by Bill Batson
Joy Macy can tell the love birds, because they show up early. The worm they seek is the brightest bouquet of flowers from her Bluefield Farm. I’m in that flock. Every week for the last six years, when in season, I buy flowers for my sweet heart. When people see me with an armful of color and fragrance and ask “what’s the occasion,” I say, “it’s Farmer’s Market Thursday in Nyack.”
If you want to make Valentine’s Day a weekly event, her local flower farm is at your disposal. Eleven acres of blossoms of fleeting beauty, plucked from the earth to make a brief expressions of affection. Visit her at the Nyack Farmers’ Market from 8a until 2p. But you better not arrive too late, or I’ll beat you to the best bouquets.
Here’s how Joy’s abundant and aromatic flower farm grows!
Were the flowers here when you arrived?
When John and I bought the property in 1998, we knew we wanted to do some form of farming. We have 11 acres and we wanted to preserve it as farmland in keeping with Rockland’s agrarian heritage.
We got in touch with Cornell Cooperative Extension for guidance and they recommended berries or flowers because they are potentially good cash crops if done well. Twelve years ago some fellow Master Gardeners from Cornell and I decided we wanted to grow organic vegetables and flowers and also get some chickens and goats. We started selling flowers to some retail stores to cover the costs of the farm. In 2010, the flower vendor at the Nyack Farmers’ Market decided to retire and we took her spot.
When did you find you had a green thumb?
Growing up we always had a flower garden and I loved to be outside. My father grew up on a dairy farm in Ohio and always grew vegetables.
I really fell in love with gardening when I went to college in Santa Cruz, California, and I was amazed that you could grow flowers and vegetables year round. I studied botany and ecology and worked at a nursery during my senior year.
When I moved to New York City, I worked in the plant district to learn the trade and and a year or two later started my own company to install and care for office plants.
How many kinds of flowers grow on Bluefield Farm?
There are too many kinds of flowers to count. And every year I discover new uses for what grows wild. I plant more perennials and try different annuals.
There is constant change in the flowers throughout the growing season. In the early spring there are the bulbs and early spring flowers, Daffodils, Alliums, Solomon’s Seal, Daisies, Bachelor Buttons, Campanula. Soon after that comes the Peonies, Baptisia, Sweet Williams and Sweet Peas .
By July I start having Lilies, Crocosmias, Yarrows, and Delphinium. And then all the summer annual flowers take over, the Zinnias, Celosias, Gomphrena, Sunflowers and, of course the Dahlias which carry us through until the first frost.
How do you pick what to grow?
I like to grow an interesting mix of flowers and foliage plants. I love fragrant flowers and also flowers that are unusual. But then I also like the old standbys, like Cosmos, Zinnias and Phlox, flowers that were growing in your grandmother’s garden. I find that people are interested in flowers that they haven’t seen before and also flowers that last a long time.
I spend time on the internet, especially in the winter, and read about what other growers are trying and loving. I follow several growers on instagram and belong to a couple facebook flower grower groups. I try to grow flowers that aren’t available anywhere else around here. I like to have flowers blooming from early spring to late fall. I like to have a mix of showy flowers and also some flowers and foliage plants for fragrance and texture.
What is the most exotic?
I wouldn’t call any of my plants particularly exotic. The plants that seem to intrigue people the most are the ones with interesting seedpods, like the Nigella and the Ping Pong Scabiosa. The flowers that form balls rather than the traditional daisy shaped flowers are popular these days, such as Globe Thistle, Gomphrena and Craspedia. Spiky flowers like Celosia and Amaranth also add texture and interest to an arrangement.
I also like to add herbs to my bouquets. We grow several different varieties of oreganos, basils, mints and scented geraniums. For Fall we grow many different grasses that can also be dried.
What is the most durable?
We have been growing more flowers that we can dry so that people can enjoy flowers in their homes all through the year. We’ve started drying Yarrow, Statice, Globe Amaranth, Lavender, Tansy, grasses and seedpods. Every year we try to add more flowers for drying. We also
How do you get along with the bees?
We love all the bees and pollinators even though the vase life of the flower is shortened once the flower is pollinated. We make sure to have plenty of flowers to support the native bees and other pollinators. I try to get out early in the morning to cut flowers before the bees have visited. We also love the butterflies and dragonflies that keep us company in the fields. In the evenings the fireflies light up the farm. This is an exceptionally good firefly year.
We have a beekeeper, Bill Day, who keeps several honeybee hives here. Every spring the bees swarm to create new colonies. It’s always exciting to see and hear a swarm and it makes us feel like the bees are happy and healthy here.
What else grows at Bluefield Farms?
We have 20 chickens. We raise them primarily for eggs, but we also appreciate them for their unique personalities and their beautiful feathers.
I understand you raise goats?
We have 3 cashmere goats. The goats grow beautiful cashmere coats throughout the winter. In early spring we comb out the cashmere. We are waiting for someone to spin our cashmere and make us hats, but so far that has been an elusive proposition. The goats have helped us clear some fields and in general are very good company.
Where do you sell your flowers?
Our favorite place to sell flowers is at the Nyack Farmers’ Market. We have been selling flowers there since 2010. Over the years we have gotten to know and love our regular customers who come by early to say hello and to see what we have that’s new. I have loved watching the babies and children grow up and hearing about our customer’s fabulous travels, families and gardens.
We also sell to some local shops and floral designers and by special order.
Can people visit?
People often ask if they can visit the farm. Generally we are very busy working in the field so it’s hard to have people drop by. We always have an ‘Open Farm Day’ in the Fall when the end of the season is in sight. This year it will be on Sunday September 16th, from 1-4. It’s still in the planning stages.
Tell us about your partnership with Festoon on the Hudson?
Kris Burns of Festoon has been working with me on the farm for several years now. She is a master floral designer and also a very good weeder and hard worker. Often if someone asks for a special arrangement or flowers for an event I’ll turn to Kris. She has been an inspiration for me. She loves to forage for branches and vines and fruits to add to arrangements, she has a true artist’s eye. Whatever she does always ends up being beautiful and unique!
Also with Kris’s help we have started opening up the farm to visitors a few more times a year. Last year we had an Open Day in December where we had dried flowers, wreaths and other holiday decorations for sale in the barn. And this past spring we opened up the farm the day before Mother’s Day with spring flowers and plants for sale.
What challenges are you facing?
Farming is a lot of hard work, of course, and none of it is mechanized.
Another challenge is finding a balance between supply and demand. Flowers need to be cut every couple of days to keep them fresh and to keep them blooming. At the beginning of the season I don’t have enough flowers to meet the demand and then by mid-summer, I have more flowers than I know what to do with. Some weeks everyone needs flowers for weddings and other events and then some weeks I have surplus flowers.
My pen fell in love with your barn. Tell me a little bit about her?
Our house was one of the original Blauvelt houses and the property, extending to Rte. 303, was still 100 acres as late as 1980.
The barn was built in 1911 on the foundation of an even earlier barn that had burned down. When we bought the property the barn was in disrepair. We renovated it in 2011.
Who many others have help tend the soil at Bluefield Farms?
I couldn’t grow such beautiful flowers if I didn’t have the help of all the people behind the scenes all these years, weeding, planting, cutting flowers, making bouquets, etc.
Trish Schroer, a true master gardener, and Rebecca Finnell, who was the original flower grower, have been with me since the beginning of the Bluefield Farm project. Patricia Lennon and Sandy Rosoff have backed me up for many years. Braulio, a wonderful gardener from El Salvador, has worked hard and given a lot of love to the flowers over the years.
Also I’ve had a series of younger people who wanted to learn about farming and growing flowers that have been a tremendous help and source of inspiration for me, Jodie Hamel, Marla Silverstein and this year Michael Jameson.
Visit Joy at the Nyack Farmer’s Market every Thursday from 8a – 2p from May through November.
Open Farm Day this year it will be on Sunday September 16th, from 1-4 at 690 Western Highway, Bluavelt.
Or follow Joy on Instagram at joydmacy & bluefieldfarm & #bluefieldfarm
Special thanks to my inspiration and the object of my undying affection, Marisol Diaz!
Bill Batson is an artist, activist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: ” Bluefield Farm“ © 2018 Bill Batson. To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com