Three women and two acres of farmland are the driving force behind the locally grown flowers at Bloom Collective North Fork, located at the Agricultural Center at Charnews Farm in Southold.
Southold residents Jane Greenko, an infectious disease research scientist, Vanessa Rebentisch, owner of Bantam Creek Oyster Co. in Southold, and Meg Strecker, who runs Yennicott Oysters, were brought together through mutual connections and their love of growing.
Strecker and Rebentisch met working with oysters at Cornell Cooperative. Rebentisch and Greenko, a third-generation and hobbyist grower, met through their children’s friendship at school. Strecker has been farming at the Agricultural Center at Charnews Farm, part of the Peconic Land Trust, for the past three years, growing flowers, wildflower and pollinator mixes to provide forage her bees there.
The three joined forces and have embarked this summer on Bloom Collective North Fork, continuing to grow at Charnews Farm. They have already had pop-ups at White Flower Farmhouse in Southold and Borghese Vineyard in Cutchogue, offering hand-picked bouquets. The ladies plan on setting up a stand outside the Youngs Avenue farm, Rebentisch said.
“We’d like to be doing events also,” Rebentisch said. “Weddings, parties, galas.” The women are also open to floral designers coming to cut their own picks, she said.
Though the women all have other jobs, families and obligations, they allot and divide up their time tending to the flowers.
“We’ve been trying to dedicate as much time as we can,” said Rebentisch, “but this is absolutely our seventh job going on for everyone here.”
Through it all, they all come together Saturday mornings to collect their flowers and create bouquets.
“We collect before dawn, before it’s really hot, get them ready for market — that’s our Saturday morning meditation,” Greenko said.
The women grow everything from wild sunflowers, bachelor buttons, calendula, flowering pea shoots, and bee balm to edibles like flowering mint, chives, flowering thyme, chickoree, fennel, oregano, basil and roman chamomile, all without using chemicals.
For Greenko, the flower field is an escape from the hustle and bustle and everyday life.
“It’s quiet, it’s like a little slice of heaven,” she said. “There’s no faxing, no paperwork. The plants don’t talk back to you, they just grow.”
Bloom Collective also plans on selling at the Greenport Farmer’s Market soon and has been aiming to reach local businesses with their pop-ups.
“That’s really interesting to us because we like to learn about what people are interested in and discover new things,” said Strecker, who is also studying aromatherapy, making bath products with healing herbs and plants.
For Strecker, the collaboration after years of solo growing is another special part of the women’s teamwork.
“One of the cool things about the three of us working together is that that isn’t a very common thing,” Strecker said. “It’s kind of nice because I’ve been here, doing this stuff by myself all the time, so for me, this is like an amazing thing.”
“We’d really love to have this as a bigger business,” Rebentisch said. “It’d be cool for us to have a bigger operation where we’re doing this full time — that would be ideal.”