Christine Covino’s Wild Iris Flower Truck delivers therapy from field to vase

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A pale blue pickup with a white canopy-covered truck bed is parked at North Salem’s Harvest Moon Fall Festival. The truck is motionless as crowds swirl around it, children squealing over pumpkins, and adults sipping hard cider. Still, the truck stands out; its nostalgic beauty is magnetic and dares you not to smile. The truck is the Wild Iris Flower Truck, a 1961 Volkswagen single cab, affectionately known as “Elle,” and she’s owned by farmer-florist Christine Covino.

White buckets brimming with blooms are arranged on the tiered covered truck bed display. The florals include sunflowers, zinnias, and lush Dinner Plate Dahlias, grown by Covino. Organized by flower varieties with small handwritten signs indicating price, the truck invites you to handle and assemble a bouquet. More impressive than the vibrant flowers Covino has cultivated, however, is the community of women she has nurtured through this business, a reach that extends far beyond Harvest Moon, North Salem, or even the state of New York.

All VWs are named. Elle’s name is derived using letters from Covino’s children’s names. (Photo by Jessica Miccio)

Christine Covino is the wife of Alex Covino, whose family owns and operates Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard, on Hardscrabble Road in North Salem. With over 100,000 followers on Instagram, Christine Covino has a significant online presence that has little to do with numbers; she has established herself among a sea of social media influencers as an authentic voice for motherhood, gardening, and grief. Since Covino became a mother, her blog has transformed from fashion and lifestyle-based with bits of gardening, to extensive gardening content and a sanctuary for mothers, particularly among women who have experienced baby loss.

On her blog, Covino is extremely vocal about seemingly taboo motherhood topics such as co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby loss, and pregnancy after loss, all of which Covino has experienced firsthand. In the fall of 2019, when her baby died at 18 weeks pregnant, Covino vulnerably shared her experience with her followers.

Covino’s mother is a lifelong gardener, so it’s no surprise that Christine feels grounded in her garden. However, after a workshop in 2017 at Floret Flower Farm where Covino learned about growing, arranging, and marketing home-grown flowers from one of the industry’s most notable flower farmers, the seeds were officially planted. “The experience was so profound and better than what I could’ve expected,” Covino gushes, eyes lit with passion, “I came home and said, ‘this is what I have to do; I need a flower patch.’ I bought 300 dahlia tubers, and with the help of the guys here, we planted them. [Then] I got pregnant and got busy, so the dream of the flower farm was put on hold while I became a mom.”

Covino’s first child was born in the winter of 2018. The reality of motherhood was a stark contrast to her expectations. Becoming a mother, she says, “blindsided” her. Writing provided newfound energy to document her mothering experience, and a desire bloomed within her to share that experience with others, thus her blog was born. “When he was down for the night, I’d stay up until one or two A.M. [writing]. I loved it because I felt like myself again. You lose your identity [in motherhood], and you have to fight to get it back. That was the blog for me.”

Despite receiving some criticism, Covino has divulged her ever-evolving motherhood story on both her blog and Instagram for the world to see. It became a mutually-benefiting relationship between herself and her followers; Covino can disclose her innermost thoughts via her most comfortable means of expression, writing, and women flood her with responses, appreciative of the camaraderie they feel with Covino’s candid content. “I share the stuff that I share as much for helping other women as I do for myself,” Covino reveals, sipping hot coffee as a chicken clucks in the background at Harvest Moon, “It is therapy for me.”

Covino has a way of getting personal that women respond to; she is vulnerable and committed to authenticity when sharing topics that women don’t typically disclose with ease.

Covino has shared the many complicated layers of grief, creating a space online for women to convene and comment on pregnancy loss, infertility, and even breastfeeding struggles. “You can’t compare losses,” Covino said. “Grief and trauma are relative. What can cause you deep pain can be easier for someone or drive someone else to madness.” But, she’s clear on one thing: while the mental health benefits of gardening helped Covino to cope, she feels very strongly about taking the pressure off of grievers to find a silver lining after a traumatic experience.

Covino is aware that her story could appear as if her flower truck was created as a direct result of her loss, but she does not subscribe to societal pressures for a “beautiful transformation” after a traumatic life event. “From the outside, you could look at me and say that the grief transformed me into this, but me going through it… it wasn’t like that. In no way did [this] “heal” me. I don’t even like that word. I’m this totally different person. For me, there is a before and after. Not that I’m a better person, I’m just different.”

Fun fact: Volkswagen single cab trucks are rare because, in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson imposed a heavy tax on light trucks called the “chicken tax.” This was done to level out auto production competition between United States domestic production and overseas. It is appropriately named the “chicken tax” in response to France and Germany instituting tariffs on imported American chicken. (Photo by Jessica Miccio).

Gardening is where Covino spends a great deal of her time, and she especially dug her hands in the soil when she needed “intentional distraction” from her grief. The effects of gardening therapy have been proven. According to Bonnie L. Grant, a Certified Urban Agriculturist, there are natural antidepressants found in soil. While there are millions of microbes found in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae is a specific microbe that has been determined to mimic the effects on neurons in the same manner as antidepressants. “When I talk about how much I love touching soil, there might be actual antidepressant microbes going into my body,” Covino said.

In the years that followed her visit to Floret Flower Farm, Covino had aspirations to convert a vintage Volkswagen single cab into a flower truck. Inspired after visiting Amelia’s Flower Truck in Nashville, Covino thought, “let’s bring this to Westchester,” and despite the limited quantities of these Volkswagen trucks, she and her husband Alex made it happen. Once a lumber truck in Colorado, Elle made her way to New York in late April of 2020 for a new calling; slinging flowers. “It was serendipitous because it arrived the same month our son was due,” Covino reflects.

Following the birth of her daughter in the fall of 2020, Covino began to devise a business plan to get the flower truck in motion for launch the following spring. With the help of her husband and family, and a strong desire to “feel like [herself] again,” Covino set the wheels in motion for a spring 2021 launch of the Wild Iris Flower Truck.

When Covino parked her little blue truck at Harvest Moon last spring through fall, the response was overwhelming. She noticed how much visitors enjoyed handling the flowers and arranging their bouquets, confirming for Covino how powerful flowers could be as a form of therapy.

While last year she relied on suppliers for the majority of the truck’s flowers, this year Covino will act as a farmer-florist, growing and designing seasonal blooms, from field to vase. Last fall, Covino couldn’t keep dahlias on the truck, so this year she plans to grow four times the amount to supply the truck and accommodate demand. Wild Iris Flower Farm, Covino’s flower patch on Harvest Moon’s property is where these blooms are grown.

Dahlias organically grown by Covino at Wild Iris Flower Farm. (Photo by Jessica Miccio)

Some of Covino’s online followers have visited her at the truck this past season, thanking her for her bravery and offering letters and gifts in gratitude for granting them the courage to share their own stories. “I always say that I hate that there are so many women who experience pregnancy loss,” Covino says, “but at the same time, [these] are some of the best women I’ve ever met. They have this crazy capacity for empathy.” These connections fuel Covino and these women are the reason that she continues to share her life story.

Covino is mindful of using her influence to give back to organizations that support women. A portion of the Wild Iris Flower Truck’s sales is donated to various pregnancy loss and maternal mental health organizations. Covino says, “it's the best and most tangible way I can think of to help women in these situations, which are all near and dear to my heart.”

Elle makes her spring debut this weekend, May 7th from 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. at Harvest Moon. Expect to find her at various events throughout the summer, including the Fine Day Faire at Lasdon Park in Katonah on the first weekend in June. Wild Iris Flower truck is also available for private events, workshops, and photoshoots. From May through October, Elle will continue to serve the community with fresh-cut, locally, and organically grown flowers for arrange-it-yourself bouquets, and infectious flower therapy.

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