As winter melts into spring, the flower growing season is upon us! Here at Fantasy Floral, that means we start receiving shipments from Old Dominion Flower Cooperative, a group of local women-owned flower farms that practice organic sustainable farming. With most of our cut flowers coming from overseas, the US floral industry is in dire need of more sustainable practices. This is the first of three articles in our series on Sustainability.
“Locally-grown” doesn’t just apply to the veggies you get from the farmer’s market! Supporting local flower growers is a big step towards sustainability in the flower industry. For a couple of years, Margie and Trevor imagined ways to work with local flower farmers as a source for cut flowers. None of the options seemed feasible, but it continued to be on our wish list.
At the same time, local flower farmers imagined ways to work with local florists, but none of the options seemed feasible. This is one of the silver-linings of the pandemic! It inspired creative solutions and thinking-outside-of-the-box. In this case, a local flower farmer cooperative was born. By combining their farms, knowledge, and resources, flower farmers overcame the two biggest hurdles–reaching enough florists and offering enough variety.
According to Modern Farmer, in 2015, “80 percent of all flowers sold in the U.S. [were] imported, primarily from South American industrial flower farms that have a history of using harsh chemical fertilizers, toxic pesticides and unfair labor practices.”
From a sustainability aspect, buying local eliminates the need for airplanes and the chemicals needed to preserve the flowers during transport. From an economic aspect, buying local strengthens the local economy by keeping our dollars here instead of sending them overseas. From a humanitarian aspect, buying local means supporting families, not large corporations with questionable labor practices.
Buying local also increases a sense of community. We are meeting our neighbors who supply the flowers and learning what goes in (or more importantly what doesn’t go in) the flowers we are purchasing. We learn about other florists in the area who are also embracing more sustainable practices. Through social media, we are connecting with the larger flower farmer and florist community–one farmer and florist at a time–throughout the country. It’s a larger community than we imagined and totally dedicated to sustainability. We’re proud to be part of it!
Douglas Perkins on Wikimedia Commons
Imported flowers are sometimes harvested weeks before florists receive them. This leads to a decreased quality and vase life according to Farm Bureau Financial Services. You can especially witness this decline in quality during Valentine’s Day. Because of the high demand for red roses, farmers start cutting their red roses weeks earlier than normal in order to meet the demand during Valentine’s Day week. The result is red roses that often do not meet our normal standard for longevity. This year we actually steered our customers to other arrangements for that reason.
A recent arrangement by Kristi!
In contrast, flowers coming from local farms are harvested just days before we receive them. Partnering with local farmers through Old Dominion Flower Cooperative allows us to use the freshest possible flowers in our arrangements. When we do have to purchase from overseas farms, we carefully select the farm for flowers with the highest quality and longevity. When cared for properly, our flowers last much longer than those purchased at the grocery store!
In the same article, FBFS outlines some other benefits to buying local. One in particular is access to seasonal flowers that thrive in your climate! This is super important to us at Fantasy Floral, as we love the variety we get from ODFC. You can read more about what we do with flowers from the co-op in Margie’s blog post!
Protect our Pollinators
Local flowers also help sustain pollinator populations. Many species of insects, especially bees and butterflies, are going extinct at an alarming rate. According to Brightly, habitat loss, pesticides, climate change, and disease all contribute to declining pollinator populations. Local flower farms help ensure that bees and butterflies have flowers to pollinate, and they also ensure that those flowers aren’t sprayed with harmful chemicals!
Buying local is just one step! Stay tuned for the next two blog posts in our sustainability series!