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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: The Art Of Flowers

Suzie Batdorff

More than 20 years have passed since Jim and Mary Hood, and Wanda Miller, planted the first seeds of what became Viavi Flower Farm in Paw Paw. Today, Suzie Batdorff works the farm, nurturing row after row of blooms, to be cut and arranged into beautiful bouquets.

“Viavi Farm was at the farmers market before going to the farmers market was cool,” Batdorff says. “They sold in Grand Rapids, Chicago, and in Kalamazoo, and had a store in Paw Paw as well. Wanda also had a store in downtown Kalamazoo called Viavi. The name Viavi came from, as the story goes, when she and her good friend Mark were antiquing in Chicago and they came across a frosted glass window that just said, ‘Viavi.’ It struck them. They both just stood there and said, Viavi - what a beautiful word.”

A conversation with Suzie Batdorff

Wanda Miller decided to give her flower store the same musical name. She passed away seven seasons ago, but Batdorff and her team continued to work the four-acre flower farm.

“In the land of cut flowers, everything is done by hand,” she says. “The flowers are sown by hand, harvested by hand, and in the fall, cut down by hand. Whereas other agriculture is done by equipment, this is all literally done by hand.”

Credit Suzie Batdorff
One of the fields at Viavi Flower Farm

When Batdorff hears comments from clients about how beautiful the farm must be, she laughs. “It’s an agricultural enterprise. It’s not what people visualize, of us dressed in white and roaming through, picking something here and something there. It’s more intentional. There’s not much color in the field.”

Batdorff says that's because flowers are cut while they are just beginning to bud so that the bouquets will be fresh.

“If you drive by and see a lot of color, to me, that says we are not doing our job.”

Batdorff frequently holds workshops to show people how to create their own flower arrangements. She'll offer flower arranging workshops at Bookbug/This is a Bookstore in Kalamazoo at 6 p.m. on November 10, and holiday wreath-making on December 1. Tickets for each event cost $65 and include all materials.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

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Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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