Lately, I’ve been hearing all the talk about buying local, and supporting mom & pop business owners and I agree that it is important to try and do that. Recently in talking with some of my customers, I realized that they have no idea where flowers come from, and how buying flowers is helping many families survive in small villages around the world.
Everyone has heard the stories about pesticides and pollution and harm to workers, but for every one of those stories, there are new stories about how the industry is working hard to create standards that improve quality of life and promote the safety of workers. What workers wanted was for the Western consumers to be their voice , because without a demand for certified-organic and fair trade flowers, the Ecuadorian flower industry would have had little incentive to change, and it’s working. Companies are finally working to improve their environmental management. What they don’t need is people campaigning for consumers to stop buying flowers, because they are very dependent upon having a market. Same holds true for me, although I understand the need to eat, and if given a choice of buying flowers or food, of course I’m going to choose food, but in some countries, working the land and growing flowers gives them their food.
I invite you to read some of the stories and educate yourself on the subject. It’s an important issue.
The Rainforest Alliance is just one of the many organizations working to conserve biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods by focusing on land-use practices, and business practices and the health and welfare of agricultural workers. They are trying to bring forth social responsibility by working with people who make their living from the land . They are focused on sustainable land practices that do not harm the environment or the health of the workers.
I was reading this article on the status of agriculture in Africa, http://www.new-ag.info/developments/devItem.php?a=1029 you really get a sense when you read the article, on how much of a global business flowers are. The country has been hit by more drought in the flower growing regions, and the economic aspects have hit them hard as well, since demand for flowers has diminished. I know the economy has hit every one hard, but in some countries, it’s a bit harder, that little plot of land is all they have. One of the positive things to come out of the drought, is that it is forcing them to look at new solutions, like hydroponics which reuses the water and makes more sense for a country that doesn’t have much in the way of water resources . Nature always has a way of taking charge!
My friend use to make these little plush widgets, and he used to talk to me about how people were critical of the fact that he had his product made in other countries, but he was always so proud of the fact that this little village of people were able to make a living and improve there lives by hand sewing these little items. He loved to go to the village and visit, and see them so happy at having a way to market their skill. I learned from him that there are always two sides to the story. You can read more about flower growing in Kenya here: http://www.kenyaflowercouncil.org/floricultureinkenya.php
This past week I was talking to one of the growers in Ecuador who was telling me that roses would be in short supply from their farm for Christmas because they are pinching back the plants to have them ready for Valentines day. Unfortunately they have to either sell their product at Christmas, and have none for Valentines day, or skip Christmas and have product for Valentines day. Most of the farms in Ecuador are pretty small, something that I did not know until I became a florist and starting talking to farms. What is amazing to me is that a rose that you buy on a Tuesday in my store was probably harvested on Thursday in the Andean highlands of Ecuador or Colombia, shipped via Fedex direct to my door and then to you the consumer. Here was an interesting article in the Latin Times newspaper regarding Valentines day sales. One more example of how we are all connected in a global economy. http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=326798&CategoryId=14089
A nice article explaining a bit about the Andean trade act and a more about Ecuadorian roses gives you an insight into the bigger issues facing our industry in general.
I have by no means covered all the countries that we get flowers from, which I will save for another post. Places that I will talk about in future posts, all the places that we get flowers from, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Holland, Italy, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, & yes, even the United States.
Don’t forget to make time to stop and smell the roses!