Thursday, June 26, 2008

Flower Confidential notes

So this past week I listened to a great podcast. It was the 6/09/08 Democracy Now broadcasting Bill Moyers keynote address at the National Conference for Media Reform. AMAZING!!! What a job we all face. If any of you have the time, it's well worth listening to. This past week I also finished a book I've been reading, Flower Confidential. It's kind of like a flower version of the omnivore's dilemma, but without as much of the ethical pathos that Pollen creates. I personally think it would have been better if she would have presented more questioning about the flower trade system as is, but it was a good read and I definitely learned quite a few things. Such as: there are flower companies in central/south america that will dip whole flowers, flower bud first, into vats of fungicides so that the flowers will pass though US customs (note to self: gross, no more rose petal baths!); flower imports make up nearly 80% of all flowers purchased nationwide (note to self: grow more flowers); California dominates the domestic market, growing 68% of the flowers in the US (California, no doubt about it); there are roses in Ecuador that grow five ft tall and have a bloom the size of a softball (note to self: DANG!); imported flowers are not tested for illegal pesticide residue (vegetables are); at the customs checkpoint for flowers and veggies in Miami, if a box of flowers fails inspection or is questionable regarding insects and fungus, sometimes the flowers will be fumigated in a special methyl bromide chamber at the airport (disgusting); Stewart writes "flowers aren't the only item subject to fumigation....all of the asparagus coming in from Peru was fumigated as a matter of course," including organic no spray asparagus (never again will we yearn for out of season asparagus); the Swiss spend over 100 dollars on flowers per capita annually, with Holland, Germany, and Great Britian all spending forty to sixty dollars per capita. The US only spends 26 dollars per capita, and most of that spending is concentrated on a relatively small number of households (fellow friends, indulge yourselves with local flowers!) That is probably enough for everyone to digest. She also takes the reader through the Aalsmeer flower auction in Holland which sounds pretty fascinating. So this beautiful creature munching on some old dill we have is a black swallowtail caterpillar, also known as a parsleyworm. I almost walked right by it as they camouflage themselves so well. I think they are so gorgeous. If only I could have such color and vibrancy and patterns of delight. And then to metamorphosize into a black swallowtail??!! I wonder what the human equivalent of metamorphasis would be. I could use a cacoon right about now. Come out on the other side capable of flying; sounds good to me. And here is another pic of an item I can't wait to eat. MELONS!!!! We have so many melons this year. We hope they're as good as last year. We get customers for life from a good melon. We're trying some new varieties this year as well. Last year our best variety was "orange coban" or something with coban in the name. It was an heirloom and I have never tasted a more delicious canteloupe.
The flowers up top and here are bouquets I made up for our special community dinner at Panciuto which was a great experience.Salpiglossis (or peruvian lily), scarlet scabiosa, black knight scabiosa (love it!), ping-pong scabiosa, and lime zinnias made for a nice dark expression of romance and intimacy. We weren't all making out or anything at the dinner, but hopefully the flowers helped to increase the convivial mood. Stuart and I had to talk for a brief while before dinner was served and of course I was nervous for hours leading up to it. It wasn't so bad. I actually rambled on and on and think I may have not let Stuart talk enough. The food was amazing as always and Panciuto is hosting more of these dinners if anyone is interested. Well worth it.


Eva Seidelman said...

Though I haven't read Flower Confidential, I'm glad we agree that when talking about flowers, we need to be aware of the flower trade system and the conditions under which our flowers are grown.

If you think all these pesticide and fungicide drenched flowers are unhealthy for us as consumers, think how dangerous conditions are for the workers who handle our flowers. In Ecuador and Colombia, where most of our flowers originate, work related health conditions caused by heavy pesticides-including skin rashes, respiratory problems, eye problems, and miscarriages affect over half of Ecuadorian and Colombian flower workers. Safety and health laws go largely unenforced. An International Labor Organization survey found that only 22% of Ecuadorian flower companies trained their workers in the use of chemicals.

As most of the workers in these countries are women, sexual harassment and forced pregnancy tests are common problems. Workers attempts to organize independent unions to negotiate for better pay and conditions have been clamped down by illegal firings and intimidation tactics. Dole Fresh Flowers, the only multinational company that owns farms in Colombia has been notorious for employing such tactics.

To learn more about the International Labor Rights Forum's Fairness in Flowers Campaign visit our website.

To find out what you can do, sign up for our action alerts and newsletter and view our campaign toolkit!

Hope to keep in touch!

Eva Seidelman
International Labor Rights Forum

marko said...

Indeed, nothing says romance like black knight scabiosas. I didn't want to say anything, but I did notice a lot of hanky panky going on under that big, long table at Panciuto. But seriously... what a great event! Aaron did a nice job of letting the the amazing quality of your produce do all the talking.

Alice and Stuart said...

Eva-- Thanks so much for your very informative comment regarding the flower trade. We visited the labor rights website and have since added the link to it from our blog. In the Flower Confidential Amy Stewart does touch upon labor issues and I regret to not have included any of these facts in our blog. She goes over child labor, sexual harrassment, environmental degradation due to toxic pesticides and herbicides, and health related issues workers in Ecuador and Columbia must face working around all the chemicals. Horrible stuff. She also details a few flip side arguments such as these people are better off with jobs so they don't have to migrate to Peru, buying California roses doesn't support American workers but supports a Mexican person working away from his/her family, etc. Stewart also details the new certification processes that are coming about, such as Veriflora and Organic Bouquet. Of course in my opinion, buying local is the way to go. Again, thanks for your great comment Eva; we're always up for some food for thought!