70,000 to 80,000 grown on Oxford farm
By Dean Vaglia
Leader Staff Writer
Tucked behind houses along an unassuming county road, a unique site sits just around the Oxford/Brandon Township border. Acres of dahlia flowers roll with the land, a multicolored display of reds and yellows and purples and pinks as far as the eye can see. Such is the sight of Summer Dreams Farm in full August bloom.
Behind the sea of twilight-colored flowers is one Michael Genovese, the owner of Summer Dreams and no stranger to life on a farm.
“I grew up on Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm on Seymour Lake Rd.,” Genovese said. “My parents started that farm in the late ‘70s so I basically grew up on the farm. I grew up in agriculture.”
Not long after graduating college Genovese started working an office job, though about a year into the work he decided to go back into agriculture. But when it came time to figure out what to grow, he thought back on an old gift to the family.
“We had actually been given a gift of some dahlia tubers back in 2011 or 2012,” Genovese said. “When they started blooming, I thought these were the coolest flowers I had ever seen. I had never seen anything that looked like them before.”
Genovese grew about 50 dahlias as a hobbyist and figured he would give growing them as cut flowers a shot. After working with a dahlia grower on the west side of Michigan in Hamilton, Genovese came back to Oxford and established Summer Dreams Farm in 2015.
Since then, Genovese has become one of the largest dahlia growers in the country with about 70,000 to 80,000 flowers grown every year, as well as being the second largest supplier of dahlia tubers.
From growing to shipping, dahlias can be a challenging plant to handle. Tubers need to be planted around Mother’s Day and need to be staked to prevent getting flopped around by the wind. The soil needs to be well drained — so planting in clay is a no-go — and flowers need to be cut once bloomed in order to get the most out of a plant.
“The trickiest part is in the fall — you have to dig them all up,” Genovese said. “Dahlia tubers cannot freeze. If they freeze, they die. So you dig up your dahlias in the fall and you have to store them in a high humidity-low temperature environment.”
Once cut, the flowers themselves can be challenging. Dahlia flowers are too fragile for air shipping, so Genovese sells flowers directly to local wholesalers and florists, through a stand at the Rochester Farmers Market and through the Red Plum supermarket. Tubers, which make up 60% of Summer Dreams’ sales, are sold directly through the farm’s website.
Despite the beauty of the farm in full bloom, it’s off-limits to the public most of the time. There have been open houses and other events at the farm, however, and Genovese is working to get an on-site store established. The farm can also be used for photo shoots.
For more information about Summer Dreams Farm and how to buy dahlia flowers and tubers, go to SummerDreamsFarm.com.
For keeping flowers alive longer, Genovese recommends changing water every day.
“If you aren’t willing to drink the water in your vase, it’s probably not clean enough,” Genovese said.