacteria, microorganisms, and other living creatures in our gardens.
Our focus is on doing no harm and gently guiding our gardens toward becoming a balanced and thriving ecological community within the context of our inner-city neighborhood.
Q: Your flowers are grown in eight cutting gardens, hosted in your own yard, as well as in the yards of your neighbors in City Heights. How are these gardens impacting the community?
Rachel: We live in a predominantly low-income community in City Heights, and like most urban neighborhoods, we have lots of asphalt and concrete with limited greenspace. My eight urban gardens bring beauty, color, and greenspace to this harsh city landscape.
The gardens serve to connect my neighbors to the land where we all live. My neighbors get a front row seat to the gardens as they have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the gardens in their many stages of growth from the close proximity of the sidewalk. My neighborhood gardens also capture rainwater (reduce run-off) and help sink carbon, which contributes to the flourishing of our community!
Q: How do flower gardens improve the soil and support pollinators?
Rachel: I always tell people that the best way to improve their soil is to grow in it!
Introducing plants of any kind to a patch of soil puts living roots into the ground, and it’s in the root zone (or rhizophere) of the plant where the magic happens.
Plants are brilliant about partnering with fungal networks, bacteria, and other microorganisms for nutrients and water. This further improves the soil life, and quality and structure of the soil. Chemical-Free, sustainable flower gardens provide a safe, dynamic habitat and food for pollinators and insects.
Q: Is it good luck to find an insect in a bouquet?
Rachel: All of the flowers that leave my farm are inspected for “insect passengers,” however, occasionally one slips through the cracks. Finding an insect of any kind on your flowers IS good luck! It is proof that the flowers were indeed grown without toxic chemicals, and that the garden they were grown in functions as an important part of the ecological landscape, which always includes insects!
Q: What’s your favorite part of selling locally grown flowers directly to florists?
Rachel: I love selling direct to florists because they appreciate the flowers I grow more than anyone else! Florists know flowers intimately and appreciate the vibrancy and uniqueness of local flowers that are fresh-cut from a garden.
I feel bonded to the florists who design with my blooms because we all share a deep love for the natural world.
Q: Why is it important to buy locally grown flowers?
Rachel: Most flowers purchased in the U.S. are not grown here and shipped long distances contributing to pollution, waste, and our current climate crisis. Seeking out responsibly-grown, local, sustainable flowers has the opposite effect! It is a way to support flower farms who are actively sinking carbon and healing blighted land.
Small farms typically use far less resources and inputs, and produce less waste. Local flowers also require less transport, which means they typically last longer in a vase and are more vibrant and fragrant.
Q: What’s on your to-do list in the gardens during the summer?
Rachel: Lots of weeding is on my to-do list this summer! Everything grows so quickly in the summer with the heat and increased hours of daylight, including the weeds, and it’s easy to get behind. Maybe this will be the year I actually stay up on it!
This summer I am also excited about having planted dahlias in four different gardens so we can enjoy multiple successions of my favorite flowers all summer long and into the fall.