Q&A with Drianne Benner, Cofounder, North Fork Flower Farm
What year was the farm founded and by whom? How much land do you have?
NFFF was founded in 2016 by Charles Sherman, Karen Braziller, Kevin Perry, and myself. Our farm is currently on two acres in Orient, NY, on the North Fork of Long Island.
Has farming always been your career or is this a passion project? Why did you get into this business? Tell us your story!
Our professional backgrounds are diverse: law, publishing, architecture, and finance. We are neighbors, two couples who met at a local meeting about the future of our village, Orient, New York. We all loved beautiful flowers and had been avid home gardeners. We discovered that each of us had harbored dreams of starting a flower farm. We decided to try to realize our dreams together.
What was the first season like for you? Any stories or anecdotes from the early days you’d like to share?
A friend and neighbor, who operates a tree farm, offered us the use of a small patch of his land for one season. This gave us the chance to experiment, to try out our dream to see if we could grow flowers in quantity and to make a business out of selling cut flowers in bunches and in arrangements. We started selling our flowers to local restaurants, inns, and farmers markets. Our arrangements were popular. Soon we were asked to provide flowers for a neighbor’s son’s wedding, and this led to our being asked to do the flowers for more weddings and also for benefits, concerts, and other special events—all local. Now we are selling our flowers through a CSA flower subscription service, where we deliver a bouquet of fresh-cut, seasonal flowers to homes and businesses each week; for weddings, concerts, and other events; as well as in farmers markets beyond the North Fork.
Do you have a favorite flower?
We have many favorites. More accurately, each of us has our own favorites. I love dahlias, peonies, and sweet peas. Another one of us loves flowering herbs like various basils, dill, fennel, and valerian; another loves the popular blooms of summer—sunflowers, cosmos, and zinnias—especially in unusual colors and forms. The last one of us has a passion for bulbs—daffodils, tulips, anemones, and alliums.
What’s your favorite part of the season? What do you look forward to the most?
I really don’t have one favorite part. I love the entire season, starting with the early spring with the bulbs, continuing through mid-summer with its sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, and coneflowers, all the way through late summer and fall with the dahlias and salvias.
If you’d like the general public to know one thing about flower sourcing, what would you like to share?
It is important to use locally grown flowers. They are the freshest, most fragrant, and appropriate for the season. Once you’ve experienced them, you will find it difficult to ever go back to industrially grown flowers.
Is there someone in the industry you really admire and look up to for inspiration?
There are many. Debra Prinzing of Slow Flowers and Erin Benzakein of Floret Flowers are two that come immediately to mind.
Photos by David Benthal for North Fork Flower Farm & North Fork Flower Farm