In the beginning there were farmers that grew flowers on small plots of land. The flowers needed to be sold and consumed locally because there was no transportation beyond how far a horse could go before the heat or cold took their toll.
If the flowers were not available locally, a florist would have to substitute or go without and use more greenery. A whole host of inventions had to take place before this pattern could change in any significant way. As demand for flowers grew the desire to get those carnations grown a few states over was great enough that ice packed flowers on trains began to allow this interstate commerce to happen.
The ice also worked on trucks as the interstate highway system in the US began to allow more travel over longer distances. This opened the door for more growers in more states to grow, pack and deliver their goods to more distant markets. This challenged the local farmer because he now had to compete with more growers some from states where perhaps the labor cost were lower, the sunlight stronger and the water better suited for growing.
When a Black man named Fredrick Jones developed the first portable refrigeration unit for military use (ThermoKing) the game changed once more. Now the distance traveled was not limited to the life of the ice and flowers could travel further and further around the US.
All along this path the flowers became less and less local up to the point where we are today when Local means with the entire US. But the overall pattern has not changed, by this I mean that the demand for unique flowers continues to grow and that demand was destined to be filled by growers in far off lands.
Many years ago the thought of using large cargo jet to fly in plane after plane load flowers was not comprehensible. However, the same dynamics that allowed Colorado to become the largest grower of carnations in the world, have allowed Colombia and Ecuador to become the largest suppliers of flowers.
I don’t think we will find the word “local” being applied to the whole world supply, nor do I think it should.
There is a clear sign that buying local movement is coming full circle and I predict that more local growers will emerge to serve a limited geographical area. This is a good thing and as a result more and more unique products will be developed and sought after. As a florist or Flower distributors if you are able to buy local flowers, just do it and be happy there are people willing to spend the time and money to grow things that help you be unique and make a living.
However, there is a limit to how much substitution can be made when a bride demands 90cm roses and stephanotis in July. If we step back just a little we can see that Latin American growers have done a great job of growing high quality flowers in large quantities but they are all much the same. Roses, Chrysanthemums, Carnations and Alstromeria are the bulk of what they produce and that leaves a lot of open territory for “local” growers to find the niches in-between.
Remember to wear your sunscreen Miami is HOT!
William “wIlliee” Armellini