It's petal to the metal for Irish flower farmers

The Irish flower market continues to be dominated by imported flowers. But things are beginning to move in the other direction, albeit slowly, as alternatives are available. Just ask Maura Sheehy of Ballyroe-based 'Maura's Cottage Flowers'.

Maura is one of around 60 members of the Flower Farmers of Ireland group, and last week the group organized Irish Flower Week to highlight the cut flowers, plants, and foliage available much closer to home. The association provides a forum for growers to exchange what they know about the process - from growing to marketing to sales - and they also highlight members to a greater audience by various promotional methods.

While Irish Flower Week serves to highlight all this and more, it also shines a light on the dominance of sustainable, ecologically friendly practices within the Irish industry. Maura, a founding member, explained that the dominance of flowers coming in from abroad is beginning to change, but challenges remain.

"The biggest issue we're finding is that Irish growers are not growing at a large enough scale to sell to florists, but florists are taking more interest in Irish-grown flowers," she told The Kerryman. "One of the biggest problems is that being a flower farmer is very labor-intensive, especially at this time of year. To give you an idea, if the weather is very fine and you need a crop of flowers for a farmers' market or a wedding, you have to be up very early. You have to either cut very early or very late."

There are, however, opportunities aplenty to offset some of those challenges. "Ireland is a wonderful place to grow plants in with its temperate climate and abundant rainfall. Flower farming is growing in popularity, and many of the members are now working full time in their businesses."

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