The Hidden Cost of Imported Blooms

by Deanna Williams

At North Star, I don’t use any pesticides or other chemical applications, but instead use compost tea to create natural biodiversity in our soil and promote natural grown in the flowers. During the summer of 2023, our area endured massive wildfires, one that exceeded 10,000 acres was just a couple miles south of us, and when our plants were consumed in smoke we saw a large portion of the field go to seed as plants began to end their life cycle. In an effort to save our dahlia patch, I brewed and poured over 30 gallons of compost tea as a cold shot in the dark, and the patch produced an abundance of blooms until we had our first snowfall, and tuber production was exceptional.

In the floral world, beauty often conceals hidden truths. As a passionate advocate for local and American-grown flowers, I want to shed light on an often overlooked aspect of the flower industry: the extensive use of chemicals in imported blooms and why choosing local is not just an aesthetic choice, but a health-conscious and environmentally responsible one.

Most of the flowers sold in the U.S. start their journey far from our shores. For example, Colombia, a major exporter to the U.S., established its dominance in the flower market back in the late 1960s. The favorable climate and geographical advantages of Colombia’s savanna made it an ideal spot for mass flower production​​. However, this large-scale production has come with significant environmental and health costs.

Photos are from the Smithsonian Magazine article “The Secret Behind Your Flowers”. Left photo is a worker preparing to spray yellow gerberas with chemicals at M.G. Consultors.

One of the most pressing concerns in the global flower industry is the intensive use of chemicals, including pesticides and fungicides. Research has shown that florists, often handling a large number of flowers daily, can be exposed to pesticide residues. A study among Belgian florists found an average of 37 active chemical substances per glove sample used while handling flowers, with some of these substances exceeding safe exposure levels​​.

In addition to direct exposure risks, the environmental impact of such chemical usage is profound. Flower farms in Colombia, for example, have been documented for their heavy consumption of water and extensive use of pesticides. This has led to significant ecological concerns, including the depletion of local water resources and contamination of the environment​​.

Colombia’s greenhouses employ more than 100,000 people, many of whom were displaced by war or poverty. Photo from Smithsonian Magazine Article: The Secrets Behind Your Flowers

By choosing American-grown flowers, we are not only supporting our local farmers but also advocating for safer, more sustainable practices. U.S. farms are generally subject to stricter regulations regarding pesticide use, ensuring a safer working environment for farmworkers and a healthier product for consumers. Furthermore, by reducing the need for long-distance shipping, we are also minimizing our carbon footprint.

So, when designing our centerpieces or choosing bouquets, it’s essential to consider not just the visual appeal but the journey and impact of each flower. Each locally sourced stem represents a commitment to healthier practices and a cleaner environment.

As we prepare for the next season, let’s make a conscious choice to support local flower farmers. By subscribing to our newsletter, you’ll stay informed about our reopening in the spring and learn more about our commitment to sustainable, locally-grown flowers. And remember, you can always find a local flower source near you through the Floret Flower’s Farmer-Florist Collective.

In embracing local and American-grown flowers, we do more than beautify our spaces. We make a stand for health, for the environment, and for a sustainable future in the floral industry.

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