Kaatscast: the Catskills Podcast
July 5, 2022

No Kale, Just Flowers: Crespell's Flower CSA

No Kale, Just Flowers: Crespell's Flower CSA
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Anne Hall's addiction to flower growing is a boon to Catskills designers, florists, restaurants, and individuals who want locally grown, chemical-free flowers in another league from generic supermarket fare. In February, we put out an episode on Jarita's, a local florist serving the Catskills for 45 years. One of our listeners heard that episode and said, hey, how about a story on a local grower? Well, we love to hear from listeners, and we were interested to know more about Catskills flower farms, and so here we are! Crespell is a queer women-owned flower farm and CSA in Lexington, NY.

Many thanks to our sponsors: The Mountain Eagle, the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, and Hanford Mills Museum.

--- Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/kaatscast/support


Transcribed by Jerome Kazlauskas via https://otter.ai

Anne Hall  0:03  
Flowers are a little bit of an addiction and the more I grow the more I want to grow. The more I am excited to grow.

Brett Barry  0:12  
Anne Hall's addiction to flower growing is a boon to Catskills designers, florists, restaurants, and individuals who want a fresh supply of locally grown chemical free flowers in another league from generic supermarket fare. In February, we put out an episode on Jarita's, a local florist serving the Catskills for 45 years. One of our listeners heard that episode and said, "Hey, how about a story on a local grower?" Well, we love listeners suggestions and we were interested to know more about growing flowers in the Catskills. So here we are, at Crespell, a queer women-owned flower farm and CSA. More on that in a bit in Lexington, New York.

Anne Hall  0:57  
When I left the city, I had been teaching for eight years, college courses, and photography, and I just...I decided that I didn't care if I was making yogurt or making art or growing flowers. I just wanted to be making something and not talking about it anymore. My name is Anne Hall and I'm the owner and founder of Crespell, which is a specialty cut flower farm. In Lexington, New York, we use only organic inputs here. The name is from the family who built my stone house, which is what drew me to the land. They built the stone house in 1783. The piece of property is 155 acres, and there's a little stone house, kind of in the center of it, and that's...that's how I found this place, and I guess like the combination of color and cultivation led me to flowers...and so, four years ago, I attempted to grow flowers for the first time at more of a commercial scale...and so I had three or four 75 foot beds, and it worked...and so then the next year, I guess was 2020, which was the first maybe was the pandemic happening in the summer of 2020? I think so...and so it was kind of a weird first year. But it was kind of good for me to have less pressure so I could focus more on the infrastructure of the farm, and so I started selling to designers. We primarily sell wholesale. We also offer flowers to our local community through a CSA, and so kind of each year has just grown exponentially...and now, we are growing probably three acres and perennials, about an acre of peonies and two acres in annuals.

Brett Barry  2:59  
As a former member of a CSA, it was a vegetable CSA, and I remember getting a lot of kale. What kind of flowers would I expect to see in a flower CSA?

Anne Hall  3:09  
Yeah, so we do a CSA that runs for 24 weeks of the year. Each season runs for eight weeks, and you can choose weekly or every other week, and it's definitely the most economical way you get more stems...better prices than wholesale. So the season starts out with definitely the fanciest, most elegant flowers of the season, which are the ranunculus, the anemones, and the specialty tulips. So we have about let me think maybe 12 different varieties of ranunculus, maybe eight different kinds of anemones. Seven different specialty tulips, five different narcissus, which are daffodils. As we transition into summer, poppies will come, we have about 3,000 lisianthus, which we're growing, which are an incredible flower. They're nicknamed the rose in the northeast. They're super long stems. They last for about three weeks. One of the pieces of feedback I get from our customers all the time is like they can't believe how long they last, and you know, the last week flowers are still going women to get the next week. So a lot of people do that every other week, because they do last so long. This year, we're really going hard with the delphiniums and so we're growing pink delphiniums, white delphiniums...every shade of blue, we grow mountain mint euphorbia lavender. We grow heirloom chrysanthemums, which each flower is about six inches wide, and then our fall-late summer major excitement offering our dahlias and we grow about 700 dahlias, the ball type of dahlia which have the longest stem life or vase life. We love snapdragons here and a lot of the things that we grow the flower type may be familiar, but the variety is totally different or something that you've never seen. We grow pink sunflowers, black sunflowers, green sunflowers, you know, just...just kind of like colors that you've never seen.

Brett Barry  5:15  
Crespelle offers spring, summer, and fall CSA shares with weekly or biweekly deliveries to Kingston, Mt. Tremper, and Windham, and because Crespelle caters to designers, CSA members can expect some extraordinary blooms.

Anne Hall  5:31  
We grow all these pretty exceptional fancy flowers, but sometimes a designer will have a very specific palette that they need to work within, you know, I have one designer right now who's you know, so we have salmon ranunculus, and she needs only the ones that are muted orange, and there's a whole range within that variety from kind of a coral to a pale muted orange, but so she wants me to select only the ones that are the lighter orange. Now the coral ones are also beautiful, and so then our CSA members get these designer quality flowers that just happen to be the color that the designers can't use that week. So it's all of the most insane, exceptional fancy things that you would see at a wedding, and it's just the...the off colors for that week.

Brett Barry  6:20  
Throughout her career in art and photography, and has been drawn most to color, and flower growing is no exception.

Anne Hall  6:28  
I think as an artist, it's always helpful to have something to push against...and so as a grower, that thing that I'm pushing against is weather or is my growing zone, or is the time of year, and I've also done, you know, a lot of painting and sculpture and for a while, what I was pursuing artistically was color, and so the thing that I was pushing against was a quality of color. What I was after was this kind of like luminous color...and so I was doing color photography...and then I started photographing snowflakes, and I was blowing dry pigment onto the snowflakes to have that like translucent color happen, you know, then I got into working with natural dyes because there's this cool thing with dyes where the color is actually bonding with the fabric, it's not sitting on top of it...and then I got into glassblowing, I got into silk painting, then I got into flowers. Because I saw flowers and noticed the insane layers of iridescent color that were happening in their petals, and if you look closely at a flower, it's just the most insanely gorgeous thing you've ever seen, and there's this funny thing where it's like, well, why like flowers aren't designed for us. They're designed for insects. So why are we also attracted to them...and for me, it's absolutely that luminous color. You rarely see colors in nature that you would think to yourself, like those colors just don't look good together...and so, you know, looking at these parrot tulips that are going into our CSA today. It's like the transitions from cream to coral, and then with these kinds of just like it's almost like it rubbed up against some green paint, and just got these little rubbings of green on the outside edges of the pedal. It's just I wouldn't have thought of that. Looks great.

Brett Barry  8:42  
More from Ann Hall and the colors she grows in a moment. But first a few words from our local sponsors. Kaatscast is sponsored by the Mountain Eagle, covering Delaware, Greene, and Schoharie counties, including brands for local regions like the Windham Weekly, Scoharie News, and Catskills Chronicle. For more information, call 518-763-6854 or email: mountaineaglenews@gmail.com, and by the 52-mile Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway; following New York State Route 28 through the heart of the Central Catskills. For maps, itineraries, and links to area restaurants, shops, and accommodations, visit sceniccatskills.com. This episode is also supported by Hanford Mills Museum. Explore the power of the past as you watch the waterwheel bring a working sawmill to life. Bring a picnic to enjoy by the millpond. For more information about scheduling a tour or about their new exploration days, visit hanfordmills.org or call 607-278-5744. Someone wants said of Scotland...there are two seasons: June and Winter. A familiar sentiment in the Catskills with its long season of cold, and its short season for, say, tomatoes, but Crespelle grower, Anne Hall, welcomes our seasonal limitations.

Anne Hall  10:17  
As a grower, that thing that I'm pushing against is weather or is my growing zone or is the time of year...and so I think it's, you know, about shifting people's mindset in terms of like, thinking that it's a bad thing, if you can't have whatever you want, when you want it to thinking, it's actually this opportunity. Instead of having this limitless idea of like, well, what flower would I want, it's like, well, what flower does the land around me want to give me and that's actually this like, exciting thing to relinquish that control. Having that, like tether to our weather is super compelling to me, and I think like in a time when I can demand all kinds of things like on my doorstep the next day, there's something kind of refreshing about being subjected to the limitations of your local climate. We do a lot of fall planting. So while the peonies...all the bulbs go into the fall, we do have four tunnels up right now...we have six that we could put up...they're super useful, not just for extending the season, but also for, it's weird, you'd think that plants would love rain, but actually flowers really don't like to be rained on...and so it helps with protecting them as well.

Brett Barry  11:56  
And showed me to one of the tunnels or hoop houses were early spring flowers, anemones, and ranunculus were growing with protections from a forecasted heat wave.

Anne Hall  12:07  
This is our largest tunnel, the temperature is going up tomorrow, it's going to be 90. So we have the fans going to try to keep it cool. Another thing we do to keep the tunnel cool is we actually will run the irrigation, and so it will cool it off right at the plant level. Tomorrow's 90 degree day is a little scary for us, and we actually painted the outside of this greenhouse with a white paint to shade it, you can see that it's actually a little bit shady in here right now. They're actually going to be cooler in here than they would if they were outside of the tunnel, and that paint will slowly wear off with rain. So we actually plant all of these in the fall...and so the ground doesn't freeze in here, and that is essential to all of these things overwintering.

Brett Barry  13:01  
How do you protect it from natural pests?

Anne Hall  13:05  
You will see in the lisianthus tunnel and actually here; what's wadded up here is some netting and so we actually introduce beneficial insects. I work with (a) integrated pest manager, and I will tell them, you know, for example, with these anemones, sometimes we have aphids...and so they prescribe a program. This is a series of beneficial insects...and so each week, I get a delivery of a little box of bugs.

Brett Barry  13:36  
So you're a member of a bug CSA.

Anne Hall  13:39  
Yes, exactly. Yeah, weekly delivery. I am very happy with my bug CSA, and I'll put it under the netting in here and release them...and then either they eat the aphids or sometimes they will actually lay eggs inside the aphids. Beneficial insects is one way that we manage pests...another is by growing things that don't have a lot of pests. I love sweet peas. They have too many aphids for me to deal with. So we're not growing. This is the first year we don't have sweet peas. Because I don't want to use pesticides. We do use neem oil, you can actually even use just like water, spraying water, we'll get a lot of the aphids off or we go around and squish them, and then we also plant what you call trap crops, which are crops that the bugs that you don't want will actually prefer and so we'll go over to that rather than touching the crop that you don't want them to touch, so we plant alyssum interplanted with the lisianthus in that tunnel.

Brett Barry  14:47  
Pesticide tree flowers are harvested from Crespell's tunnels and fields and transferred to a walk-in refrigerator on the other side of the farm where we returned so and could prepare some wholesale orders for that day's pickup.

Anne Hall  15:03  
Okay, so David wants a bunch of narcissus cheerfulness. Okay, so I'm gonna just grab his stuff out of the cooler. I'm gonna grab two bunches of the salmon parrot tools, which are on sale right now. With any flower, you want to cut it and then leave it for 24 hours so that it can hydrate and not have other demands on it and you want to get the heat off it, as fast as possible. So even if we're sending something out, and we're cutting it for a designer, we cut it the day before, and then condition it for a day in the dark cold, so that then they can work with it, they can play with it out of water, and we do that for our CSA members, too...so that everything is arrives, fully hydrated. So that'll mean the stems are nice and strong, and the flowers have gotten a good drink and they actually have to learn to drink from a bucket rather than you know from the earth.

Brett Barry  16:05  
And just then one of Anne's customers pulled in for a fresh flower pickup.

Anne Hall  16:09  
Good, how are you?

David Stroud  16:12  
My name is David Stroud. I just opened a flower and apothecary shop in Saugerties, New York. Catch me when you can at 98 Partition Street, and I do have a very small flower growing operation, and I'm trying to source more of my flowers locally so and came to the rescue this week. I do, you know, full service florals at my store. I make skincare products and candles, and I have, you know, antiques and vintage furniture and stuff in artwork. It's kind of like figuring it out. I just opened in April, so seeing what works and you know, trying to make it cozy and inviting. This is the hardest part trying to figure out how to arrange things, so that they don't spill.

Brett Barry  16:50  
Looks like you're set up pretty well for that with the pins.

David Stroud  16:52  
Yeah, the problem is my driving.

Anne Hall  16:55  
Yeah, windows closed, AC on.

David Stroud  16:58  
Yeah, I'm very excited to use these this weekend. So thank you so much.

Anne Hall  17:01  
Cool, yeah.

David Stroud  17:02  
I do like to always have like fresh stuff in the store. I don't really sell old flowers, which, you know, a lot of customers come in and complain about that. So having local flowers, you're already like 10 steps ahead.

Anne Hall  17:12  

David Stroud  17:13  
And then, you know, just getting them right in and treating them well. It's so nice to be confident that you're giving someone something that's gonna last. Thanks again.

Anne Hall  17:19  
All right.

Brett Barry  17:20  
Not only does Crespell grow local flowers, they employ local people.

Anne Hall  17:25  
We like to provide jobs that pay decently to folks who want to do work, where they're, you know, really connected to the earth and their bodies and their physical and they have a tangible product and...you know, there's like a lot of self-esteem. I think that comes out of actually producing something and seeing it from seed or tuber to flower, and I would say like the...the part that makes me happiest is like just seeing people so excited. That's what makes like all of the crazy hard work that we go through growing these things worth it.

Brett Barry  18:07  
Learn more at crespelle.com or click the link in the show notes. Thanks to Anne Hall and to our sponsors, the Catskill Mountain News, Hanford Mills, and the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway. Kaatscast is a free biweekly production of Silver Hollow Audio. If you want to make a contribution to the show, just click "Donate" at kaatscast.com. We'd also love it if you reviewed us wherever you listen and recommend us to your friends. I'm Brett Barry. Thanks for listening and we'll see you again in two weeks.