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Group hopes to regrow Colorado flower industry

BOULDER — When it comes to buying flowers, the question people most often consider is when should you give them? Valentine’s Day? Mother’s Day? Wedding anniversary?

But perhaps another question should be: Where do my flowers come from?

That question will be the main one discussed today at the Fresh Herb Co. farm in Longmont during a Field to Vase dinner. The Field to Vase movement hopes to help local flower growers the same way the Farm to Table campaign is boosting local produce growers and ranchers,

Today’s dinner is one of 10 stops nationally in a series of dinners organized by Certified American Grown to highlight the beauty and economic value of local flowers. It follows a talk this week at the Boulder Public Library by Debra Prinzing, author of “50 Mile Bouquet” and “Slow Flowers,” who has been instrumental in raising awareness about the importance of buying local flowers.

“The whole notion of the thing is sort of following the Slow Food movement, local food, small footprint food,” says Chet Anderson, who owns the Fresh Herb Co. with his wife, Kristy, where they grow flowers and herbs. “The next step is to have flowers locally sourced.”

Colorado was once a big player in the flower industry, with the earliest commercial growers getting a start shortly after the gold rush days. “Colorado is a prized place to grow flowers with high light intensity and cool nights,” Anderson says.

In the 1970s, rising energy prices made it more expensive for growers to fuel their greenhouses. Meanwhile, the U.S. government played a big role in the industry’s decline by encouraging Colombia and Ecuador to replace illegal crops with flowers. The granting of duty-free status to those flowers helped seal the deal. Currently, more than 80 percent of flowers sold in the U.S. are imported, according to Kasey Cronquist, administrator of the California-based Certified American Grown program.

A related statistic Cronquite cites: 74 percent of consumers don’t know where their flowers come from.

Currently, 47 farms in 14 states, including the Fresh Herb Co., have been verified by the Certified American Grown program. Thus far, the Fresh Herb Co. is the only Colorado farm to seek certification, according to the group’s website. Anderson says the certification is a simple matter of having a certifier check that the flowers the farm sells are flowers it grows.

Cronquist says the dinners are a way to showcase the beauty that flowers bring to dinners..

“Our tablescapes are unforgettable,” he says. “Flowers are as important as the food in bringing people together.”

Anderson said diners will sit at tables “scattered underneath the cottonwoods right next to the flower fields” full of veronica, scabiosa, red hot pokers, sunflowers, mint dill, agrostemma and other early summer flowers.

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