Not-So-Sweet Smell of Floral Imports

By Shawn Dell Joyce
           All the flowers in corporate chains and box stores are imported. The cheap abundance of imported flowers not only has an impact on Mom-and-Pop-owned florists and supermarkets, but also makes it very hard for local growers to compete. One grower complained; “We can’t allow other countries to come in and impact our bottom line in the name of free trade. How can you compare foreign labor costs of $3 an hour compared with our labor costs of $12 an hour?”

           “We can’t compete with imports,” a nursery owner said. “Those flowers are loaded with pesticides that local growers can’t even think about using.” A survey on Columbian flower plantations found that workers were exposed to 127 different pesticides. One-fifth of the chemicals used in flower production in South America are restricted or banned in the United States and Europe (such as DDT). Since there are very few environmental laws in South America, these chemicals wind up in drinking water, causing species decline as well as damaging human health.

          Workers are often denied proper protection and become sick after applying herbicides, fungicides and pesticides. Two-thirds of Colombian flower laborers (mostly women) suffer from impaired vision, respiratory and neurological problems, disproportionately high still-birth rates, and babies born with congenital malformations. When workers try to organize unions to defend their interests, they are often fired, ridiculed, or harassed.

        Vote with your dollars. When you buy Mom a locally-grown potted plant from one of the many nurseries in our area like Hoeffner Farms, Twin Ponds, or any other small farmer, you are voting for a cleaner environment and a healthier local economy. Want to celebrate both Mom and Mother Earth this year?

—–Ask your local Mom and Pop florist for organic flowers, or by a live plant.

—–Buy flowers from a local farm like Hoeffners orTwin Ponds in Montgomery.

—–Give Mom a live plant from a farm like Manza’s or Hodgson’s in Montgomery.

—–Give Mom an edible bouquet of salad greens and flowers from a local farm like Late Bloomer Farmstand (you can find them at Pennings in Warwick on Saturdays).

—–Buy Mom a flat of flowers from Hoeffner’s farm and plant them in flower beds for her

          Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and founder of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.

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