When most people think of the Slow movement, they think food, not flowers. The Slow Food organization started in 1986 when Italians fought back against McDonald’s opening a location near Rome’s Spanish Steps. Slow Flowers blossomed in 2013 when Seattle’s Debra Prinzing wrote a book by that name, based on the idea that — as with hamburgers — “cheap” and “always available” aren’t necessarily better for blooms.
The desire for big profit in the flower industry often hurts environmental sustainability. Export revenues from the world’s top five cut flower-growing countries came to just under US$8 billion in 2019. When demand declined during the pandemic, countries began tossing out whole piles of flowers. Ecuador ranks third behind the Netherlands and Colombia in total cut flower exports, and first in roses; Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day generated about half of its flower sales in 2019 — approximately US$200 million. But after the first lockdowns, Ecuador’s exports plummeted 40 percent, only returning to about 70 percent by the end of summer.
Yet small flower farms are on the rise. A 2017 Toronto Star article said Slow Flowers was “the new aesthetic blooming in the floral business.” Prinzing’s website (slowflowers.com) lists pages of small-scale producers from B.C. to New Brunswick, and Bisaillon-Roy says there’s a growing number in Quebec.
People want more local products, he says, and in the case of flowers, that can come with perks. With shorter supply chains and less travel, direct-to-consumer operations create less waste and can cost less than international companies — and the flowers often last longer, since they’re cut to order.
All that might make selling locally grown flower subscriptions seem like an easy business win, but when Bisaillon-Roy and Berthe decided to buy a farmhouse in Ayer’s Cliff in the Eastern Townships, they encountered a few surprises. They had to excavate entire fields, rip out shrubs and fix up the house, while Bisaillon-Roy finished his degree in organic agricultural business management and Berthe trained as a midwife. Mature nut and other trees partially shelter the young couple’s land from frequent high winds, but winter storms regularly knock out power for days. (A blizzard once blew a kayak 30 metres across a neighbour’s property.) They launched a successful online fundraiser for an irrigation system, an improved electrical system and a generator, which they’re in the process of installing.
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