Inside the growing, gorgeous, female-Led Slow Flowers revolution

Thanks to the work of the slow food movement over the past two decades, we now know the value and the joys of local, seasonal eating, whether it’s spicy mouthfuls of spring’s first baby greens or the pure orb of sunshine that is a ripe summer peach. A similar cultural shift is now taking root in the floral industry: Slow flowers, as Seattle writer and local-blooms champion Debra Prinzing first dubbed them, operate on the same principles as slow food, celebrating seasonality and locality.

Flowers are big businesses. They generated $158 million in sales in Canada in 2021. Demand is especially high around Valentine’s Day when we throw around roses like we’re all on The Bachelor. The overwhelming majority of these blooms are imported from countries like Ecuador and Colombia, where the climate can support year-round cultivation. But these are quite delicate flowers that need to be flown in and refrigerated throughout the supply chain. The conventional flower-growing industry is also one of the top consumers of pesticides globally. High chemical use means more dangerous conditions for workers (who are usually women), plus an increased risk of contaminating the local environment. Labor violations, including exploitation and working long hours without overtime wages, are also common. As one worker in Colombia said in an eye-opening 2017 report on the industry, “Today, a flower is not produced with sweetness but with tears. Our product is used to express beautiful feelings throughout the world, but we are treated very poorly.”

There are more than 2,000 flower farms in Canada trying to offer a better alternative. Many operate organically, without pesticides. They are resurrecting age-old varieties and breeding new ones. And these blooms are not only more varied and beautiful but also often more fragrant because export growers prioritize durability over the scent.

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