A handful of writers, farmers, and local flower advocates in the US - from Amy Stewart (author of Flower Confidential) to the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers have detailed the rise and fall of the US Flower growing industry, and it's exportation overseas to poorer countries with cheaper land prices and unfortunately, lower paid workers (mostly women). Here in the US, the infatuation with roses at Valentines Day has rarely raised an eyebrow over the lack of seasonal appropriateness (roses do not grow in February!) or the environmental or labor abuses associated with commercial cut flower farms. Above are a couple of pictures to illustrate the reality of your flower farmer: 90% of the flowers we purchase in our bodegas, supermarkets, and flower shops are coming from Ecuador, Colombia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya, New Zealand, the Netherlands among other countries far afield.
While I personally admire these majority women farmers immensely and honor the hard work they do to train, prune, cut, and package hundreds upon thousands of stems over long hours, it turns out their bosses rarely do. Prolific labor rights abuses include failure to pay for overtime, rampant sexual harassment and abuse, exposing workers to dangerous pesticides without proper training and disallowing workers to organizeor form unions. More can be read in the International Labor Rights Forum's "Fairness in Flowers" tool kit. While we all work on building and supporting a vibrant domestic and local flower industry, we can become more conscious consumers, asking vendors if they know where the flowers they sell come from, and whether they know about the source's labor practices.