Despite the heat on this very hot July day, I’m feeling energized about the beginning of a new year for the csa! I started cutting around 6:30am and immediately was drenched in sweat from the heat and humidity. I haven’t been outside farming every day this season, since I started focusing more on the csa and other floral design-related endeavors. Needless to say, I felt a little wimpy and unprepared for the heat!
The first week of the csa is an interesting time because it’s right in the middle of a pretty hot month. Usually around this time, many flowers tend to poop out because of the intense heat, and farmers are re-planting things or waiting for the next flush of flowers to bloom. HOWEVER, there are some hearty flowers that can brave the heat, as long as they get some rain or irrigation. So all the flowers in your bouquets this week are definitely heat brave. They are as follows:
American star thistle or American basket flower:
This week most of your flowers came from CHICORY, a flower farm in Philadelphia. A bunch of the moody pink zinnias came from Jig-Bee, a flower farm located in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Both farms are growing really beautiful flowers right here in your city!
As a floral designer, I am always trying to source locally and get local flowers crossing paths with more people. I often justify buying local for reasons of quality. For instance, flowers that have shipped from Holland, Colombia, or California just won’t be as fresh as flowers I can get locally. The quality is brilliantly better right off the bat because they’re fresher. I get to witness the comparison working so many weddings because I see the difference between flowers being shipped long distances and flowers from farms like CHICORY, Jig-Bee and Laughing Lady Flower Farm. This is a valid point and a good reason to buy local flowers.
However, there are more important reasons to consider. I recently read through Amy Stewart’s Flower Confidential, which I highly recommend for a glimpse at all the facets of the cut flower industry. I had a general idea of the environmental impacts that shipping flowers across the world can cause, and about the lack of regulations involved in the use of pesticides. I hadn’t really considered the impact on the countries growing the flowers and on the quality of life for the farmers. Colombia is the dominant South American country growing cut flowers followed up by Ecuador. In Ecuador, flowers come in third as one of their largest industries after oil and bananas.
On Stewart’s travels in Ecuador she spoke with a local flower shop owner who relayed his perspective on flower farms in his country. “Flower farms, he said, churn out a luxury commodity that does not serve the locals as well as they would be served by growing their own beans or by raising dairy cattle, which would at least put food on the table. They use up important resources like water and fertile farmland. Not only do workers in the flower industry become less self-sufficient because they’re working on the rose plantations and not at home tending their own farms, the country as a whole becomes less self-sufficient as well. When the United States wants to re-negotiate trade deals with Ecuador, flowers are the bargaining chip.” Here he refers to United States tariff policies where the US lowers their tariffs on imported Ecuadorian-grown flowers in exchange for taking our milk and corn, forcing them to become dependent on us. Ransom is the word that comes to mind.
Additionally, a typical wage on a flower farm in Ecuador is about $150/month. Workers, including child laborers, are exposed to pesticides illegal in the United States. (which is interesting, considering the United States has no problem trading for those flowers.) Not to mention the two thirds of Ecuadorian flower workers who have health problems such as long-term neurological damage; the third of women flower workers experiencing sexual harassment and the agricultural runoff contaminating waterways and threatening countries’ natural resources.
I know you just want to enjoy your lovely bouquet of flowers and you definitely should, but I hope you’ll remember the choice you’ve made to participate in the important work of local, sustainable agriculture! I think it’s important as a daily consumer to be conscious of the far-reaching implications of a large industry like cut flowers, that doesn’t seem to value the grower, the quality of the flower (since it’s covered in preserving chemicals) or the future of the natural world.
I hope you enjoy your first week of the csa, and feel free to send along photos of your flowers to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag them on instagram @fromblossoms. Lastly, remember that changing your flowers out into fresh water every day is a good way to make your flowers last longer in the vase. Feel free to give them a fresh cut off the bottom since flowers do the work of scabbing over their wounded stem which slows down the flow of water up the stem. Lastly, I would recommend taking a few single stems out of your bouquet and placing them in a few small vases to scatter on windowsills, tables, and in your bathroom. (As you can see in the photo above, of a zinnia in the window, a single stem steals the show.) Enjoy!