ASAP likes to share the stories of people who help us fulfill our mission. This month we talked to farmer Suzanne Nolter, owner of Blazing Star Flowers. Suzanne is selling dried flowers and specialty chocolates—studded with herbs and flowers from her farm—at several holiday markets this season, including East Asheville Tailgate Market’s final market tomorrow (Friday, Nov. 18) and at River Arts District Farmers Market on Wednesdays through Dec. 21. Her products are available for preorder via blazingstarflowers.com.
Tell me about Blazing Star Flowers.
We’re currently located at the SAHC Community Farm in Alexander as a participant in the incubator farm program—while also looking to purchase land in WNC for a permanent farm site. We grow over 200 varieties of flowers and botanicals with great care using sustainable, organic, low-till methods on less than an acre. We offer our flowers through our flower CSA (June to September), at farmers markets, and for weddings and special events, including DIY buckets for folks to make their own bouquets. We also create garden-inspired floral designs and host workshops on gardening and design on the farm. In the spring, we provide flower and herb plant starts to grow your own flower gardens.
What have you added for holiday farmers markets through November and December?
I’m selling floral chocolate bars and dried flowers. These value-added products are the culmination of a long-held dream to combine my love of flowers and chocolate! They are celebratory dark chocolate bars, tempered in molds and then garnished with dried edible flowers and herbs from my farm. Some also include organic freeze-dried fruit, such as raspberries. All bars are vegan and gluten free. In December, I’ll start offering boxes of bonbons created with herbal and floral infusions!
I’m also selling dried flowers, as both bouquets and wreathes. These include unique and unusual specialty cut flower varieties and are a wonderful way to brighten up the darker months. When enjoyed indoors, they can easily last until spring and beyond.
You’ve also worked as a chocolatier as well as in other arts disciplines. What are some of the ways all of those pieces come together for you as a flower farmer?
Before launching Blazing Star Flowers, I worked as a commercial vegetable/fruit/honey farmer, farm educator, chocolatier, artist, and mindfulness retreat center chef. I love the creativity of running my own farm-based business. It allows me to pull in my many passions to make products and experiences that I hope bring joy, connection, and celebration into folks’ daily lives, holidays, and special events. I’m able to draw on my previous work with beautiful, thoughtful food through my floral chocolate work. My fine art experience is used daily in my floral design, crop selections, chocolate work, and teaching floral design workshops.
What keeps you farming?
I enjoy the variation and seasonal cycles of farming and owning a small business. No two days, weeks, months, or years are ever the same! I consider working outside daily with nature a great privilege. Constantly observing, interacting with, and anticipating the weather, creatures, and plants in and around my farm is a fascinating process and continual surprise. Every season is an opportunity to work more skillfully with my crops, soil, and the natural ecosystem. It’s the work of a lifetime and a process that never really ends. Even after growing flowers for many years, there are new discoveries and areas for improvement that are constantly revealed. There is also a meaningful satisfaction in seeing folks light up looking at flowers at market, making a bouquet at a workshop, or how weekly CSA flowers brighten their home or that of a loved one. Sharing this delight and deep meaning with others is what helps pull me through those long, tough days on the farm.
Do you have food or other traditions you turn to during the holiday season?
Since I was a kid, I’d likely be up late on Christmas Eve DIYing my own gifts: sewing lavender pouches, baking biscotti, making soap, or block printing cards. I still enjoying making gifts for loved ones, but as I’ve gotten older I get them done at a more civilized hour (usually…).
Two favorite family holiday dishes are pureed rutabagas (straight up, no cream, salt, pepper, or butter) and stuffing (a Pennsylvania Dutch family recipe with lots of fresh herbs, potatoes, and butter, and baked so it gets delicious crunchy edges).
You can find many specialty or gift items from farmers and other makers at holiday farmers markets around the region. Find a schedule of markets near you.