Along Crescent City’s stretch of U.S. 17 lives a forest within a forest.
Black tarps stretched at 10 feet high under the shelter of live oak trees create the ecosystem needed for one of the region’s oldest and most viable agricultural industries: the fern business.
The industry comes alive in the depth of winter in preparation for its biggest day. After all, those roses being delivered to that special someone don’t like to travel alone.
From harvest to processing to shipping, to a bouquet — those auxiliary greens start their journey from the area at places like the Fern Trust, a local cooperative that grows all manner of indigenous flora.
The Trust usually employs close to 100 full-time staff, which increases 20 percent during February.
Overall, about 5,000 employees work in the fern industry locally.
According to Trust Vice President David Register, Valentine’s Day kicks off a robust first quarter, which will later see the locally grown greens exported for International Women’s Day and Mothering Sunday and sold domestically for Easter and Mother’s Day.
For now, though, those green leaves are part of the $18.6 billion Valentine’s Day industry, serving as the backdrop to some of the 224 million roses that will be sold.