Valentine’s Day 2021 at Vault + Vine
2020 forced us to take a step back and think about how we operate as a business. If you’ve been following along as we shapeshift into the future, you won’t be surprised by any of this information. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we’d like to take a moment to reiterate some of those decisions and the reasons behind them.
We will not be carrying the classic red rose for Valentine’s Day. In fact, you can expect not to see many roses around our shop, unless a local wholesale rose grower pops up in coming years. (with the exception of the occasional Canadian-grown, spray rose which we’ll sprinkle into our Vday offerings in a few weeks)
We’ve made a commitment to source all our flowers closer to home. During spring, summer and fall, we’re able to source all of our flowers and foliage locally from our flower-growing friends. However during the winter in Philly, we’ve chosen to source stems from California, Florida and Canada. It’s been a fun exercise in making floral decisions and ultimately our floral arrangements and bouquets prioritizing where flowers are grown versus color palette or locking down specific flowers. Over the winter thus far you may have noticed that we’ve found nice consistency in the quality and color of gerbera daisies, snapdragons, and anthurium to name a few.
You may be wondering why we’re still sourcing blooms from California, Florida and Canada over the winter. The reason is that we are grappling with what it means to be a flower shop providing cut flowers to our community year round. During that process we decided to stop sourcing from Central and South America.
Cutting Ties with The Global South
Two thirds of flowers bought and sold in the USA are imported and 93% of those imported flowers come from Latin America. In order to increase their output, many Latin American farms rely on pesticides to increase crop yield. These pesticides not only come home with you when you purchase these flowers but are also harmful to the farmers who harvest them.
A study of people working on farms in Ecuador shows that women who work on flower farms are 5 times more likely to give birth to children who have vision problems, have poorer fine motor skills and have impaired overall development both in the womb and as infants than women who work on other types of farms. This is not the price we are willing to pay to have roses year-round. In addition to harmful pesticide exposure, many farm workers in the Global South are paid low wages, work long hours, and have little advocacy when it comes to confronting these working conditions.
We also want to consider the effects that these farms have on the environment. Large scale farms take a disproportionate amount of resources from the earth while returning very little back. When we purchase roses and other cut flowers from farms in Ecuador, Colombia and other countries in the Global South, they make a very long trip before they get to their final destination. This involves long flights, a few tenures in cold storage and packaging to preserve the flowers. Carbon footprint aside, these roses are not as fresh as you may think.
Strengthening Our Relationship With Local Flower Farms
Within the city of Philadelphia and the surrounding area there’s a whole host of farms that grow beautiful blooms all year long. (Jig-Bee Flower Farm has already started providing us with beautiful tulips!) Our choice to prioritize small, local farms over large-scale farms is the choice to support small, local businesses that prioritize sustainability in relation to their employees as well as the environment. Land stewardship is an important part of small scale growing– all of our local farmers utilize practices that enrich the soil year after year, which in turn helps stabilize the climate. The benefits of good soil spans beyond just the ground that it inhabits.
When you support us, the money that you spend goes back into the hands of local flower farmers who are doing the hard work of reviving domestic, commercially-grown flowers. Our prices may seem higher because our vendors, most of whom are local, are paying their employees fair wages and operating within a supply chain that costs more financially, but is more beneficial to the environment. Understanding what things really cost is a process that requires rethinking where we shop, what we buy, how much things cost and why. We want to continue to evolve our business choices around this line of thought and hope to take you with us. We’re excited about what we’ve been creating while setting higher standards for ourselves and thrilled to share these creations with you this Valentine’s Day (and beyond).
Sources referenced and for additional reading:
Smithsonian Magazine: The Secrets Behind Your Flowers
Of Flowers and Female Booms: The Impact of the Flower Industry on Female Outcomes by Sara Hernandez