Photo via Flickr: benketaro

Yesterday, I wrote a Huffington Post column about the high environmental cost of Valentine’s Day flowers. Not surprisingly, some people were less than thrilled with what I wrote — namely, people who love fresh cut flowers (which is most of us, sorry!), and people who make a living growing and/or selling flowers.

One commenter, kaseycronquist, had this to say:

…While it is certainly true that most of the roses purchased this valentine’s day will have originated from Colombia or Ecuador, Ms. Grayson fails to identify the origin of those “magnificent” calla lilies which may have in fact been grown locally. California is home to a handful of flower farms that grow calla’s for market, even the mass market. Your roses to callas example is the ol’ produce analogy, “apple to oranges.”

I also understand and appreciate the effort to grab the attention of consumers during a major floral holiday like Valentine’s Day, but stories like these need to better consider the facts and avoid such faulty generalizations as the examples you’ve provided.

There is a flower farming community in California that is working hard to compete against the imports you describe, they employ good people, sustainably grow beautiful flowers (like Calla lilies) and currently bring $10.3 billion dollars to California’s economic table.

I don’t think your a Vday Grinch, just misinformed and not providing your readers with the reality of their options. Ask for California Grown Flowers, look for the label when you shop, make sure you are getting America’s best source for high quality flowers for your special someone this Valentine’s Day.

…so enjoy those Callas, they could have been grown from the heart…in California!

Unfortunately, kaseycronquist failed to mention two things:

First, buying something that was made or grown in California doesn’t necessarily mean that it was done so sustainably; to wit, this ABC News report that touches on the California flower industry:

Most U.S. flower production occurs in California, where flowers and other ornamentals ranked sixth among all crops causing pesticide illnesses, according to data compiled by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. In San Mateo County, 23 percent of all pesticide poisonings occurred in the flower industry.

Among those poisonous pesticides? Methyl bromide, which the Environmental Protection Agency classifies as “highly toxic.” Even lower level chronic exposure can damage the nervous system, kidneys, lungs, and potentially cause cancer. Want to know what other chemicals are being used? Here’s the complete list from the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Pesticide Database.

The second essential piece of information kaseycronquist failed to highlight in the comments section: He is the CEO of the California Cut Flower Commission.

Now, Mr. Cronquist, I’m all for buying American-made, especially California-made. Heck, I live in Los Angeles! But until you find a way to move the industry away from the use of dangerous chemicals like methyl bromide and toward sustainable alternatives, instructing people to simply buy “America’s flowers” won’t be enough to cut it.

I welcome your response here.

–Jennifer Grayson

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2 Responses to “Taking ‘made in America’ to the next level”

  1. Kasey Cronquist Says:

    Dear Jennifer,

    First, I recognized now that I should have been forthcoming about my role in the industry. I wasn’t meaning to be discrete about that, but yes, I work for the cut flower farmers of California as the CEO/Ambassador of the California Cut Flower Commission.

    Second, I think that we share a lot of common ground concerns related to the knowledge of consumers, industry practices and the environment and I would like to extend a personal invitation to you to join me in Carpinteria, CA for a personal tour of our California flower farms.

    You have valid concerns about what you’ve read and heard about the cut flower industry, but I’d like to provide you with a first hand experience on this subject and have you meet some of our farmers, their employees and their flowers.

    Carpinteria is effectively the “flower basket” of the United States. More flowers are grown & sold in Santa Barbara County than anywhere else in the country. So, this should provide you with a much clearer picture on where our farms are on sustainability and give the two of us a better opportunity to talk about the real challenges facing flower farming in the United States and your concerns with pesticide use.

    I can be reached at kcronquist@ccfc.org. I look forward to setting this opportunity up and meeting you.

    Kasey Cronquist, IOM
    CEO/Ambassador
    California Cut Flower Commission

  2. Laura L. Says:

    Publix, a grocery store in the Southeast, now carries a line of organically-grown flower bouquets. And they are only a bit more costly than the regular flower bouquets. Makes it easy to be green when you can pick up a responsibly-grown flower arrangement at the same time as doing your grocery shopping!

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