If you go into any grocery or convenience store this week, you are bound to see little bunches of stick-straight red roses or bright pink carnations alongside heart shaped boxes of chocolates in the lead up to Valentines Day, one of the “big three” floral holidays of the year.
For many years, small-scale flower farmers have been deeply conflicted by this. On one hand, we want consumers to love and appreciate and BUY flowers. On the other hand, we know that virtually all the flowers sold on Valentine’s Day and almost 80% of all the flowers consumed in this country overall, are shipped in from faraway lands.
With large swaths of the country under snow or with frozen ground, few U.S. flower growers and greenhouses have been able to produce flowers for this huge holiday. For many growers, Valentines Day signals a return to our greenhouses and grow-lights where we are starting to plant seeds for late spring and early summer blooms. Yet, the renaissance in small flower farmers and farmer-florists across the country gives me so much hope that things are starting to change.
But many enterprising farmer-florists, are taking the opportunity provided by Valentine’s Day to promote their summer bouquet subscriptions. A bouquet subscription is a great way to support local flower farms and shower someone you love with locally-grown blooms all season long. When I first started Floret many years ago, I offered a little subscription service in Seattle.
My customers, (or “flower ladies” as I called them) signed up and pre-paid for a delivery of a fresh bouquet of mixed seasonal flowers, once a week for a six week block of time. The could choose early, mid or late season. Once they were hooked on having fresh flowers in the house it often turned into all three. The experience really helped me hone my growing and business skills, plus it brought in a needed flow of cash early in the season.
There are lots of different names to describe this same type of service, such as flower share or bouquet CSA but the concept is basically the same. Similar to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share that veggie farmers have used successfully for years, a bouquet CSA involves making an upfront investment in a flower farm’s harvest for the season. As a subscriber, you get a weekly, biweekly or monthly bouquet featuring the best of what is blooming and the farmer has a predictable weekly sales outlet for their flowers. Most bouquet subscriptions are available for pick-up, but some flower farms even offer delivery.
For traditional florists, Valentine’s Day is a make-or-break holiday, often accounting for 1/3 of their total earnings for the year! There will be a lot of late nights and super early mornings surrounding this holiday. Sensing shifts in the way consumer tastes are changing, some forward-thinking florists and even many of the big online retailers are starting to change their sourcing practices to emphasize domestic production. Our friends at Slow Flowers have been documenting this trend and working to promote U.S. flower farmers and florists dedicated to providing sustainable, domestically grown blooms.
To find flower farms or floral designers in your region who specialize in seasonal flowers, be sure to check out Floret’s Farmer-Florist Collective. Because we are unable to meet demand to supply seasonal flowers in our region, and because we were receiving SO many requests to ship our flowers (which somewhat defeated the purpose of buy local), I wanted to be able to refer customers interested in buying our cut flowers somewhere else. I also saw it as a way to build community around local flowers. I originally created the Collective to highlight the alumni of Floret workshops, and recently expanded it to include flower farmers and floral designers who specialize in seasonal blooms anywhere in the world. (So if you are a flower farm or florist who utilizes local flowers, be sure to sign up!)
I’d love to see this map filled with sources for local flowers, so that no matter where you live, you can enjoy the beauty of seasonal blooms. We’re still a long way off from that, but times are chugging fast! Every day we get messages from people around the world that are creating their own cutting gardens or starting flower farms both big and small. Floret Team and I are dedicated to helping them succeed. My new book (pre-order it here) is just one of several resources that I hope will help support and accelerate the local flower movement.
So, whether you send a big ole’ bunch of flowers, buy a bouquet subscription, tuck some seeds into a heart-shaped card, or simply give your sweetie a smooch on the cheek, there is a so much local flower love to give and share this season.