Friends Drift Inn Farm – What We Grow
“Hell has surely froze over. I am a ‘petal pusher’ and I like it.” Joyce Pinson, Friends Drift Inn Farm
We Grow Flowers – Sunflowers, Zinnias and More!
Never in a million years would I have guessed we would be growing flowers for the farmers market. Even a year ago if you had told me our flowers would be featured at the second annual Appalachian Food Summit as centerpieces I would have laughed in your face. I never fancied myself a petal pusher.
Through the Community Farm Alliance, farmers in Appalachia have just begun to “find” each other and share information. Maggie Ashmore Bowling of The Old Homeplace Farm in Clay County inspired us to try flower production.
Charlie was dubious. Mom was exuberant.
Our first year of growing flowers, 2015, we did not break even. We gave away more than we sold. But sometimes that is the way you build business. Mom and I are excited to keep flowers on our product list. (Charlie not so much!)
Friends Drift Inn Farm flowers are fresh from the garden, never sprayed with insecticide, and bring a smile to all who see them.
To assure a constant supply of flowers, we start the first crop under lights. Some flower varieties must be planted every two weeks during the season right up into the last days of summer. Flowers require special treatment; we often make an additional trip to market just to drop off our precious florals.
Flowers take time and effort. They do not happen overnight. They do not arrive bundled up from a flower market in China. Our flowers are grown right here in the Big Sandy Valley, under the shadow of Bent Ridge.
Who does not love a sunflower? We grow an assortment of colors and varieties. Our bouquet and stem sunflowers are pollen-less hybrids. They still contain nectar for the bees. However, pollen-less varieties do not drop yellow pollen blobs on white tablecloths, which is critical when you deal with event planners and the restaurant trade.
From the moment we put sunflower seeds in the soil, it will take 50 to 70 days to mature. Our pollen-less varieties are one and done. You get one bloom, and the plant has served its purpose. Because there are not multiple harvests, sunflower stems sell for a premium. Flowers are best harvested just before they open and allowed to bloom on their way to market.
Friends Drift Inn Farm also grows several varieties of sunflowers that have pollen. We use these in several ways. First and foremost, they provide pollen and nectar for our bees. The tall sunflowers planted densely serve as a barrier crop, helping us separate multiple varieties of beans so they do not cross pollinate. Sunflowers are attractive to several pepper pests, and we plan to plant a hedge of sunflowers around the pepper patch as a trap crop. We dry the pollen varieties of sunflowers for fall arrangements and as special treats for our chickens and turkeys.
Zinnias were the hallmark of one of my neighbors, “Grandma Kunkle,” who often paid us kids for odd jobs with a bouquet from her garden. Last year Friends Drift Inn Farm grew Benary’s, a variety heralded by the floral community. The variety produces multiple stems, and offers a dizzying array of colors. Zinnias from the farm will not appear at the market until mid-July.
We will again be growing Benary’s zinnias and several other novelty types. To better meet our customers’ demands, we will be focusing this year on growing more single colors rather than mixed varieties.
Whistles and Bells
As with most growers, we produce a variety of flower filler materials including sorghum, pumpkin on a stick, herbs, pepper and fruit branches. Sedge, boneset, goldenrod, ironweed, and many other foraged materials often find their way into our floral offerings. We are testing several flowers new to us this year. We love growing a few surprises for the farmers market and restaurant clients.
Post Harvest Handling
Flowers are fragile. We strip flowers of foliage in the field, then immediately plunge them into fresh water. They are kept as cool as possible while in the field, often with our truck’s air conditioner. Once home, flowers are sorted and stored in a cool place.
Friends Drift Inn Farm uses several drops of chlorine bleach per gallon of water to deter fungal growth. We also use pure cane sugar mixed in water for a boost to cut sunflowers before they are brought to market.
Flowers are often transported to market as a separate “load” to insure they are not jostled amongst the maters and corn. It is not unusual for us to make three trips to market to get all our product to town.
We do not buy flowers for events. We grow what we sell.
Friends Drift Inn Farm will grow sunflowers to order for special events. Sunflowers take up valuable space in our fields and require special nutrients. We generally grow just enough for our current clients, but are glad to add more to fit your needs. Sunflowers, depending upon the variety take up to 9 weeks to mature. If you are needing buckets of these beauties, give us plenty of time to make it happen!
Zinnias grow in abundance and we often have buckets to spare. However if you require a special color, it is going to take at a minimum 12 weeks to produce. Message us for product availability.
We do not ship flowers. Local pickup only. We do not sell to the wholesale trade at this time. Flowers are available at the Pikeville Farmers Market Tuesdays and Saturdays.
You Pick It Days
We plan to offer several weekends of “you pick it” days. Watch our events announcements and follow us on Facebook for updates.
We are trialing several varieties of mums to complement our fall pumpkin sales. Following in the footsteps of Grandpa Friend, founder of the original Friends Drift Inn, we anticipate adding dahlias to the mix in 2017.
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