Meet Lourdes, Manitoba based flower farmer and owner of Masagana Flower Farm. Masagana Flower Farm is a small-scale flower farm and dye studio near La Broquerie, Manitoba that prioritizes sustainable practices. They grow seasonal blooms and dye plants and make handmade, small batch, naturally dyed textile goods.
Lourdes was first introduced to the floral industry at the wholesale level where she was exposed to different flower varieties and had the opportunity to experiment with design. This experience, combined with her own personal interest in the slow food movement, sparked a deeper interest in slow flower farming for Lourdes. Her natural affinity for flowers and the desire to experiment with them fueled her decision to make the leap into starting her own floral plot.
In 2018 she left her office job and moved away from Winnipeg to start a small flower plot in rural Manitoba. She also worked seasonally for a flower farmer to learn more about operating a floral business.
Early on in her journey, she realized the following challenges many flower farmers face: dealing with the short life cycle of perishable goods, and wasting stems that didn’t sell, were past their “lifecycle”, or didn’t pass a quality test. This didn’t sit well with Lourdes. Giving flowers another purpose when their sellable cycle has ended was a concern that remained in the back of her mind.
Learning from locals has also helped shape the direction of her business:
“In 2018, I was blown away with how much flowers my small garden had produced. My house was filled with fresh flowers that I didn’t sell and so did my compost bins. It didn’t sit well for me that the flowers I grew only had one use, as a fresh flower display.”Lourdes
Getting to know her neighbours and community has helped Lourdes grow and develop her business. Collaborating with other small flower farmers helped add variety to the selection she offers. The additional support also alleviates some pressure to try and grow everything she possibly can. Instead, it allows her to focus and perfect growing what’s most important to her business while still being able to offer high quality and vibrant fresh floral arrangements.
Learning from the locals has also shaped the direction of her business:
“Eventually, I learned of fibre farmers in East Manitoba who cultivated dye gardens. These mindful artisans grew indigo and flowers that became sources of botanical dyes for their yarns. It took an eco-printing workshop at one of these farms in January 2019 to awaken my curiosity to this alchemy. The rest, as they say, is history and the unfolding story of my journey has grown into a web of interconnected relationships between plants, botanical and natural dyes, naturals fibers, soil health and slow made crafts.”Lourdes
Through Masagna, Lourdes was able to create Tinta, a natural dye experience that uses the flowers she grows at multiple states in their life cycle. “In the off-season, when the garden has been put to bed, we hold on to summer by incorporating dried and pressed flowers in our projects or dyeing with dried blooms we saved from the summer past.”
She found her customers were hungry for locally grown products, and Tinta allowed them to have a hands-on floral experience. While she stills sells her flowers locally, her emphasis is on the quality of the experience, now focusing what she grows to support it:
“The flowers we select to grow every year must meet two out of three categories: great as fresh cut flowers, dries very well and can be used as natural dye – our sustainability trifecta of sorts.”Lourdes
Slow and sustainable growing is important to Lourdes, such as using organic fertilizers and practicing crop rotation. She believes that there are no band-aid fixes for the challenges she faces from the short season to the burst of growth in August that can lead to burnout. This includes droughts, heat, pest and weed pressure, and the unknowns of what might happen year to year. Being intuitive and observant helps her stay connected to her environment and allows her to think about safe, long term solutions.
To get a deeper look into Lourdes perspective on our relationship with nature, she recommends listening to the podcast On Being that features a conversation with Robin Wall Kimmerer on the intelligence of plants. “It’s one of my many bookmarked conversations that reminds me of our relationship with the land, plants and the work of our hands”
When she’s not selling her cut flowers locally, or getting the word out about her business, she’s working on all the behind-the-scenes tasks. Looking forward into next year, Lourdes plans to develop a studio for a better workflow and experience for her and her customers. For now, Lourdes is focusing on what gives her joy – sharing the Tinta experience.
For more inspiration on dyed florals Lourdes recommends the book Natural Palettes: Inspiration from Plant-Based Color by Sasha Duerr.