by Amber J Jensen
As Mother’s Day approaches many of us start thinking about ordering flowers for the mothers in our lives. Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day account for the largest commercial production and consumer purchase of flowers all year. Imagine, how many flowers have to hit the floral markets by February 14th and mid-May. I hadn’t considered the environmental impact of these two holidays until a recent conversation with an organic cut flower farmer, Nova Zaro, owner of Earth Angel Flower Farm.
Earth Angel Flower Farm began as an experiment in healing after Nova experienced the loss of her best friend, Lizzie Knudsen. When Liz’s daughters came to stay with Nova for a bit after the accident they helped her begin planting flowers. Nature had always been a healing path through Nova’s life and she realized she had lost touch with the rhythms and peace that gardening brings. What began as a fervent practice in healing quickly blossomed into something more. The healing act of making flower arrangements for Liz’s grave bloomed into Nova providing fresh cut flowers and arrangements to friends and family and dropping them off at doctors offices. She was even giving them to her dog sitting clients. Planting, growing and providing joy to others through the gift of flowers became more than a hobby, it healed her heart.
Soon enough, Nova began researching cut flower farming and digging deeper into the commercial flower industry. She recalls, “The next year-2018, I applied to become a master gardener and finished the program and volunteered. That was a great way to connect with the community and learn more about plants and the ecosystem.” It became clear to her that change was needed in the flower world and that her little flower farm hobby could help make a big difference. She decided to take it further, facing challenges like soil health and farming on a small piece of land, eventually tackling business promotion through a website and social media. She says each thing has come down to doing one task every day to further her goal.
She worked the soil, built flower beds, tended to buffer areas designated as bird habitat and soon the 1 acre urban prairie flower farm occupied 3 acres of intentionally cared for land. Nova planted more, gave more and explored all the flower growing options that the Spokane climate will allow, taking into account that the prairie area often has harsher conditions. Farming in a way that honors the land and soil isn’t always the easiest method but it has been fruitful to her heart. Her flowers also appear to like the care they receive.
Located on 5 mile Prairie, Earth Angel Flower Farm is an organic, no-till and low-till operation that celebrates and strives to protect soil and local biodiversity. Nova pays close attention to tending the flower beds and preparing for each seed planting based on her experience of what will grow in our area. She is currently sewing seeds for cool flowers and hardy annuals. Nova will offer flower bouquet subscriptions, wholesale cut flowers and delivery services and dried flowers will be available this fall.
When I asked about her approach to farming and how organic cut flower farming is making an impact she told me, “This just feels natural to me. It’s a lot of hard work and its worth it. My mother taught me respect for nature and actual kindness for the earth. A lot of flower farming methods aren’t kind to the art or the flowers.” She also explained the bird habitat that she maintains so that the native wildlife can flourish alongside the flowers she’s growing to sell. “The birds help keep the pest down so we keep buffers of native plants and stakes for them to perch, we tend to the birds and have a partnership with them. They help us grow flowers that bring joy.”
Nova remembers her mother talking about the prairie, “The 5 mile Prairie was once prairie as far as you could see. Now there are developments and conservation can be tough. We’re doing our part to be kind to the earth.”
I asked Nova what really pushed her to bring her business to life after experimenting for 4 years. Her voice cracked a little when she replied, “When Birdy passed away last year, that was it. It was shocking and horrible…She was gone and I wanted to be more like her. She wasn’t afraid, she had grit and I knew I had to honor her. I had to do something to honor those who had been angels in my life. That’s where Earth Angels came from. Liz and Rosalie, they were my angels.”
A friend of Nova’s had lost their daughter, Rosalie, known by many as Birdy, and that loss had been the final catalyst to propel Nova into all the final things she needed to do to take her flower passion to the next level. By taking action she remembers them every day.
Earth Angel Flower Farm is currently a member of Rooted Farmers, a national farmer collective, as well as a member of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Nova has big plans for her joy bringing future. She’d like to donate flowers to nursing homes on her delivery routes as well as partner with local schools to help children learn organic farming methods and experience growing something from seed and hard work.
If you’re looking for ways to support the local flower farm movement or would like to learn more, you can find info about Earth Angel Flower Farm at earthangelflowerfarm.com and watch their social media explode with all of the photos to come during this year’s growing season.