Welcome to our family blog. We hope that you will enjoy sharing our adventures with us! Each of us is having unique experiences and we hope you enjoy following these experiences with us. We began in New Zealand, took some time off while living back in the states, moved to Colombia for 2 years, then to Moscow for 2 years, and now are living in Taiwan. We hope you learn some things about other cultures as well.
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Friday, September 2, 2011
If you purchased a bouquet of flowers
from Trader Joe's, Whole Foods or Costco recently, most likely they
were bred, grown and packaged in Colombia.
The United States imports 79% of its
flowers. 65% of those flowers are from Colombia. Colombia is the
2nd largest exporter of flowers behind the Netherlands.
20,000 acres of land are committed to growing flowers. 79% of that
area is in the Bogota Savannah and the remaining area is near the
city of Medellin. These two cities are prime candidates for flower
growing because of their high, sunny plateau regions. Colombia's
nearness to the equator provides consistent long days of sunlight
which makes the heads grow brighter and bigger and the high altitude
grows better quality roses. Fertile soil, mild temperatures, cheap
labor and close proximity to America have caused the Colombian flower
industry to flourish.
This week I had the opportunity to
visit “Rosen Tantau”, a German rose breeding company. Rosen
Tantau in Germany is one of the most important rose farms in the
world bringing many new varieties to the rose market each year.
How does a new variety of rose make it
from imagination to your dining room table? Rose experts in
Uetersen, Germany at the Rosen Tantau farm cultivate, select and test
new novel varieties of roses throughout the year. New varieties are
then sent to their greenhouses in Colombia for further cultivation
and testing before hitting the market. The stem that arrives in
Colombia is called a “code”. The rose does not have a name yet,
only a number identifying it. The 3” code stem with a leaf is
grafted into a rose root system to create a hybrid. The two plants
will grow together to create a new variety. Rows of each variety
grow in the greenhouses.
If a rose achieves the desired
qualities for a market it will be given a name by the owner of the
greenhouse, receive a patent and go on the market. The Russian
market desires solid, large heads that are open whereas the American
market desires small, closed heads. Different colors are also in
demand in different markets of the world. Once you have a hybrid
rose you can not use that breed to graft another plant into. The new
plant would be too weak and have problems because the gene pool has
Other farms will now come to Rosen
Tantau to place orders for flowers they would like to grow. A farm
may request 100,000 plants of one variety and 1,000,000 of another.
Rosen Tantau has greenhouses where they grow commercial plants as
well for sale on the market.
Roses, carnations, chrysanthemums and
alstromeria are the main types of flowers grown here in Colombia.
When the stems have reached the desired
“cutting stage”, the stem is cut and the flowers go into the
warehouse to be packaged. The cutting stage is how the flower head
opens. The U.S. Market desires a closed head whereas the Russian
market desires a partially open head. Length of the cut stem is
important in the quality as well.
There are rows of workers in the
warehouse preparing bouquets to be shipped out. Each station has a
paper with the “ingredients” for the bouquet listed. Piles of
each type of flower are in front of her. She takes the required
amount of stems for one bouquet, puts them together, uses a machine
to cut the stems, then places the loose bouquet on a conveyor belt
where another person will pick it up, rubber-band it, put in a packet
of flower preserver and the final plastic or paper wrapping around
it. She then places the bouquet in a bucket of water. Each
bouquet maker has a flag at her station. As she begins to get low
on flowers she replaces the flag with a colored flag to indicate more
flowers are needed for the order she is working on. A runner places
more flowers in the bucket next to her and as she needs them she can
move them to her work area.
The completed orders of bouquets are
placed in refrigerated trucks and transported to the Bogota airport
where they will fly out during the night. The majority of the
flowers head to Miami where they are inspected upon arrival. 10% of
each shipment is taken out and destroyed by beatings and thrashings
to be sure no unwanted pests or disease are let into the country.
The inspectors are also checking to be sure no drugs are being
smuggled with the flowers.
90% of Colombia's flower export is to
America. Within 48 hours of a flower growing in a field here in
Colombia it is in a warehouse in the United States. Give it another
48 hours and it is at your local retailer's and possibly in your
home. Once you have received the flowers into your home there are a
few things you can do to help prolong their life and keep them
looking as gorgeous as possible. Cut the stems on a long 2” angle.
This will help keep the flower stem from being blocked by bacteria.
Remove all leaves that will be in the water. Place the stems in
fresh, warm water. A drop or two of bleach will prolong the flowers
and a teaspoon of sugar will help the heads to open sooner. Keep the
water fresh so the flowers don't get choked by sludge.
The flower houses around Bogota provide
work for more than 100,000 people. The majority of them are women.
The flower houses encounter the same problems that any other factory
job encounters. The women are on their feet the entire work day.
There is some machinery present where accidents could happen and
where do the children go when their mothers are working? Rosen
Tantau farms have strict quality control rules to keep the working
environment safe. The floors are continually swept clean of petals
and stem pieces. The plants scraps are swept into a channel of water
in the center of the floor when they flow out of the buildings and
into a filter system. The plant waste is then composted for future
use on the farms. Rosen Tantau in Colombia has also set up 2
foundations to encourage the continuing education of its employees.
The first foundation allows the workers to receive more education.
The second foundation provided education for the children of the
employees. A very small fee is charged for each child to receive day
care and schooling while their parent is at work all day. If you
purchase flowers at Whole Foods, you will be happy to know that a %
of your cost is going to this foundation to educate the children.