A conversation with Flower Farmers of Ireland and members

Ireland: “Given support, growing for the domestic market has great potential”

“Many of the flowers we grow on our flower farms are the kinds you’ll never see for sale in your conventional florist shop, the sorts that are far too delicate to be dipped in preservatives and bundled into refrigerated containers before being shipped vast distances from far-away countries. We are part of a powerful movement that’s radically redefining the global cut-flower industry by producing locally-grown, seasonal, scented blooms for people who love their flowers to look and smell as if they were freshly picked from the garden that morning,” says the team of the Flower Farmers of Ireland.

The association promotes the work of Ireland’s commercial cut-flower and foliage growers, at all levels. They advise and support members in matters of cultivation, marketing, sales, and opportunity. “We believe that flowers and foliage should be grown sustainably, with respect for the environment and people in the trade.”

Flicky Howe at work at her farm, Howe Hill Flower Farm. (All photos are taken by Anna Groniecka

Supplying the domestic market
The Flower Farmers of Ireland believe a sustainable flower-growing future cannot be based on imported plants: “Cultivating flowers at home is commonly perceived as a hobby. It is our belief, however, that growing flowers and foliage to supply the domestic floristry industry with has tremendous potential. The perception that growing flowers is simply a pastime means that there is little understanding of its potential as a commercial enterprise, and consequently little to no support or advice available to those wishing to establish themselves in the market. The association helps by providing a forum where growers can exchange knowledge and experience about everything from growing to marketing, and eventual sales of flowers and foliage,” says the association.

The organization is very keen on being as sustainable as possible. Not only do they do that, as mentioned above, by growing locally and thus cutting out a large part of transportation as well as waste material, they also use natural enemies to combat pests, rather than pesticides or herbicides. “Our members are highly aware of the environment, and most go out of their way to reduce any negative impact their activities might have.”

A member’s story
Of course, with such admirable goals, it is no surprise that many growers decided to join the FFOI. One of them is Flicky Howe-Prior of Howe Hill Flower Farm. She runs a small flower studio and a flower farm of about half an acre in West Cork, and has been a member of the FFOI since 2018.

Flicky tells us how she used to work as a retail florist, and how her experiences made her decide to become a local grower. “I used to churn out bouquets of imported flowers, all wrapped in plastic or stuck into floral foam. The plastic was the first thing that began to irk me – all that unnecessary waste! – followed by the realization that all those flowers were grown far away, and very likely very unsustainably. In the two or three years before I decided to quit my retail job, more and more customers were asking if there were any locally grown flowers available – only a very small number, alas – and that got me thinking about what an opportunity that could be. I decided to give it a try, to start small, but of course, such things never stay quite so small, do they?” she says.

“It was very addictive, and the reactions were so positive and encouraging, that I decided to take a Floret flower farming course in 2019, and by May, I made the decision to take a leap and become self-employed.”

By now, Howe Hill Flower Farm has grown enough to sustain their studio needs, and it allows them to offer an alternative florist service in their locality. Flicky explains that they supply a local hotel with flowers, provide flowers for weddings, and that they also bring their flowers to The English Market in Cork twice a week, where the locally grown flowers are usually sold out quickly. “The demand for homegrown is simply huge.”

Flicky is glad that she now has her own studio, without the floral foam and plastic that bothered her so much before. In the meantime, she has taken eco floristry courses to ensure she is operating sustainably and, where possible, locally. “Between March and September, the majority of the flowers we sell are from our own gardens, all grown without chemicals. We also sell flowers and foliage grown by other Irish growing.”

She adds that, for special occasions such as weddings, she sometimes does use flowers imported from the Netherlands. Even then, she ensures she does not buy just any flowers: “We do sometimes buy flowers from Holland, but only through Hoek. There, you can apply a filter to make sure you only see Fair Trade Flowers.” In that way, Flicky ensures that she imports in the most sustainable way possible.

For more information:
Flower Farmers of Ireland

Howe Hill Flower Farm

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