By Jackie Crosby
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A longtime champion of pesticide- and fertilizer-free blooms, Christine Hoffman saw a business opportunity to create a central marketplace where farmers and buyers who agreed with her could more easily find each other.
ST. PAUL, Minn.
Five years ago, Christine Hoffman struggled to get a reliable supply of locally grown and chemical-free flowers to sell at her St. Paul store, Foxglove Market and Studio.
At the time, just two flower farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin were using the kind of earth-friendly practices she promoted exclusively. But whenever the farmers showed up, Hoffman despaired because she worried that what she didn’t buy might not get sold.
A longtime champion of pesticide- and fertilizer-free blooms, Hoffman saw a business opportunity to create a central marketplace where farmers and buyers who agreed with her could more easily find each other.
She gauged interest with farmers and florists. She went to Seattle to tour what then was the nation’s only local wholesale flower market. And then she convinced a food hub, the nonprofit and mission-driven Good Acre, to let her sell cut flowers there.
Earlier this month, the Twin Cities Flower Exchange opened for its second year, claiming to be the only flower market in the country where 100 percent of the product is both locally grown and chemical-free.
“It’s unusual,” Hoffman said, “and challenging.”
The market, which serves wholesalers only, is still very much in startup mode. Hoffman established it as a for-profit enterprise and said she came “close to breaking even” in the inaugural growing season last year.
Hoffman offered the opportunity to 20 farmers last year, but trimmed the roster to 12 this year to better manage the variety of buds and blooms for sale and to get supply and demand in balance.