On Woolf Rose Farm near Phoenix, Arizona everything comes up roses. My Farmer and I visited while in Phoenix for the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting.
Everyone asked, “Did it smell wonderful?” Actually, no fragrance hung in the air at all. That is because “winter” is the dormant season for roses. Although the colors were bright, the rose perfume was not.
Woolf Farm grows bareroot rose bushes for retail sale. In fact, if you purchased a bush at Home Depot, Lowes, WalMart or even your local garden center, it may have come from Woolf Roses. Their 1,700 acres is sandwiched between the urban sprawl of Phoenix and its surrounding suburbs. They are one of four growers in the Valley.
While our tour group oohhed and aahhed over the pretty flowers, a tractor was crawling along a few rows over, cutting the rose bushes.
Because the farm sells bushes and not cut flowers, the first step to harvest is to chop the top 2/3 of the plant. The arrow in the picture above indicates the rose ‘silage’ blanketing the field. What is left is a bare bush about 30 inches tall.
Along comes the second tractor to dig the roses. This contraption has forks that slide underground, lifting and shaking the sandy soil from the roots. It leaves the bushes laying haphazardly in the rows.
Behind this tractor comes the work crew. The topic of farm labor was probably the most talked about topic among the conference participants. There is a real fear of how crops will continue to be planted, harvested and even packaged. I do not claim to know the ins and outs of farm labor in the U.S. but our dependence on our neighbors to the south is undeniable and so very necessary.
The crew comes through and bundles the bushes by root and stem growth. One good taproot is a ‘1’, two good roots and a good main stem is ‘2’, and so on and so forth. What struck me on this farm and on others is that while the work is repetitive, it requires good knowledge of the plants, the soils, and the readiness for harvest. In addition to showing up to work hard, a person has to show up willing to learn.
Behind this bundling crew rolls a third tractor pulling a wagon. Three men toss the bundles of bareroot roses into the wagon, stacking them by type.
The farm grows all types of roses, grafts them, creates new varieties and keeps the Arizona Valley ablaze in beautiful color.
I found this great video from 2011 that includes an interview with Leyton Woolf, owner/operator of Woolf Roses. It highlights the way roses are planted and grafted. I promise, if you think you know, you probably don’t. Watch. So interesting! Rose Farm from Pat Shannahan.