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    Below is an article that manages to talk up locally grown flowers WITHOUT bashing imports. I find it refreshing.


    “When Southern Grace Enterprises owners Tracy Youngblood-McDaniel and Merilynn Woodfin need more fresh flowers for their shop, they make a quick phone call and have some in hand in as few as 10 minutes.

    Southern Grace Enterprises purchases flowers from local growers for its floral sales business.

    McDaniel and Woodfin call it a farm-to-floral approach.

    “With farm to floral, the idea is you don’t have to order flowers from all across the country or internationally to get what you need,” McDaniel said. “You can get it locally. We will order farm-direct from our growers and we’ve been able to find local growers.”

    Two of those growers are Flowery Branch resident Catherine Shepherd and her husband, Scott. The Shepherds operate Green Petal Farms, about a mile from Southern Grace’s location at 5603 Main St. in Flowery Branch. They grow hellebores, a perennial flower with five petals surrounding a ring of small, cup-like nectaries modified to hold nectar. During other seasons, they grow hydrangea, sweet peas and other crops.

    Shepherd approves of Southern Grace’s business model.

    “I think it’s great,” Catherine Shepherd said, adding when a business helps the community by keeping up with trends, it helps the community thrive.

    And so far, Southern Grace has thrived with its farm-to-floral approach as well as seen positive side effects for the business and customers.

    First, it negates Southern Grace’s need to search for specific flowers by using ones in season.

    “The idea is, (for a client to say) ‘I need an arrangement, small, medium or large’ and letting us put in what’s local and what’s in season,” McDaniel said.

    Second, it is environmentally friendly as it reduces chemicals used to preserve flowers for transportation, packing and shipping materials since the flowers come from a local grower. Chemicals applied by a grower can get into the soil and run off into the water supply, McDaniel said.

    Finally, McDaniel said farm to floral supports local businesses.

    “To be able to supply our local hometown people is awesome,” Shepherd said. “It’s nice to be able to support a local business and encourage things from our community.”

    McDaniel explained most florists order from a master distributor. The flowers come from other states or countries. The international shipments have to pass through customs and are often heavy in preservatives and chemicals.

    “For me it’s a smart business move because pricing is much better because we’re not having to do the shipping and transportation,” McDaniel said.

    After McDaniel and Woodfin get the local flowers in-hand, they start creating a floral arrangement. Woodfin, who designs the floral arrangements at the shop, said the locally grown flowers challenge her creativity. She explained commercial growers tend to produce products with a uniform look. But local growers allow the plants to blossom through a natural process.

    “When you have to take what is naturally occurring and encourage it with other aspects, more creativity is involved in it,” Woodfin said. “All of a sudden your arrangements don’t look like the ones you’re going to get from FTD or one of the local florists or local grocery stores because our flowers aren’t grown the same way.”

    Woodfin learned how to design a floral arrangement during her 13 years in the catering and event planning industry. She spent hours with a designer to learn the basics.

    “I was the go-between for the person who made the actual arrangements and the client,” she said. “So I had to take their vision, describe it perfectly to someone who is building it.”

    This knowledge and creativity have led her to create different arrangements for the clientele.

    “Our customers don’t want cookie cutter, they want unique,” McDaniel said.

    Flowery Branch resident Cathy Long visited Southern Grace Enterprises and seemed to agree. After visiting the shop for the first time April 4, she returned a few hours later to purchase flowers for a vase she bought earlier.

    She said she was impressed by the flowers’ quality and loves to support small growers and small businesses, which is the purpose of Southern Grace’s business.”

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