Where Do Flowers Come From?

The Bad but also the Good

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"View of Benjamin Reber's Farm" by Charles C. Hofmann; 1872.  A romanticized vision of farm life if I've ever seen one.

Stop.  Before you read another sentence, I want you to try and imagine the person who grows your flowers -- where do they live? how old are they? male, female, another identity? what is their racial identity?

 

There is a long history of romanticizing farming in this country.  In the 1700's, it was Thomas Jefferson proclaiming that "[c]ultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independant, the most virtuous..." while he conveniently ignored the black cultivators of the earth that he considered his property.  In the 1800's after the end of the Civil War, it was the creation of the myth of the "first Thanksgiving" where the European settlers learned how to farm the land from the indigenous people who already lived in the area.  Though we know the Europeans slaughtered that same tribe a few decades later.  In modern times we have advertisements about happy cows in California that make more delicious cheese, when the reality is that small dairy farms in California are rapidly disappearing due to pressures from climate change, low milk prices, tariff wars, and mega dairies. 

In the flower world, this dream version of a flower farmer (if you have ever stopped to even consider your farmer) is probably Erin from Floret with her pickup truck full of ombre dahlias or the beautiful couple behind Grace Rose Farm, carrying wicker baskets of roses in coordinating outfits.  But here's where your flowers are really coming from:

Excerpt of letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, August 23, 1785.