Here's Your Sign to Join a Flower CSA
Queens Perennial, a New York flower CSA, is a great way to embrace community.
For most of my life, I saw flowers as a chore. Whether growing, getting, or gifting them, the rewards reaped never seemed to outweigh the effort of something I viewed as equal parts frustrating, frivolous, and fleeting. Looking back on why reveals a deep well of adolescent and young adulthood sadness.
Each time I tried to grow flowers, I found myself frustrated because I couldn't do so with ease like my mother or her mother before her. Regardless of any unrelated stressors that may have thwarted a potential genetic green thumb, I felt like a failure. Buying some for myself was much more manageable, but maintaining the confidence that I was worth the small luxury was not, so I deemed them a frivolity. And the only times I received flowers were at funerals or from a variety of fuck boys, their inevitable wilting a reminder of the death and destruction in my life.
Fortunately, I worked on these feelings, progressing to a more positive space over time. It's remarkable what pruning people in your life can accomplish. And while I've yet to find myself in a living situation truly conducive to growing a garden, or at least one as robust as rural northwestern Wisconsin allowed my mother and grandmother to tend to, I have received stunning bouquets from my spouse, my friends, and myself over the years. Those acts of kindness softened my stance on flowers. Still, I couldn't have foreseen the complete 180 my feelings on floral arrangements would take.
To say I reentered society in poor form after the vaccine belies that I entered it at all. While my experience is nowhere near the most harrowing, it was enough to alter me in a way that felt irrevocable. I stayed in New York City with my spouse, an immunocompromised essential worker whom I worried about daily. We figured the best way to counteract the risk his work posed was to eliminate it everywhere else. This meant no pods and few parks. Instead, I often sat sequestered in our apartment, feeling safe but scared. In some ways, I was free from society, but in others, I was simply absent from life.
So when it came time to emerge, I put my best foot forward, but like many, I stumbled. I remained wracked with fear that I began to notice subsided only outside the city. It seemed I could no longer associate my home, where I planted my roots with dreams of growth, with anything other than risk. And so I shrank inward. Reverting to lockdown procedure, which had, after all, kept me alive, I started leaving my apartment more and more infrequently, and when I did, I dreaded any human interaction I might face, no matter how inconsequential or transactional.
This went on much longer than I wanted it to. And all the while, I made misguided attempts, such as relying on online shopping for serotonin, to persevere. The results were middling. That is, until a specific impulse purchase managed to break the cycle.
I signed up for Queens Perennial, a flower CSA because the half-season sale promised the remaining 16 weeks out of 30 of flowers for a price that broke down to about $20 a bouquet. I had never participated in a CSA before. Ugly vegetables came to mind when I thought of them, but that was no matter because I was making moves, which I hadn't done literally or figuratively in a while.
Had I known that CSA stood for community-supported agriculture, or a program that's essentially a partnership between a farm and its local community in which participants pay an upfront fee and get a share of the farm's seasonal crops in return, I might have had a better understanding of the journey I was embarking on. The community ethos was evident from the start. Beginning with a detailed and friendly email about the logistics of picking up my flowers and how to care for them afterward, it was always careful to hint at but not reveal what the flowers were, creating a welcome element of surprise among an otherwise assuring amount of clarity.
When my anxiety about the outside world was at its worst, this level of logistical lucidity was a gift. And so I ventured to my pick-up location, one of the six provided, which includes Midtown East, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Jackson Heights, Astoria, and Park Slope, psyching myself up on the short walk for the polite conversation I knew would be necessary to procure the flowers.
I won't lie. It wasn't all roses at first, at least not for me. For reasons absolutely unrelated to anyone else involved, I felt like an idiot about everything, from what I managed to meep out while getting the flowers to not having the right tool to trim them when I got home. But my first bouquet was a gorgeous pairing of Teddy Bear sunflowers, like the variety Vincent van Gogh often painted, and Copper Prince millet. The latter smelled like maple syrup, which was extremely comforting, and I managed to hack the stems down to the size of the one vase I owned with some kitchen scissors.
Then for seven days, I had something gorgeous to gaze at and care for. I learned quickly that if you have the space, read more than one vase, you can break the weekly bouquet up and keep the flowers much longer with the proper care. And so I continued forward, buying floral sheers, taking my weekly walk to discover what new delights from Luna Family Farm awaited me, and rediscovering the joy of talking to strangers. Learning to take care of the flowers through this supportive and sustainable model reminded me how to take care of myself. Just like them, what I needed to blossom was some sunshine and community—plus, of course, some water.
Queens Perennial's 2023 flower CSA subscription kicks off on April 24 and runs through November 13, and you can sign up right now.