Valentine’s Day Roses: Are The Flower Workers Feeling The Love Too?
Monday, January 24, 2011
That bouquet of roses you give your honey on Valentine's Day or decorating the church for your wedding more than likely come from a place you tend to associate with car bombs and narcotraffickers. The high plains outside of Bogota, Colombia are covered with large plastic greenhouses which, especially right about now, are buzzing with activity as they prepare for their busiest season of the year. The question is, should you feel good about this?
Opinions are divided. On one hand, the industry has given work to hundreds of thousands of Colombians, many fleeing from cocaine-fueled violence in other regions of the country. It has also contributed to an economic resurgence in a country that has suffered from civil war for most of the last century. On the other, the work is hard, pays minimum wage and at some farms subects workers to toxic pesticides. If this concerns you, the best thing you could do is probably ask your florist if your flowers are produced using safe, sustainable practices such as those promoted by the Colombian organization Florverde. For more info and viewpoints, you can read the recent Smithsonian article or a slightly older article by Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times.
I made the photographs in this post at Alpes Flowers, a farm outside of Bogota which is certified by the Rainforest Alliance.
The high plains (8000 feet plus) outside of Bogota are covered in greenhouses growing mostly roses and carnations.
Workers on an assembly line at Alpes Flowers prepare fresh cut flowers for shipment.
Roses varieties on display at Alpes Flowers. Most of the flowers grown in Colombian are bred in the Netherlands.
American buyers from Fall River Florist Supply inspect flowers at Alpes Flowers outside of Bogota.
A worker stacks boxes of flowers in a large cold room prior to shipment to the US.