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The international flower industry is in jeopardy. Here's how you can save it.

April 21, 2020
The international flower industry is in jeopardy. Here's how you can save it.

The world you want to live in after this crisis is over will be determined by how you direct your spending power now.

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, and the impact it’s having on the international floral industry, I wanted to share my thoughts as an operator in the global flower industry for the past five years. I’ve seen great reporting from The New York Times and Bloomberg on this issue with a focus on the Dutch industry, but not much on the Latin American industry, where farms have been impacted just as badly.

Farms can’t close their doors, stop paying rent, furlough workers and ride out the storm. Months ago, farms started preparing for a surge in production by increasing plantings and pruning their rose plants to increase production for Easter, Administrative Professionals Day, and Mother’s Day, which all fall in April & May. To maintain a baseline of operational health, farms have to continue harvesting every single day, even if they can't sell the flowers -- which means they're paying to throw flowers away, on top of missing revenues.

Farms, wholesalers and florists make the bulk of their annual revenue during the first two quarters of the year, which makes the timing of COVID-19 particularly cruel for our industry.

Bloomberg and NYT highlighted RoyalFloraHolland, which I’ve visited several times (the famed Dutch flower auction), along with farms large and small across Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, California and the Mid-Atlantic U.S.

Through my flower travels, I’ve learned that our industry really is a marvel of borderless international capitalism — and, as a result, it brings economic activity and possibility to the countries and people who need it most. Empowering women, in particular, throughout the floral supply chain has been at the core of mission since day one.

At least 70% of the flowers supplying the U.S. market are grown in Ecuador and Colombia, and the majority of workers who cultivate and harvest those stems are women.

I’ve personally spoken with some of those workers and heard the joy in their voices when they tell me that working in flowers has provided financial stability for their families, has given an education to their children, has given them a purpose and a life they wouldn’t have otherwise.

That said, I love locally grown flowers. This moment has only increased my interest in supporting local flower farms and the unique blooms you can only get locally.

However, the international flower trade supplies most of the market’s demand here in the U.S., and this crisis poses an existential threat to it. If you want to be able to buy flowers a year from now, please support our industry and buy some now, if you are able. We can’t stop the plants from producing, and farms planted in preparation for the biggest two sales quarters of the year.

There is a very real chance that many flower farms could go under permanently as a result of the economic impact of this crisis. If you love picking up flowers from the grocery store, seeing them beautify a wedding or event, or using them to say “I love you” when you’re not able to be there in person, please support our industry today.

If you want an easy way to support the flower industry, Poppy is offering DIY floral arranging kits that ship directly from farms in Ecuador, Poppy At Home.

I’ve intentionally kept the price on these flowers very low (in a flower shop, this amount of flowers would cost $200+) with the express goal of sending as many orders to my valued farm partners as possible. Every order helps.

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