May 9, 2008
by Mark De George
It’s late spring — the season for weddings, proms, and Mother’s Day. As brides-to-be go about their business creating memory-making bouquets, prom-bound teens contemplate wrist corsages, and we all pick up a beautiful bouquet for mom, we wonder: where do all these flowers come from and how are they grown?
Most of the cut flowers available in the U.S. come from overseas. In the past two decades, production has shifted to foreign countries, primarily in Latin and South America, where barriers have been relaxed to encourage trade. Colombia now supplies over three quarters of all the cut flowers sold in the U.S. and may gain more share if Congress passes a proposed free trade agreement. Combine this with rising land prices, high labor costs and tighter agricultural regulations and it’s no wonder that making a living is becoming more difficult for U.S. flower growers.
In addition to the long distances most flowers travel, thornier issues surround how they are raised. Conventiontionally grown flowers are sprayed with some of the most toxic chemicals used in agriculture, both during their growth and after harvest. Since flowers aren’t generally eaten, the environmental and human health consequences of floriculture are often overlooked. However, the effects on farm workers, florists, and the Earth can be significant. Shoppers concerned about sustainability should consider buying bouquets directly from the grower and asking questions about their production methods.
At the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, an impressive offering of floral delights are available throughout the year, many free of synthetic chemicals, and all local. Here’s a listing of what’s available in the market:
Allstar Organics will bring limited quantities of organic antique rose bouquets beginning in a few weeks.
Brookside’s orchids are grown in a mixture of fir bark, charcoal, and perlite and treated with a synthetic fertilizer. Look for popular orchid species as well as a few rare flowers outside of the Orchid family at their stand.
Cypress Flower Farm
Cypress Flower Farm does not use any synthetic chemicals. The farm dedicates over an acre of land to composting and has grown more than 150 different varieties of flowers. You’ll find hydrangea, calla lilies, iris, jasmine, stars of Bethlehem, poppies, anemone, freesia, watsonia, gypsy carnations, alstroemeria, and cerinthe at their stand right now.
Devoto Gardens grows over 50 varieties of flowers. They maintain soil fertility by discing in cover crops and spent mulches and applying compost and pelleted manure products. They use Integrated Pest Management techniques to minimize synthetic pesticide applications. Right now, you’ll find sweet peas, sweet william, calla lilies, foxglove, and irises at their stand.
Eatwell Farm’s harvest of more than eight varieties of lavender begins in mid-April and continues intermittently throughout the summer.
Four Sisters Farm
Four Sisters Farm brings a limited number of organic bouquets.
Green Gulch Farm
Green Gulch Farm has a diverse organic flower garden from which they create mixed bouquets. The farm will return to market in June.
Flowers account for half of McGinnis Ranch’s total production. The farm’s diverse crops are rotated to maximize soil conditions. Mushroom compost and some commercial fertilizers are used in the farm’s naturally sandy soil. Look for calendula, lilies, sweet peas, and ranunculus at their stand right now.