Why Local Flowers?

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Did you know over 80% of the flowers sold at grocery stores, florist shops, and online in the United States are actually grown thousands of miles away, most South American? At last count, Colombia alone accounts for nearly 70% of the flowers imported into the US each day!  

When cargo jets were introduced in the ’60s, flower production became increasingly outsourced to distant countries like Columbia and Ecuador.  Their climates were great for growing flowers and labor costs were much cheaper than here in the US.  As a result, local US flower farms began to die out.  With the rise of inexpensive import flowers, grocery stores began having floral departments and taking up a huge portion of the US cut flower market.  As a result, local florist shops have been fighting a loosing battle to stay in business.  Above all, cut flowers (now largely imported) have gotten a progressively bad rap for being a useless purchase that only lasts a day or two.  What people don’t realize is that it’s a miracle imported flowers even last that long.

Once flowers are cut off the plant, say in Colombia, they get boxed up without any water because that’s what is easiest to ship. Boxes can take  a beating, and more fit in a plane with a lot less weight than if the flowers were shipped in buckets of water. The boxed flowers are then flown thousands of miles (2500 miles to get from Bogota to Philadelphia), have to wait to go through Customs inspection, maybe get stored for a bit at the airport until a trucking company comes to pick them up, get off-loaded at the wholesalers for awhile, and finally get put back on a truck again to be delivered to a florist or supermarket. It is not until the box gets to the florist/supermarket that the flowers get a real drink of water again.  Not only is the transit chain, which requires a great deal of refrigeration, burning fossil fuel all along the way, but it also usually takes a week from start to finish, sometimes more!  That’s a week without water!  A week of being tossed around over and over again!  This rough journey is exactly why flower breeders have been working so hard to develop the stiffest, sturdiest flowers possible at the expense of fragrance and natural delicate beauty.

It only stands to reason then that a local flower farmer is determined to get you the very best blooms.  Their flowers aren’t going on a jumbo jet.  They’re going to hand them directly to you or the florist.  Ever notice how farmers look you square in the eye, usually with a bit of a grin tickling their lips?  That’s because they’re proud to be handing you that bouquet or that tomato (in August, not February).  They worked darn hard to grow them, and they know darn well you’re going to love them.

Locally grown flowers usually never leave water.  They are usually grown organically or with very minimal chemicals.  They grow in a field where the natural rain and sun support their growth, instead of in a hot house under plastic, being fed a slurry of synthetic fertilizers under artificial light. Locally grown flowers only require a bucket (that almost certainly gets washed and used again) and maybe a bit of paper for wrapping a bouquet. Definitely no trash heaps.  Compared to the imports, locally grown flowers boast a huge array of diversity; countless varieties to choose from in a rainbow of colors.  The bees, butterflies and birds in the fields really enjoy the diversity too.  Those winged friends go on to pollinate nearby food crops, keeping our ecosystem healthy and our tables full.  Locally grown flowers provide good jobs for our immediate community.  Locally grown flowers are usually picked the same day or just the day before you get them.  You might even go pick them yourself.  They last a lot longer in the vase – at least a week, sometimes two!

There is something fluid and extraordinary about locally grown flowers that sets them apart, yet defies words to describe it. Perhaps the word is just “natural”.  They’re natural, the way it was meant to be, just like a tomato in summer.  It’s time to demand a better bouquet.

 

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