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It’s Valentine’s Day. Do You Know Where Your Roses Came From?

Beautiful selection and variety of groses grown in California's Monterey Bay region at Pajarosa Farms.

Beautiful selection and variety of groses grown in California’s Monterey Bay region at Pajarosa Farms.

Guest Rant by Debra Prinzing

Earlier this week, Libby Francis-Baxter, owner of The Modest Florist in Baltimore, made headlines in the local media by announcing her plans for a rose-free Valentine’s Day.

“I don’t support outsourcing flower production to South and Central America at the expense of our own local farmers and greenhouse growers,” she said.

When her customers asked for roses this week, Libby tried to steer them to flowers from local farms, such as tulips, primroses and calla lilies.

I applaud Libby for taking a stand against imported roses, but I encourage her to source American-grown roses next Valentine’s Day.

In fact, The Modest Florist isn’t the only flower-seller who needs to discover American roses.  I’m convinced that if Whole Foods chose to support American rose farms, we’d see a major shift in the entire Valentine’s Day industrial complex.

Lovely hybrid tea roses grown in Oregon by Peterkort Roses, a 3rd generation family flower farm.

Lovely hybrid tea roses grown in Oregon by Peterkort Roses, a 3rd generation family flower farm.

In the grand scheme of things, Whole Foods is supposed to be one of the “good guys,” right? From the point of view of the American flower farming community, I know that many of my farmer-friends sell beautiful, seasonal and local blooms from their fields to Whole Foods stores in their specific regions. This “local sourcing” is done on a region-by-region basis with kudos going to passionate store and floral department managers who develop strong ties to their local farmers.

But at the corporate level, and especially during Valentine’s Day, something else is going on altogether. And I’m not alone in being bothered by it.

Whole Trade roses from Whole Foods. Imported from South America.

Whole Trade roses from Whole Foods. Imported from South America.

Labeled “Whole Trade,” which is the proprietary corporate branding that Whole Foods puts on imported roses, these blooms are as far from local as you can find. They’re shockingly similar in appearance to the bunches of roses being marketed by all the wire services, 1-800 marketers and big boxes.

So the local, sustainable and seasonal banner that the Whole Foods brand is waving above its front doors has some serious flaws when it comes to the flowers they are selling.

Somehow, Whole Foods has decided to market its practice of importing South American roses as a kind of missionary endeavor. Personally, I find it so disingenuous. Last year, the company posted a pro-rose Valentine’s Day story on its blog, featuring a video of children at an afterschool program for the workers at a Colombian rose plantation. The post generated 100 responses, many from frustrated customers and American flower farmers who wondered why Whole Foods had skipped doing business with rose farms here and devoted 100% of their Valentine’s Day marketing budget to feature and promote imports from Colombia and Ecuador?

In response to the customer outcry, Whole Foods’ “Global Floral Buyer” Amanda Rainey made a statement and offered this explanation: “Americans bought more than $189 million stems last year! – domestic rose production is very limited and they’re frequently shipped from overseas.”

So does that makes it right Amanda?

Is it the $189 million you’re interested in or are you justifying importing your roses because everyone else is doing it?  I was one of those 100 people who left a comment last year, urging Whole Foods to reconsider their strategy with the flowers they are buying.  I truly expected more from this market leader this year. (more…)

Posted by on February 14, 2014 at 7:15 am.   This post has 16 responses.
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Win a bouquet from an American Rose Farm – and keep Valentine’s Day local

This bouquet features three types of Oregon-grown roses: ‘Prestige’ red roses, ‘Black Baccara’ wine-red roses, and ‘Gracia’ pink spray roses. Plus, some multiflora rose hips and rosemary foliage for a truly American Valentine’s Day bouquet.

by Debra Prinzing 

Read on to WIN ONE DOZEN AMERICAN ROSES

Post a comment here about why American-grown flowers are important to you! You might just win one dozen gorgeous roses from Oregon or California! We have rose donations from Eufloria Flowers and Peterkort Roses. Two winners will be selected by 5 p.m. Pacific Time on Monday, February 11th. Both will win roses as well as a signed copy of Slow Flowers, my new book.

Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets, from the Garden, Meadow and Farm (St. Lynn’s Press, 2013)

I created the bouquet you see here for my new book, Slow Flowers, a 52-week personal floral design project in which I used only what I could cut in my own yard or source from a local flower farmer. This Valentine’s Day arrangement features three types of gorgeous Oregon-grown roses, which I’ve paired with sprigs of rosemary from my garden and delicate hips. It may not be that 36-inch-long box of imported roses with over-large flower heads and thick, rigid stems, but my bouquet is sweeter, more feminine, lightly fragrant – and it has a home-grown story to tell.

I hope these roses help illustrate why you should care about supporting America’s small but awesome rose farms rather than caving into the marketing onslaught of cheap, imported roses.

The 50 Mile Bouquet features a third-generation rose farm called Peterkort Roses in a chapter entitled “The Last Rose Grower in Oregon.” How tragic that there is only one rose farm left in Portland, which is also known as “The City of Roses.” Peterkort supplies Northwest floral designers with a polychromatic spectrum of beautiful, sustainably-grown, hybrid tea roses and spray roses.

One state to the south, in California, there are several established rose farmers working hard to keep America’s cut roses alive and well. That should come as no surprise, since California, after all, gave us the Pasadena Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl. But I’ll save my commentary on those events for another post.

WAR OF THE ROSES

When it comes to battling for the heart and wallet of the American consumer, I would argue that the floral playing field is anything but level. Television commercials by Teleflora were surprisingly absent from last Sunday’s Super Bowl. Maybe they got priced out by the competition, but in past years, those floral wire service operations have spent millions to advertise during the annual football extravaganza.

I used to feel sorry for unlucky husbands and boyfriends who spent hours in their recliners trying to enjoy what is arguably the biggest professional sports event of the year, while also being assaulted by endless rose commercials.

Roses-for-Valentine’s-Day ads are evident in my local newspaper; they pop up every time I log onto the Web — and interrupt my cable viewing. We can’t seem to avoid from those dial-a-florist marketers who have one message: True love can only be attained if you order one (or more) dozen, perfectly red, long-stemmed roses to send your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day.

But sadly, those roses are going to be imported (less than 3% of roses sold are grown domestically) . . . from a very long distance. They were most likely flown in by a dedicated cargo plane from South America. In fact, retailers like Whole Foods have the audacity to boast that they are importing “fair trade” roses from Ecuador, Colombia and Costa Rica.

For a company that spends so much time promoting the idea of locally-sourced food, this is truly upsetting.

On a positive note, I have met and interviewed numerous Whole Foods floral buyers who do source locally from growers in their area (and I have also visited those talented flower growers who produce and sell tens of thousands of stems to Whole Foods in their own communities each year).

But when it comes to roses, I believe Whole Foods is missing a huge opportunity to invest in American family rose farms and I know I’m not alone. Just look at all the consumers responding to this recent Valentine’s Day blog post promotion by Whole Foods for Whole Trade Roses. It may be too late for Whole Foods to make a change this Valentine’s Day, but there is still time for you to make your voice heard on this issue, just leave a comment!

ASK FOR AMERICAN

Peterkort’s just-picked hybrid teas – American grown and totally beautiful.

What if retailers instead put their dollars into developing ties (and buying relationships) with American rose farmers?

Why isn’t this happening? Why can’t we find domestic cut roses at the supermarket, at the big-boxes, and in our hometown flower shops? I’ll tell you what I think. Those sellers claim that there isn’t enough supply of American roses to satisfy demand. But actually I think there is too much cynicism and apathy surrounding the economics of flowers. We’ve been conditioned to want things “cheap” at all costs. In doing so, we have driven down the price of everything. We have practically driven farmers out of the U.S.

I was encouraged recently when Kasey Cronquist, CEO and Ambassador for the California Cut Flower Commission, and a fellow advocate for domestic flowers, shared results from a Boston Consulting Group report. According to the recent study, “over 80% of Americans are willing to pay more for Made-in-USA products, 93% of whom say it’s because they want to keep jobs in the USA.”

If this is true, I hope Whole Foods is listening. Heck, even Walmart recently announced plans to spend $50 billion on American-made products over the next decade. Will that commitment involve supporting our American flower farmers? It should, but we’ll see. When more and more consumers ask for American flowers, retailers have to take notice and respond.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Enlightened rose-givers, lend me your ears. We Americans associate February 14th and true love with roses, right? Make it real; make it authentic.

Can we show our love by giving our sweetheart a bouquet of American-grown roses? There are some wonderful domestic rose sources — greenhouses and growing fields — in Oregon and California. So yes, even in February, when our own gardens are unlikely to produce roses, we can ask our florist to order American-grown ones.

It is possible to send eco-conscious love (in the form of American roses).

Here are links to American-grown flowers you can order for Valentine’s Day gift-giving:

California Blooms is an online retailer that exclusively sells only Eufloria’s roses (no imports). California Organic Flowers is an online retailer that sells beautiful organic flowers. For Valentine’s Day, they are offering a mixed bouquet of anemones, a mixed bouquet of Tazetta narcissus and several other cool field-grown bouquets.

Eco-Conscious Floral Designers

In San Francisco, order from Farm Girl Flowers or Lila B. Floral & Events.

In New York, order from NYC Farm Chic Flowers.

In Seattle, order from TerraBella Flowers or Marigold and Mint.

Post other suggestions here! We need to share our best sources with other fans of locally-grown & designed flowers. 

P.S.: If your local florist says, “I can’t find American-grown roses,” then give him/her this list of growers:

Rose Hips:

Fresh, yummy, fragrant and grown on an American rose farm!

 

 

Posted by on February 7, 2013 at 5:34 am.   This post has 90 responses.