This week was SO productive at Butterbee Farm! Check out the amazing worker bees (Irene Donnelly and Ryan Dunne!) who helped construct a mini greenhouse at the Clifton Community Garden site:
Today, I hand tilled (used a shovel to mix) the soil in some new beds, added delicious compost to the beds, carefully watered the seedlings that are quite happy in their new greenhouse home, set up irrigation tape (plastic tubes that have small holes in them, which let water drip out slowly over a long period of time), planted some sunflowers (a dwarf variety called Ikarus), and, er, observed (but didn’t actually participate in) all of the weeding I need to do ALREADY.
In the coming weeks, I will write a little bit in each post about the international cut flower industry. Here’s Chapter 1……
Chapter 1: A VERY brief overview of the cut flower industry in the States/Latin America
Before the mid 1900s, most cut flowers in the States were grown here. Roses were mostly from California, and Denver grew carnations. In the ’60’s, some big businessmen caught on to the perfect flower-growing climate in certain South American countries. Their revelation completely changed the floral industry in the States; now, about 80% of cut flowers here are imported. After the Netherlands, Latin America produces the most. Colombia, specifically.
How do faraway countries produce flowers that still look nice in their Whole Foods bouquet, and then last for weeks on your dining room table? Believe it or not, it’s simple, even simpler than the bleach-chemical-refrigeration method applied to vegetables that are shipped long distances. After harvest, flowers are almost frozen at 34 degrees Farenheit, and then shipped in refrigerated trucks to their destinations. “Selling flowers is, at bottom, an attempt to outwit death,” says an extensive article on cut flowers published by the Smithsonian Magazine. Chilling the flowers freezes them in time, more or less.
That does not mean the flowers aren’t sprayed with pesticides. No one wants bugs on their Valentine’s bouquet. Also, for some insane and nonsensical reason, the US Department of Agriculture checks the flowers for bugs, but not for chemical residues. These pictures of employees at a cut flower plant in Bogota speak for themselves:
Another story from the Environmental News Network is repeated in countless articles and research:
“Carmen Orjuela began suffering dizzy spells and repeated falls in 1997, while working at a flower farm outside Bogota. During the peak season before Valentine’s Day, she said her employer forced workers to enter greenhouses only a half-hour after they had been fumigated. Those who refused were told they could leave — that 20 people were outside waiting to take their job,” said Orjuela, who quit in 2004.”
So, there’s a lot more to be said about what’s happening in the floral industry now, good and bad; but I’ll leave it there for now. To be continued!