When Mimo (Karen) Davis and Miranda Duschack bought a one-acre urban farm and homestead in 2012, the purchase was a dream come true for the two women who love farming and the earth. In just three years, they transformed a shabby farm that had lain fallow for many years into a productive flower farm, Urban Buds.
Last fall, the now-tidy farm that anchors a corner of Dutchtown in South City expanded its reach and extended its seasonality with a state-of-the-art high tunnel funded through a Specialty Crop block grant from the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
Urban Buds also gained notoriety through Bloomtown TV, a reality-based web series that chronicles stories of people in horticultural and floral businesses. Their business grew. This season, Davis and Duschack doubled the size of their farmers market presence in Tower Grove to accommodate additional blooms, bouquets and customers.
On the last Sunday in April, the two wise women hosted a farm tour for floral industry professionals and customers. Bees buzzed, chickens preened and grubbed while the flowers put on a show for all. Davis and Duschack, both gifted teachers as well as farmers, showed how local sustainably grown flowers contribute to the economy, ecology and stability of a neighborhood.
The tour meandered past two towering beehives and around ground-level solar panels which generate a rebate from Ameren UE for the farmers. The group wandered past a cute but veritable chicken coop that houses the chickens at night. The Buds named it Fort Knox for its impenetrability to predators and would-be egg snatchers.
At the next stop, Davis and Duschack showed the landscaped alley side of the farm with its low-growing bachelor buttons, short perennials and raised berms as yet unplanted. The berms, which are covered in black landscape material punched with holes, sit atop drip irrigation hoses. The traveling chicken wagon sat in one of the rows, hens inside, happily eating weeds and insects. Each decision from the height of the beds to the methods of weed control and watering shows concern for the earth, the plants and the people who live in the neighborhood.
“When we first moved here, our plantings on the alley were taller and we’d find things like used condoms in the hidden spaces. People regularly dumped furniture and mattresses in the alleys all the time instead of on large pick-up days,” Davis says. “Now the alley stays clean, we can see over the low plantings and things are good.”
A high-speed police chase down the alley tore up an open bed on the alley built with pavers in mid-April, but by tour day, the pavers and bed had been restored. Both women are realistic about city farming. In the first episode of Bloomtown, Davis says, “We hear gunshots sometimes. If I get shot I’ll just fall in this bed and Miranda will plant tulips over me and we’ll just call it good.”
The good, however, far outweighs the bad for two farmers who now have a high tunnel and a hoop house to get plants to market early in spring and later in fall. Both structures sit inside tall fencing. A large glass greenhouse from the original farm is still in use today. The added growing space and protection from the elements should increase their farm income. “We are a farm, not a garden,” Duschack reiterated. “We are taxed as a farm. We are categorized as a farm.”
Duschack and Davis both have off-farm jobs in addition to their staggering work schedule at Urban Buds. As Duschack explained in her presentation, 40 percent of farmers in Missouri earn less than $5.000 from their farm. Of all farm workers, only 42 percent receive some form of government assistance.
Today, only 20 percent of the flowers used in the United States market are grown in the U.S. The Urban Buds high tunnel, and the statistics Davis and Duschack provide over the next three years, could help farmers interested in growing flowers increase incomes and stateside production of this beautiful specialty crop.
For more information about Urban Buds, visit their website or like their Facebook page. Better yet, stop by their expanded booth at Tower Grove Farmers market and buy some long stems of locally grown flowers.
Urban Buds City Grown Flowers, 4736 Tennessee Ave. St. Louis, citygrownflowers.com
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