Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t get into growing flowers with the expectation of wandering through sunny fields with a wicker basket and wide brimmed hat.
I do this because I love flowers, and I love growing flowers.
But I also love cooking. I love growing the freshest, tastiest vegetables that elevate my cooking. I love biting into a ripe, juicy tomato and knowing that I helped to create that experience.
I also love animals. I love raising animals and ensuring that animal welfare is the top priority whether the animals are pets or are intended for the table.
Growing vegetables and raising animals are tough and admirable jobs and people certainly think of veggies, grains, dairy or meat when you say you are a farmer.
So why did I choose flowers instead?
My path to commercially growing flowers goes back to 2002. On one fateful day in the summer of 2002, I heard a brief clip on the radio about how flowers flown in from around the globe created a huge carbon footprint.
Until that day, I honestly hadn’t ever thought about this at all. Until that point, if I wanted flowers, I would stop at the florist or the grocery store and pick up whatever was cheapest and would provide a little colour. I would order flowers for the pre-requisite Mother’s Day and birthday bouquets and not question where they came from. As long as they were pretty, that was good enough for my needs.
But this radio clip caught my attention and I started to research it a little more. What I discovered would forever alter the way I looked at flowers.
Almost 80% of flowers used in the floral industry in North America are grown in far-flung countries such as the Netherlands, Ecuador, Columbia, Mexico, Israel, Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Africa.
Getting a perishable and delicate product halfway around the world is a veritable feat that involves cargo ships, airplanes, and transport trucks all with climate control. The carbon footprint associated with this task is enormous.
Putting the carbon footprint aside, it is also important to note that many of the countries listed above have a lower labour wage than North American standards. Unless the flowers from these countries are certified Fair Trade, there is no way to guarantee that the workers involved in the production and harvest were paid a living wage.
Other questions to ask are whether the countries of export are using chemical inputs such as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers? If so, how are these chemical inputs being controlled? Are the applications being conducted in a safe manner for the long-term health of the workers involved in applying them? Are the applications being conducted in a safe manner for the soil and water of the natural environment? Are these chemicals being properly and safely disposed of at the end of their life?
This new knowledge was the impetus for my future self to grow cut flowers. I realized then, that the only way to lessen this massive carbon footprint was to bring the flowers closer to the end users. Thus, I began my journey to create a cut flower farm.
We now have 4.5 acres of cut flowers under production.
I am proud to say that our flowers are used within a 150km radius of where they were grown. Using a combination of modern and traditional techniques, our flowers have been grown without any chemical inputs. The soil on this farm will be healthier when I complete this journey than it was when I acquired the land. This is a career that I can feel good about. Every day, I know that what I am doing is making a difference. Every flower stem that is bought from a local grower keeps carbon emissions to a minimum. Local flowers are fresher, more fragrant, and last longer than flowers grown elsewhere in the world.
And if you’ve reached this far, thank you.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Thank you for following along with the journey of this local flower farmer.
And thank you for buying local flowers.
Your purchase of local flowers has lasting environment effects. And that’s something that we can all feel good about.