By Hilary Niver-Johnson, founder of Finger Lakes Wine Flour
We should all be looking to the flowers to not only build better gardens, but also healthier communities. A new Finger Lakes farm is here to help.
I recently met with Kirsten Barnstead, the co-founder of this farm called Barnstead Farmstead that’s based out of Erin. Barnstead Farmstead started in 2020 and specializes in cultivating edible and non-edible flowers. Kirsten explained how these flowers are grown using a sustainable integrated garden management system that has made the new business a success.
Hilary: What is integrated garden management?
Kirsten: A holistic way of improving yield and production, through combining different methods or approaches. This can include mechanical approaches, biological methods, chemical (for non-organic growers), and cultural understanding, all synthesized to promote holistic management of a system or problem. Effectively, everything on the farm gets used, and everything serves at least one, but ideally many, purposes.
Hilary: What role do flowers play in this type of farm management?
Kirsten: We noticed in our years of growing that yields of open-pollinated plants were low. We started looking into options to increase diversity by incorporating flowers into our farm. In doing some research, we found there are a number of flower varieties that provide numerous benefits in companion plantings.
For example, marigolds are a natural pest deterrent. We started adding them to all of our beds and this was particularly successful in keeping insects from decimating our brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts). We also found that planting nasturtiums [vibrantly-colored edible flowers] in beds with zucchini attracted more pollinators and increased yields. Growing a diversity of flowers, which is the profitable side of our farm, increased pollinators overall. We saw higher yields of squashes, berries and melons in beds grown in close proximity to our flower beds than in other areas of the farm.
Hilary: What brought about starting your own farming business?
Kirsten: Particularly over the last year, we decided we had a farming model that was scalable—That eventually, we could integrate a profitable farm with an educational space to promote permaculture methods for backyard food production. That’s the big dream for Barnstead Farmstead, it’s a little bit of a childhood dream fulfilled, and a lot about wanting to do better for us, our friends, and our neighbors here in the Finger Lakes.
Hilary: What’s one thing you want people to know about farming?
Kirsten: That you can garden anywhere. With a little ingenuity, you can grow food, flowers, and plants in literally any space, and what you grow tastes and feels so much better than anything you can buy.
Hilary: Is there anything else you would like the Edible community to know about your business and integrated farming?
Kirsten: There are so many producers we’ve met over the years who inspired us to make small changes in what we do in hopes of exacting big impacts, and we hope in some small way to pass that along. We really believe in this model and method of farming as a means to regenerate our soils, produce more and better food within our local community, and reconnect with the environment in a meaningful way.
Hilary: For someone just starting out, what is the single most important farm tool to have?
Kirsten: The cheesy answer, but oh so true, is knowledge.
If you would like to participate in future workshops, events, order flowers for Mother’s Day, or receive direct insights from Kirsten and Keith visit: www.barnsteadfarmstead.com or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow them on social media @barnsteadfarmstead.
Hilary Niver-Johnson is the founder of Finger Lakes Wine Flour. She started the company Sustainable Viticulture Systems (SVS) that produces Wine Flour in 2015. Wine Flour aims to cut down on the waste of the winemaking process in the region’s thriving wine country. Niver-Johnson also hosts cooking classes that utilize these flours and shares recipe ideas via Wine Flour’s social media platforms (@wineflour on Facebook and Instagram). With her column, FLX Sustainability Success Stories, Niver-Johnson aims to highlight the work of Finger Lakes farmers and other innovative food producers like herself who are utilizing practices that help preserve and protect our region’s plentiful natural resources for future generations to enjoy.