Love your Valentine and love the planet

Kira Santiago

Tazewell County farmer and floral designer Kira Santiago is growing a selection of paperwhites and hyacinth flowers for sale for Valentine’s Day. Her flowers are sustainable and contribute less to global climate change than flowers treated with chemicals and shipped long distances. (PHOTO BY CLARE HOWARD)

Kira Santiago understands the complexities of expressing love on Valentine’s Day. She wants to remind people that when thinking about love, extend thoughts to local, sustainable and organic.

Organic matters for flowers as well as food!

Santiago is an organic flower farmer and floral designer working with her partner Evan Barry on a Civil War-era farmstead in rural Tazewell County. She grows about 75 varieties of flowers on her one-acre plot.

“It’s important to think where flowers come from. When you buy flowers in a grocery store, you are probably supporting farms that rely on chemicals and ship great distances,” she said. “Farm workers in those fields are often exposed to chemicals.”

Although she is not growing in the fields at this time of year, she has a small crop of organic paperwhites and hyacinths that she has grown inside her farmhouse for Valentine’s Day orders.

“My flowers are grown with love for the planet and as an expression of love,” she said.

Santiago is a regular flower vendor at Peoria Riverfront Market in the summer. She also has a flower CSA that distributes a weekly bouquet to her customers. Her floral design was recently included in an exhibit at McLean County Arts Center and she was named one of “35 under 35” up and coming florists in the United States in August by Florist’s Review magazine.

Santiago’s papewhites and hyacinths are selling for $25 to $35 with pickup at her farm. Delivery options are also available. For more information, check out her website at www.kirasflowers.com or email her at kirasflowers@gmail.com.

Liz Moran Stelk, executive director at Illinois Stewardship Alliance, said consumers can use their dollars to express their political power.

“It is incredible to see the number of cut flowers at local farmers markets,” she said. “Farmers are incredibly innovative with ways to extend the season, from using hoop houses to other technologies.”

Stelk said the Alliance is proud of its work with state legislators on the Illinois Cottage Food Law and the help it provides farmers.

“The law is now in its fifth year. Illinois now has one of the most progressive food freedom markets in the country,” she said.

According to the alliance, flower CSA’s are “blooming across Illinois,” and the organization has compiled a list of half a dozen in central Illinois from Peoria to Springfield, Decatur, Champaign-Urbana and Bloomington.

The alliance is in the process of expanding its Buy Fresh Buy Local directory from listing just central Illinois farmers to a statewide listing. With a January 2020 release date, the statewide directory will enable a more accurate assessment of the size of the local food and flower industry, number of farms and locations of farms. The alliance will be able to present this new research to state legislators to gauge their constituents’ needs.

Clare Howard

Clare Howard is the editor of the Community Word. She can be reached at communityword@yahoo.com



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