Just beginning my three-year term and learning curve as Northeast Regional Director. The first conference I attended was here in Vermont, in 1992. I’ve been a quiet off and on member since then.
Kudos to Missy Bahret for so much informative and thoughtful input throughout her recent term! And thank you Carolyn Snell for keeping things interesting, and running for this board seat as well. Check out Carolyn’s regular contributions to the ASCFG’s 2 two online forums—the Bulletin Board and the Community Network.
Year’s end reflection: when chatting with customers about what motivates them to buy locally-grown flowers, they often recall the days of the “Mom and Pop flower shop”, with its steam-heated, glass-paneled greenhouses, and seasonal crops brought in from the farm fields out back. The conversation expands into the history of cut flower growing in the United States. That’s a fat topic, worthy of ongoing conversation, and can also include the companion history of global cut flower production. (Recalling a c. 1997 Quarterly article; I’d hoped to use a few quotes from that article here; alas, the online archive began in 2001).
Studying up on the history of the cut flower industry gives us information to share—and language to use—with curious customers at the farmers’ market and farm stand, as well as when conversing with wholesalers, produce departments, and florists. Here, reviews of two popular books on the topic:
Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers, Amy Stewart, 2007
“Amy Stewart offers richly detailed information about the breeding and genetic engineering of flowers, and the organic and fair-trade movements around the world. Stewart also provides interesting historical notes, including a look at how the Romans in the first century AD had a highly developed flower trade, manipulating flowers to bloom out of season using steam or hot water in some of the earliest greenhouses. She sees firsthand how flowers are grown and harvested on farms in Latin America, California, and Holland. A fascinating intersection of nature and technology, of sentiment and commerce.” Orion magazine.
Favored Flowers: Culture and Economy in a Global System, Catherine Zeigler, 2007
“Ziegler’s ethnography unravels the economic and cultural strands of the global flower market. She provides an historical overview of the development of the cut flower industry in New York from the late nineteenth century to 1970, and on to its ultimate transformation from a domestic to a global industry. As she points out, cut flowers serve no utilitarian purpose*; rather, they signal consumers’ social and cultural decisions about expressing love, mourning, status, and identity. Ziegler shows how consumer choices have changed over time and how they are shaped by the media, by the types of available flowers, and by flower retailing”. Amazon.com
*Wait, what? “Flowers serve no utilitarian purpose.”? I’d say they are both useful and practical! Before writing this article today (Thanksgiving 2013) I harvested gorgeous white quilled mums, bupluerum, and eucalyptus from the greenhouse, then added rosehips, parsley, kale, dusty miller, rue, and dogwood from the field, and placed the bouquet on the table to say “Welcome to our final harvest in northern Vermont.” to our holiday visitors. On a practical level, heck, half the bouquet could be eaten tomorrow, part of it could be dried and given to a regular customer as a ‘thank-you’ gift, and the rest goes onto the compost pile!
Our same visitors had gifted me years ago with Fritz Bahr’s Commercial Floriculture, 1922. Fritz says “a compost pile is a paying investment for every grower, consisting of so-called wastes from the greenhouse…which even if only used as mulch or top-dressing, will permit a great saving”. We’re all familiar with the utilitarian benefits of well-done compost. Take note: the National Organic Program does not allow “store-bought” flowers in their list of acceptable compost ingredients (unless perhaps such flowers are certified organic?).
I’ll be attending the tri-state (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont) Greenhouse IPM workshop in January, and will highlight “best practices” in the next report. Also looking forward to attending presentations by fellow ASCFG members Molly Culver and the fabulous Hutchisons at the NOFA NY conference in late January. Other intriguing workshops include “Profitability of the paper pot transplanter,” (seen more than once at the ASCFG meeting last November in Rhode Island), and “Scaling up to small farm composting,” (to make the process as efficient and effective as possible).