February 6, 2014
Once upon a time, I worked in a flower shop. It will always be one of my favorite jobs. Well, except Valentine’s Day. That was the only year I hated Valentine’s Day. You wouldn’t believe how many people leave their orders to the last minute. It is the single busiest day for the floral industry because a bunch of companies decided that a dozen red roses equal love. Two dozen equal true love.
Since people have a tendency to purchase flowers last minute, not a lot of thought goes into where they come from or how they are farmed. Unfortunately, there is a lot wrong with the flower industry.
Do you ever wonder where your flowers come from? Most of the flowers bought from grocery stores, florist shops, and flowers bought through FTD are grown thousands of miles away in South America, mostly coming from Columbia. The reason for this is because the labor costs have been shown to be much lower there- and the unfair pay and working conditions for this line of work has been tossed attention in recent years by international labor rights groups.
Flower production in Columbia has been shown in past years to be anything but sustainable. In order to transport flowers from Columbia to the US, it requires an incredible amount of insecticide to avoid even the tiniest bug. In addition, the flower farms in Columbia are draining the earth, creating a desert in the surrounding areas. It is also difficult to ship flowers in actual water so they are pumped full of chemicals and refrigerated throughout the week of transit (yes a whole week). Also, most flowers require extra plastic tubes and rubber bands to keep them together throughout their journey, all which will just be pitched as soon as they reach their destination.
Ever notice how flowers don’t really have much of a fragrance anymore? That’s thanks to all the chemicals. I learned that quickly when I started working at the flower shop. It struck me as incredibly sad that something beautiful, like flowers, can’t even provide a scent anymore because, well…thanks to greed.
Besides all the problems with labor rights and environmental concerns, US flower farms in the past few decades were struggling to even keep afloat. Recently, US farms have started to pick up thanks to the (not-widely known) slow-flower movement. Fortunately in South America, things are starting to turn around as well thanks to groups across the world that have taken note of this unhealthy business.
If we insist on buying our food local, why not our flowers as well? This Valentine’s Day, make sure you buy local flowers.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Charles Sporn, ClizBiz