Spring is just around the corner, and there’s no better way to celebrate Spring’s arrival than with a bouquet of organic flowers, delivered right to your door. The Green Stylist’s February Giveaway will feature our favorite flower delivery service called, Farm Girl Flowers. This month, one of our lucky readers and supporters will win a FREE bouquet from Farm Girl Flowers. (See below for contest rules & details)
Founded by Christina Stembel in San Francisco, Farm Girl Flowers “provides beautiful flowers at a lower price than competitors, while supporting Bay Area farmers and businesses, minimize our environmental impact as much as possible, and saves you time through a simple ordering process.” Starting at $25, a beautiful bouquet picked from local vendors will be delivered to your door by bike messenger, not van! Each bouquet also comes wrapped in a burlap sak, which is waste from a Ritual Coffee, a local (cult) coffee company.
I receive a bouquet every week and look forward to the unique creations Christine imagines – they are absolutely stunning! And if you need more proof, read all of her positive Yelp reviews. We interviewed Christine, to learn more about her store, passion and what’s next for Farm Girl Flowers. Read on!
Q. How did you first come to start Farm Girl Flowers? What was your motivation?
I started Farmgirl Flowers because I saw a need, and some problems that I wanted to fix. What prompted me initially to think of the potential business idea was the high price offlowers. I wanted to understand why the only options I could find available were very expensive designer florists (where I’d end up spending $100-$200 per arrangement), or the generic “Big 4″ (as I call them – ProFlowers, 1-800-Flower.com, FTD, & Teleflora). I either had to spend an exorbitant amount of money or get a very generic product. When I started researching flower cost, I found several other, bigger problems that needed to be fixed, which led me to see a giant opportunity to fix an industry that is “broken” in some respects.
The first problem I found was the most shocking – that 78% of all flowers sold in the US are imports. This stunned me, especially as I learned more about how local farmers were going out of business at a rapid rate because they couldn’t compete with price of imports. Most flowers sold in the US now come from South America, with Columbia being the biggest exporter to the US. Colombia’s low wages, lax worker safety rules, & lenient pesticide standards provide a cheaper export platform to compete against U.S. flower producers. The more I learned about the flower industry, it seemed eerily similar to where the textile and coffee bean industries were a short time ago – the only difference was the lack of general knowledge and education around it.
The second problem I found was flower waste. This wasn’t something I had ever thought of before, but made complete sense once I did! Depending on the study, it’s estimated that between 50-80% of flowers that are grown are never sold. It makes sense when you think of how many varieties of flowers growers bring to market, and florists stock in their shops. They don’t know if the roses or tulips are going to be purchased, so they have to have both, and the one that is purchased has to subsidize the one that wasn’t. And because of the short shelf life of cut flowers, the amount of waste is high. This problem just took a little creative problem solving to figure out that by eliminating choice, we could drastically reduce flower waste, which would then drastically reduce our environmental impacts. And I found that most people didn’t care what the flowers were, as long as they were pretty. So, by offering one daily arrangement, we are able to significantly reduce our waste, and our tulips don’t have to subsidize the roses that ended up in the compost bin…
So, basically, I started Farmgirl Flowers to solve a problem and fill a need, and supporting local farmers and lessening environmental impacts were more than enough motivation for me!
Q. What are some problems that exist in the Flower industry?
There are so many! I’ve included some information above, and some more stats are below. It’s really shocking how unexposed the flower industry is. We talk about “sourcing” in just about every other industry, but flowers seem to be exempt. Some companies (like H.Bloom that’s getting a ton of press) have been very creative in their branding and messaging to make it seem like imported flowers are better – because they can then get better prices and all types of flowers year round. They’ve been able to make it seem like a positive that their flowers have more frequent flyer miles than the people receiving them.
Another huge problem with imported flowers are the chemicals they’re shipped in. 29% of the chemicals are known carcinogens that are actually banned in the US, but for some reason, the US allows the flowers to enter the country in these cancer-causing chemicals. Many florists break out in a rash even from these chemicals.
- Over 75% of flowers sold in the US are imported from other countries. (Should your flowers really have more frequent flyer miles than you?)
- Over 50% of all US flower imports now come from Columbia.
- Colombian flower workers earn $6 a day, far below the national minimum wage & work 70+ hour weeks without overtime pay.
- The Colombia Free Trade Agreement gives Columbia duty free access to the U.S. market, which has significantly undercut domestic flower production.
- US investors own more than 25% Colombian flower industry.
- More than 20% of the pesticides used in Colombian flower production are known carcinogens & have been banned in North America.
- Colombia’s low wages, lax worker safety rules, & lenient pesticide standards providea cheaper export platform to compete against U.S. flower producers.
- The number of large US flower operations has fallen 58% from 932 in 1992 to 388 in 2006
- US Global flower imports have grown steadily over the past 15 years, more than doubling from $326 million in 1990 to $768 million in 2006.
- Between 1990 & 2006, the wholesale value of U.S. cut flowers decreased by $93 million.
- Of all flowers grown domestically, 77% are grown in California.
- The number of US rose, carnation, & chrysanthemum growers fell 72% from 1993 to 2005.
- Between 1992 and 2006, the share of imported roses grew from 34 to 91% of the U.S. market & imported carnations rose from 67 to 97%.
- It’s estimated, that up to 80% of all flowers are discarded before they’re ever used.
Q. How does Farm Girl Flowers solves these problems?
We have done our absolute best to solve as many of the problems as possible.
- To solve the waste problem, we offer one daily arrangement, instead of hundreds of options – so our waste is well under 5% (and actually closer to 1 or 2%).
- To solve the problem of importing flowers from growers who use exploitive labor practices and ship the flowers in carcinogens, we use only locally grown flowers. We’re hoping that eventually we’ll be able to help more local growers stay in business right here in California (where 75% of all domestic flowers are grown!).
- To solve the problem of using made in all imported (usually “made in China” materials) – we use reused or recycled vases, recycled burlap (used coffee bags donated by Ritual Coffee Roasters right here in SF), and have even sourced locally made wood cubes made of reclaimed wood for all of our living plants.
- We offer the greenest way to send flowers – by offering living plants now as well.
- And just for fun, and to further reduce our environmental impact, we deliver the arrangements via pedal power – via bicycle courier!
- And to promote sending burlap wrapped bouquets instead of vases, we make $1 donation for every arrangement ordered sans vase – and for every vase donated through our vase-recycling program!
Q. I love your beautiful bouquets, how do you come up with such unique designs?
Thank you! My personal aesthetic is farm-fresh yet modern, with a bit of whimsy thrown in, so that’s the type of arrangement I like to design. My goal is to never send out an arrangement that I wouldn’t want to receive – and I’m extremely picky! People always ask where I trained, and I don’t have any formal flower training (and think it’s such a funny question anyway!). I think you either have an eye for style or you don’t – and that style can basically be used in any visually artistic area. I do find inspiration from fashion as well though. If I see color combinations on the runways that I like, I find that it works well with flowers too. For instance, Derek Lam did several coral and blush combinations in his Spring/Summer 2011 line, and I absolutely fell in love with the color palette, so I’m still using that one! And I think it was Chloe that did black leather with pale pink chiffons that gave me the idea for the pale pink and black dahlias paired with chocolate cosmos that I used a ton last Fall. All the clothes I wish I could buy end up inspiration for our flowers. J
Q. Do you have a favorite flower?
Several! Some of my favorites are Peonies, Dahlias, Anemones, Ranunculus, and Garden Roses. Oh, and probably my absolute favorite is Lily of the Valley, but I can’t seen to get it out here (I think I might try to grow it myself!). On the farm I grew up on in Indiana, my mother had a flower garden full of these, and I think their smell is my “comfort food.”
I find that Peonies and Dahlia’s are the universal favorite flowers of women (at least they’re by far the most requested!) – so I try to use them a lot when in season. And I recommend them to guys who tend to always go to standard red roses when usually their sig-o would prefer something else.
And there are some flowers that I just don’t like, and eve though I can get them (and usually they’re the cheapest!), I just can’t use them. So if daisies, stock, alstroemerias, or a few other varieties are anyone’s favorite, I’m probably disappointing them… J
Q. What’s next for Farm Girl Flowers?
Big things! Our next step is national delivery! We’re hoping to be up and running by Mother’s Day, so keep your fingers and toes crossed please! While we love providing service locally here in SF, our long-term goal is to compete in the same space as the Big Four. We want to be able to provide a more socially responsible option to the big guys. You’re probably thinking “What? How can we ship flower and still be green?” Well, it’s true, until instantaneous space travel is invented, we’ll have to rely on good ol’ FedEx, and not Scotty to beam them up to the desired recipient. But what we are going to do is reduce the environmental impact as much as possible, and provide a better alternative to the options currently out there. We’ll be using all domestic grown flowers wrapped in recycled burlap wrap (not vases), and shipped in plain recycled Kraft boxes made right here in San Francisco. Our packaging is about 40% less than any of the competitors, and the packaging materials are locally made. So, while we know it’s not truly green, it’s the greenest option available for delivery everywhere!
*TO ENTER THE CONTEST*
2. Follow BOTH companies on Twitter
3. Sign-up for our newsletter by entering your email on our homepage (in the top sidebar). This is how we will let you know if you are a lucky winner.
***DEADLINE TO ENTER is February 29th***
We will email the lucky winner on March 1st. Note: we will also post your name as the contest winner on our Facebook, Twitter and website channels.