Valentine’s Day used to be religious, but now it is about love. Nearly 55 percent of women and 52 percent of men will buy candy for their valentines, while more than 61 percent of guys plan to pick up flowers. Flowers can be hard to grow in the wintertime in the Northern Hemisphere since it is cold and dark. There are advantages to winter production. Keeping employees working through the winter helps to ensure they will be there during crunch time in May and June. Florists and farmers’ market customers won’t need to change their buying habits. It’s much easier for florists to keep buying from the same source all year. If you have a greenhouse you will probably be running heat for the flowers. Because of these challenges, lots of flowers come from South America.
Colombia is one of the world’s foremost producers of flowers, exporting $1 billion per year and growing. Today some 78 percent of the 4 billion cut flower stems purchased in the U.S. — including the roses bought on Valentine’s Day — come from Colombia and Ecuador, where they are grown in large production greenhouses, then harvested, sorted and shipped out around the world. Roses are the most important traded product of the cut flower industry and play a key role in the $20 billion U.S. floral industry. Thousands of miles from the colorful, exuberant displays of blooms that explode in supermarket floral departments and florists all over the country, however, lie a host of questionable practices that may have you thinking differently about those roses this Valentine’s Day.