At first glance, it’s pretty unassuming – a parcel of land next to a house at the corner of W. Forest and Rosa Parks on the edge of Woodbridge. There are no colorful signs. There are no shiny lights. There’s a beauty behind this simple scene that warrants a second glance, and much like the city itself, blooms of growth appear. It’s the quaint setting of Fresh Cut Detroit flower farm, where owner Sarah Pappas grows and sells flowers born from small-scale agriculture.
To understand the importance of what Pappas is growing in her yard, you have to start with how it all began for her, which interestingly enough was hundreds of miles from Detroit. Eight years ago, she earned a certificate in Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She then took her knowledge to New York, where she worked with growers at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project. Her passion for perennials, efficient cultivating systems and supporting locally grown communities led to a job offer with the Greening of Detroit, in 2010. She jumped at the opportunity, and with the full support of her electrical engineer husband, Josh Berkow, the couple packed up and headed for the Motor City.
“There’s a robust grower community,” said Pappas. “When I came here five years ago to work with the Greening of Detroit, I became involved with the Grown in Detroit Cooperative and the Garden Resource Program. I really got to know home-scale and it’s become a serious part of what I do.”
After finding the house they call home and spending three years managing farm sites for local nonprofits, Pappas decided it was time to start her own farm. An apple, cherry, and lilac tree was on the land already, as well as some rose bushes, but she knew she had to start researching other flowers that could flourish in the soil and climate.
“I took cues from what was already growing here, beautiful perennial flowers, and I opened the seed catalog. Detroit is in Zone 5 and I used my experience growing over the years to pick the right mix of flowers,” said Pappas. “I experiment and make sure there’s diversity so that I’m not 100% reliant on one type. New things are always blooming, which makes me different from other flower shops who depend on specific inventory.”
With more social awareness across the country about locally grown fruits and vegetables, folks thinking of flowers in the same way is a “budding” concept. One that Pappas hopes will catch on, especially in Detroit, where entrepreneurial spirits thrive.
“It’s important to think about flowers just like you would your food, and think about the cycle that got it here,” she explained. “About 80% of flowers sold in the US come from other countries, many of which use practices that are seriously harmful to people and land, so it’s great for people to support local businesses that they know have fair wages, no harmful chemicals, no travel time so they are fresh, and they just smell better!”
After living in the city the last four years, Pappas says she has a lot of respect for long-term residents and likes to steer attention toward them. “There are wonderful people here. Not being a native Detroiter, I think building partnerships and friendships with residents helps mitigate some of the negative effects of new developments, particularly the idea that there’s a “blank slate.” It’s often hard for young people new to the city to examine their own privilege and how it affects the people around them, but it’s crucial that we do so.”
She aims to be respectful of the land and neighbors, focusing on organic standards that take into account the long-term health of the land and customer demand. She grows annuals and perennials that yield a variety of colors and scents at a price point designed to be accessible for many.
“I like to provide options to people,” explained Pappas. “I can do small scale like purchasing a bouquet to take home, all the way to special events like wedding flowers, where I can offer full design and delivery or provide buckets of flowers for you to arrange on your own.”
Because she grows everything herself, she can’t guarantee specific flowers for a wedding, but she can offer a color palette and seasonal suggestions. She says she enjoys working with couples who understand this and are flexible because they love the idea that the flowers are grown right here in the city. “Many other parts of a wedding present couples with so many choices that they have to make decisions on, that by the time they get to the part about ordering flowers, they are relieved that they don’t have to get involved with every detail. They give me a color palette and they are happy with my style – they trust me.”
In addition to weddings, Fresh Cut Detroit can provide flowers for any special event like luncheons, parties, photo shoots and more. Arrangements or loose stems can be delivered to businesses too, who want that extra touch at the office. Florists can buy directly, especially if they are in a pinch and in need of specific colors for an event. But the most popular amenity is the weekly bouquet service where you can receive a fresh cut, pre-assembled bouquet every week, for 10 weeks. The early session (May 28 – July 30) is already sold out but the late session (August 6 – October 8) is still available! On-farm pickup on Thursdays 4-8 p.m. (at 1764 W. Forest Ave.) is $150 for 10 weeks. Home delivery within five miles is $250 and will be delivered on Fridays between 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Pappas says she gets most of her business from a mix of online activity, people driving by and fellow gardeners.
“I’m working on some things,” she said. “I co-host a mixer annually, with a dozen or two chefs and growers which allows us to connect with more people. I’m thinking about getting a sign. I plan on hiring some folks. The business sustains itself, but I’m not paying myself yet. I’m dependent on my husband’s income right now, so he’s a big part of what we do – why I’m able to do this.”
If you are wondering where you can find the blooms from Fresh Cut Detroit, the farm is open Thursday evenings, when everyone is welcome to just look and smell the flowers. She also sells stems at Corktown Market (at the Detroit Institute of Bagels) on Thursday nights, where she shares a table with Acre Farm, a local veggie farm. You can also find her blooms at the Grown in Detroit co-op’s table on Tuesdays and Saturdays in Shed 2 at Eastern Market.
If you’d like to see the farm or love fresh flowers and supporting local businesses, you’re in luck, because today at 4 p.m., Fresh Cut Detroit opens to the public for the season. Who wouldn’t want a sweet smelling bouquet on the kitchen table or a few stems of color at their desk? Stop by, chat with Sarah Pappas, and play with their dog, Ruti, who loves to run around the farm.
Located at 1764 W. Forest Ave., the farm is open every Thursday from 4-8 p.m. through September. Keep up with these farm-fresh blooms by checking out her Facebook page and following @freshcutdetroit on Instagram. For event flowers, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org, as wedding and event dates are filling up quickly.