Spring arrived last week with sunshine, 50-degree temperatures and melting snow. Lindsey Jakubowski is stoked for a full serving of both spring and summer — warm temperatures, gentle rains and sun-soaked days — for digging and planting in the dirt.
Jakubowski, 35, has spent the winter working her side hustle as a small-business consultant while daydreaming about warmer days, lingering over seed catalogs and preparing for a full season doing business as Catalpa Flower Farm, a new, flower-powered CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in Central New York.
“I am so ready for spring!” Jakubowski said earlier this month. “It can’t come soon enough.”
Late winter/early spring is the time of year you start to hear about local CSAs and subscriptions. With CSA subscriptions, or shares, customers basically pay in advance for a growing season’s worth of homegrown produce. The investment allows farmers to purchase seeds, supplies and equipment.
Jakubowski is taking the CSA concept in a different direction by offering seed-to-centerpiece flower subscriptions. Three options are available: four weeks ($64), eight weeks ($128) and 12 weeks ($192). Her field-grown and foraged bouquets will be available for pickup on Saturdays starting in May at the Central New York Regional Market.
For restaurants, bars and other businesses, Jakubowski offers a weekly flower bud vase delivery service, as well as edible flowers, like nasturtiums, calendula, pansies and others, for cakes and other baked goods, cocktails and garnishes to make plates pretty. You may have seen her flowers in white vases on the tables at The Sweet Praxis in downtown Syracuse last year. Edible flowers from Catalpa also made their way onto the bakery’s vegan shortbread cookies.
Jakubowski grew up in Kirkville, attended East Syracuse-Minoa schools and is a graduate of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. She worked for Cornell Cooperative Extension’s agriculture development program in Madison County before co-founding Kriemhild Dairy Farms, a regional producer known for its meadow butter and crème fraiche, with the Rivington family.
As a partner and general manager with Kriemhild, Jakubowski traveled extensively in New York state to promote the brand and its products and spent a lot of time at farmers markets. On her travels downstate, she would look forward to seeing a grower with fabulous flowers and dried flowers. That got her thinking.
“I’m an entrepreneur,” Jakubowski says. “I was at Kriemhild from the beginning and I loved every part of running a business, from the marketing to crunching numbers to solving problems. I was traveling a lot and wanted to slow down. I wanted to get physical. And I wanted to do something smaller.”
She kept going back to flowers. Jakubowski has always had an appreciation for the beauty and the science of plants and flowers, and a desire to let passion and purpose drive her work. The idea of a flower farm and flower CSA started to take root. She started out small last year, growing a variety of cutting flowers at Main Street Farms and selling some bud vase subscriptions to local businesses.
This season, Jakubowski is making use of a greenhouse at Main Street Farms’ original location in Homer before transitioning to the farm’s fields, at the former Reed’s Seeds, outside Cortland. On just an eighth of an acre, she will plant dozens of varieties of flowers, everything from asters to zinnias, along with dahlias, celosia, foxgloves, snapdragons, roses and some more rare flowers like nigella, which has light blue petals and delicate foliage. “You can grow a ton of flowers in a really small space,” Jakubowski says.
Jakubowski and her husband live on the west side of Syracuse. She was so ready for spring that she started some plants in her basement. She eventually plans to buy land in Onondaga County and have a greenhouse or greenhouses so she can extend the growing season. “Patience is a virtue I’m learning,” she says.
Catalpa Flower Farm will be at the Central New York Farmers Market each Saturday in May. Jakubowski is excited for marketgoers to be able to see, smell and taste fresh-cut flowers. Also in May, Catalpa will “pop up” at The Tiniest Pop Shop, a former tollbooth (four square feet) in the parking lot at 225 1/2 W. Jefferson St., behind the MOST and near Wildflowers Armory. By May, she hopes to have narcissus, tulips, sweet peas and ranunculus (a flower known for its vivid colors and rose-like blossoms).
“I’m really excited to just get out there this year,” Jakubowski says.