Recently I was one of the guest, keynote speakers at the State University of NY at Farmingdale in Long Island. It was a conference I was so honored to speak because I never thought I would see one of its kind on the subject of my passions & work-agriculture that saves the environment and its inhabitants, local farming, history of flowers, and-my US grown flowers to centerpiece movement.
The event is called The Sustainable Garden Conference which benefits their Sustainable Garden Dept. of Urban Horticulture & Design program; however I saw the real benefit as what it brought to all those attending. Years ago, colleges had no sustainable programs at all much less on horticulture; you went like me for environmental science and forestry-that was option 1 and 2. Now there are a whole new group of college curriculum emerging in all fields of sustainability across the country.
The presentations within this conference examined:
- why locally grown flowers & food fell out of favor
- why the growth of international flower markets dominate the industry
- sustainable growing for planet, creatures and people alike
- what opportunities exist here for local production agriculture.
The array of speakers went from landscape designing with native species, helping our failing pollinators , the local flower movement, non GMO varieties, natural strategies for flower diseases, finding edible flowers, and myself who examined it all as an ecologist, floral designer and florist owners point of view . And… how I started eco-green floristry until now.
How wonderful a day was that for me? Everything I passion and live for, continually promote and work at, in an all day conference. I joined up with Cornell U horticultural specialists about helping our bees and butterflies, listened on agricultural chemical use, I molded with local growers and those that want to be, I absorbed intently about historical botanical prints and cooking with flowers (cooking has much mystery for me), and I repaid by giving details of all my transformations and advocacy to a fascinated public.
It’s not every day you get to be amongst a large audience of the same mind and passion, kind of like fans at a Yankee game but deeper. We ecologists and environmentalists think with our soul, not our pocketbook or for corporate growth. I am so used to being the lone wolf out, that it nearly overwhelms you with emotion and glee. I was with my pack. As I always get at these like minded events; I was smitten, and I was giddy. So giddy that my notes were useless so I just shuffled them around and went with my heart. It was a rapt audience. It kind of put me to mind of a Stephen King novel….there really are others out there , believing as I that we can do something to save the world-or at least our part of it. .
I came away with a renewed hope that the planet does have a chance and so do US grown flowers & food if we all give them a chance and patronize them. Long Island was once one of the growing capitols in the East at the turn of the century, and it has seen resurgence with many new boutique food, flower, and wine growers emerging. I see it also in NJ and upstate NY in the Catskill/Adirondack region. I recently acquired (yet another for my collection) an original copy of the American Florist monthly from 1919. If you could see the lists and adverts for seeds men and growers in the US then; in the 1000’s from Illinois to Minnesota to Virginia to New York. Where and when did they all fail? One hundred years and now only 8% of the flowers purchased in this country at any florist, outlet, or store are US grown. And I have them.
I ask you always to think before you buy and use your dollars to send a corporate message. I do not want my only choice of banana to be from Costa Rica where they plowed a mile of the rain forest for the crop. I don’t want my only choice of cooking oil to be from an Indonesian palm oil farm that ousted the last family of orangutans to grow it. And…. I want my beautiful and aromatic, American Beauty roses; not scentless roses from the southern hemisphere.