Thursday, February 11, 2010

Organic and Eco-friendly Florists

Like florists all over the country, Terra Bella Flowers in Greenwood spent this week wrangling red roses.

Long-stemmed beauties from Ecuador stood in bins on the floor while arrangers' fingers flew to assemble bouquets for Valentine's Day this weekend.

Unlike most florists, Terra Bella's roses come with a string of credentials. They are certified by Veriflora, Flor Ecuador, Fair Labor Practices and the Flower Label Program. They are "eco-roses" not quite organic, but grown with fewer pesticides than your average flower.

Some of her flowers are certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, just like organic milk or broccoli. It's a growing market, with sales more than doubling to $42 million between 2005 and 2008, according to the Organic Trade Association.

But it remains a narrow slice of the $6.6 billion in U.S. retail florist sales, and many eco-friendly flower growers cannot afford the organic label.

Florists like Feveyear who want to avoid flowers grown with artificial fertilizers and pesticides use other labels like Veriflora that set limits on chemicals, largely to ensure that farm workers are treated well.

Eco-friendly florists also build relationships with local growers, whose farms they can visit and who share details about their growing practices