Hi everyone, Zoe here! I started working at Harmony Harvest Farm with *minimal* flower knowledge and I’m proud to say that I’ve come a long way since then. Sure, there are still plenty of crop names that I don’t recognize (Winged Everlasting is a movie about birds who are immortal, right?), but I’m armed with a lot more info about the industry. On my very first day, Steph dropped a fact bomb on me: 80% of cut flowers in the US don’t originate here. I was *shocked*. She then went on to explain the history of the industry and that Harmony Harvest is a Certified American Grown farm. So, what’s the scoop and why does it matter? Let’s chat.
THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN GROWN FLOWERS
The US Cut Flower industry hasn’t always been dominated by imported blooms. In the early 1970s, about 100 million flowers were imported, while 1.2 billion were grown in the United States. But by the early 2000s, that had changed- two billion blooms were imported and only 200 million were domestically produced. The increase in imported flowers was largely due to a growing global economy (hello, internet), however, the easement of taxes for flowers imported from Colombia created a pretty significant ripple.
For all my fellow visual learners, here’s a graph to illustrate the shift:
Fun Fact: Colombia has an excellent growing climate for fresh flowers. This was discovered by David Cheever, a graduate student from Colorado State University who wrote a paper on why Colombia would be ideal for growing flowers. After graduation, David moved to Colombia and ignited the cut flower industry in Bogota. Jury is out on David.
WHY AMERICAN GROWN FLOWERS ARE IMPORTANT
Beyond supporting domestic farming families, there are many benefits to buying from American farmers.
Shipping flowers is kind of our thing, so we know as well as anyone how finicky it can be. Very few types of blooms can survive lengthy transportation from one country to another. This means that another advantage of buying American-grown blooms is that you can get more unique and a wider range of varieties. Some of the most common flower imports are roses, carnations, tulips, and lilies because they’re sturdy and can handle being in less-than-ideal conditions through the supply chain. Sure, those are all great, but there are SO many types of flowers with crazy cool texture, shape, and color that only a local flower farm can provide. The less time flowers spend in the supply chain, the better, and by getting flowers directly from the farm, you’ll have the chance to discover new blooms while getting a longer vase life.
Another reason to buy Certified American Grown flowers is because they are inherently better for the environment. Flowers that have been imported require more packaging and transportation waste because they need to go a long way, fast. Another sad reality is that most of the global production farms don’t have to abide by the same pesticide standards of the US (and let’s not forget labor standards!) As farmers, who rely on a healthy planet to survive, flower consumption that is easier on the environment is super important to us.
ABOUT CERTIFIED AMERICAN GROWN
Certified American Grown is an organization that certifies flower and foliage producers across the country. The certification process is pretty rigid - we have to supply seed and plant purchase history and updated crop maps every year which is verified by a third-party expert. It’s intense but worth it! Here are a few of the big ways they’re helping our industry:
I think it’s fair to say that most people would pick American grown flowers when given a choice. But it’s hard to make a choice if you don’t have enough information. As of now, flowers from outside of the US are required to be labeled with their country of origin. The problem is, that the way that flowers are entering the US has changed. Before, bulk flowers were imported and then made into bouquets domestically before hitting the grocery shelves. Today, bouquets are pre-made overseas and shipped into the country, retail-ready. While the country of origin labeling is on the box, it’s not always on every bouquet sleeve Certified American Grown has worked diligently with Customs and Border Patrol to ensure proper label inspections are being performed. If you’re at the grocery store browsing bouquets, check for a country of origin label. If you see the Certified American Grown seal, you can guarantee that they were grown on domestic soil and that they meet strict quality and freshness standards.
A Fair Playing Field
Farming in the US is expensive. Between land value, taxes, and fair labor standards, costs are high meaning margins are low. This wouldn’t be a huge deal if the global producers were held to the same standards, but they’re not. With a priority on the global economy, many of them are able to import into the US tax free. Pair this with low wages and land values, it’s almost impossible to compete with their cost per stem - even after considering the cost to ship the flowers into the US. Certified American Grown has worked hard to shine the light on these discrepancies with the goal of creating a fair playing field for US farmers. The most recent example of this is the 2020 trade policy change that now allows Ecuadorian roses to enter the US duty-free.
The American Grown Act
Being a member of Certified American Grown is more than just a label; it involves government advocacy. One of the biggest calls for action right now is via The American Grown Act, which would make it mandatory for the White House, State Department, and Department of Defense to use American-grown flowers and foliage. If our federal government isn’t supporting American farmers first (via our tax dollars), why should the average consumer? This past July (which just so happens to be American Grown Flowers Month), the act was introduced in the House of Representatives. We’ll keep you updated as more comes out about its passage, but you can read the most recent update here.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that international trade is bad. While we will always advocate for American farmers, a global economy is an essential part of our lives today. The reality is, US farmer’s can’t support the demand, some areas or the world simply have better growing conditions for certain varieties, and flowers should be celebrated no matter where they come from. We just want the playing field to be a little bit more even so that 80% becomes more like 50%.
Next time you’re in the market for blooms, consider buying from your local flower farm or getting them shipped from hhfshop.com, and look for the Certified American Grown seal. You’ll be supporting dedicated farmers like us, who at the end of the day, just want to spread happiness and love through flowers.