June 22, 2021
Today America imports 80 percent of the flowers sold domestically across grocery stores, flower shops and other marketplaces. Most imported flowers arrive from Columbia followed by Ecuador, Holland and Kenya. This wasn’t always the case, in the 1980’s American flower farms provided over 70 percent of the domestic supply. But the decimation of the American flower farm started in 1991 when the United States entered into the Andean Trade Preference Agreement (ATPA), which eliminated tariffs on several products, including cut flowers, from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Part of the War on Drugs, the pact had among its goals persuading South American farmers to cultivate flowers instead of the coca that ends up as cocaine. The American market was then flooded with cheap, duty free cut flowers, the unintended consequence was the loss of countless American flower farms.
Have you ever thought about the growing conditions to produce all those flowers? And of their journey from South America traveling thousands of miles to the United States? The imported flower industry is rife with environmental degradation and labor exploitations. The flowers in your typical supermarket bouquet, in other words, were likely tended by underpaid laborers exposed to harmful pesticides and unregulated working conditions. The blooms were preserved with chemicals (types often banned in the U.S.) to prolong their life during the long journey out of water and cut days or even weeks earlier.
There is a better way both for workers and the environment while also providing a boost to your local economy. If you want the freshest and most sustainable flowers domestic flowers are the solution. As a bonus, these local blooms are often deliciously scented too, unlike their imported counterparts that lose their fragrance as they are engineered and bred to be able to travel in a box without water over multiple days. The American flower farmer is undergoing a revitalization and farms seem to be popping up all over. These niche farms are supplying wholesale markets, florists, grocery stores and direct to consumers with fresh, long lasting and beautiful bouquets and flower arrangements. The seasonal flowers grown are often rarely seen by consumers as they don’t travel well and are therefore only available locally. But customers are noticing and are starting to prioritize buying local and buying American grown flowers.
Just as knowing where your food comes from and choosing to purchase from farms that ethically and humanely raise their animals and crops. So too, knowing your flower farmer and choosing to buy from growers that pay employees a living wage and steward the environment. That provide habitat for butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Where you choose to spend your hard-earned dollars is where your values reside.
Thank you so much for reading,
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