Local Hero Profile: Many Graces
Local Hero Profile by Dan Burke Perez, Local Hero Assistant
Published in CISA’s August 2021 enewsletter
“People know to look for organic when food shopping, but don’t often think that way about their flowers,” says Kel of Many Graces in Hadley. Their partner Rebecca, founder of Many Graces, points out that flowers, like food, can be sourced locally and sustainably. For Rebecca farming is about tapping into something beyond ourselves and listening to the rhythms of the farm. “I want people to feel the magic that got us started in the first place.”
Before starting Many Graces, Rebecca got her start growing flowers at Next Barn Over Farm in the summer of 2015 while getting her PhD in English literature. Over the next few years, Rebecca found the call of the farm and the flowers irresistible, returning to start a flower CSA through Next Barn Over. Little did she know she was incubating what would become Many Graces! In 2018, Rebecca decided the time was right to pursue her passion. “It was a scary decision,” Rebecca says of deciding to leave her PhD program to farm full-time. “But thanks to the support of Ray at Next Barn Over and the faith my friends and mentors had in me I was able to do it!” Rebecca officially started Many Graces in 2018.
For their part, Kel had been helping Rebecca get Many Graces established while managing a high-end interior design team, traveling to New York City every week from the Pioneer Valley. The COVID-19 pandemic suddenly made this untenable for Kel and caused them to revise their values. “It became abundantly clear that the work I was doing was not sustainable for a variety of reasons. I was deemed an ‘essential worker’ as a way to appease the ultra-wealthy so their interior design projects could be completed, all while they had effectively escaped Manhattan for their own safety. The pandemic served to reorient me and I decided to spend my time working for and with people who I can proudly stand behind, and I dove headfirst into helping Rebecca save the farm.”
Now in their fourth season, Kel and Rebecca bring the beauty of flowers to consumers in the Pioneer Valley and beyond. What began as a small flower CSA has blossomed into CSA subscriptions serving the Pioneer Valley and Boston, a burgeoning floral design studio, wholesaling throughout the Northeast, and one-time bouquet deliveries for western Massachusetts. Many Graces’ flowers can also be found at the Saturday Amherst Farmers’ Market and the Tuesday Market in Northampton. New this year, Kel and Rebecca have started a curated pick-your-own tour of the flowers at their main site in Hadley, which happens every Sunday until September 12th. Kel explains, “We want our community to know that you can grow mind-blowing flowers here in organic and thoughtful ways. We want to actively undermine the highly problematic global cut flower industry.”
For Rebecca, flowers are an expression of poetry. The name Many Graces itself acknowledges the poetry of the Earth. Care for the land is central to the couple’s philosophy; farming is as much about soil and water as it is about plants. They use a wide variety of sustainable methods to keep flowers and the land healthy: beneficial insects, companion planting, bait planting, compost teas, and much more. “This small corner of the world,” says Kel, “is our space to make a difference – to work with the Earth and to care for our flowers, the pollinators, and the land in a way that makes a positive impact.” Many Graces’ farmers truly see their farm as a living, breathing extension of the Earth and of the community. This means not only caring for the Earth but caring for people as well. “As queer people, we get to create a safe, intentional environment for people to work and share space on the small pieces of land that we are caretaking,” says Rebecca. “This is a work in progress to build community.”
Click here for more information on where to find their flowers, or to buy from their online shop. Tickets are available on their website for Frolic!, a pick-your-own event held every Sunday through September 12th at their main field at 15 Lawrence Plain Road in Hadley.