more flower farmers, and Chapter 2: the pesticide mystery

Dear Readers,

The incredible generosity of other flower farmers continues to astound me! Last week, I spent some time at Red Chimney Farm in Bowie, run by flower farmer extraordinaire Suzanne Montie. I put in some hours planting ageratum with Suzanne in exchange for some plants– ageratum and mountain mint! She patiently answered my many nerdy flower questions, and also lent some wisdom and support on other topics (cockroaches in kitchens, for example). Suzanne has such a wealth of knowledge, I could spend hours with her, just listening to her talk about how to grow different flowers… I am waiting on some pictures of her beautiful farm, and I will update this post with them once I get them!

I also got to visit Plantmasters, a farm in Gaithersburg run by Leon and Carol Carrier. They grow year round, a rare thing for farmers. Leon gave me a list of things they sell each month so I could see what they sell in the winter. Did you know you can “force” forsythia and magnolia to bloom in the dead of winter by bringing it inside where it’s warm? I learned that from Leon! Check out one of their awesome hoophouses:

greenhouse

And I love this beautiful picture from their farm:

bud

Leon and Carol gave me a tour, answered more of my pesky nerdy farm questions, and I got to buy some lisianthus and campanula seedlings! Leon took this picture of me looking excited about flowers:

happy

And to continue the WHY of buying local flowers…

Chapter 2: The Pesticide Mystery

Figuring out the extent to which pesticides are used on the majority of our flowers (a reminder: about 80% of flowers sold in the States come from mega-farms in Latin America) is challenging. Flower farms in Ecuador use 30 different pesticides… according to Audubon Magazine, 20% of them aren’t allowed in the US or Europe.

The Audubon Magazine also writes that “contraband” pesticides are believed to be widely used in these mega-farms– meaning that they’re so toxic that they’re banned, but people illegally use them anyway because they’re so effective/deadly on pests. Why does this matter, if we’re not eating the flowers? There is an enormous physical impact on workers at these farms, not to mention pollution and the damage to beneficial insect populations.

But enough of this doom and gloom! There are a lot of great people out there doing good work to reverse this problem. Take Veriflora, for example. Veriflora is a certification program for flowers/plants that are grown with sustainable practices. The people who decide what “sustainable” means are from SCS Global Services, a third party organization that basically gives a stamp of approval for different industries. Veriflora standards include fair pay and the strict exclusion of many toxic pesticides.

So it’s great that some of these enormous farms are starting to change their practices to be more sustainable. Roses, for example, don’t grow well in most U.S. climates, so it’s wonderful to think that we can order sustainably grown roses from elsewhere.

But many a beautiful flower can be bought from your local farmer. Next chapter, I’ll take a look at what the local flower industry in the States is up to… I think you’ll be amazed at the boom of local flower farms in the States!

Laura Beth

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