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The Real Poop

You love this job, you love it not…you love this job, you love it not….

Are you a fan of flowers? Think it would be fun to grow them professionally as a floriculturist? Unfortunately, liking flowers and growing acres and acres of them for the cut flower industry are two different things. Actually growing them as a commercial commodity can give those who have always liked flowers reasons not to like them. Yeah, most flowers are really excellent to work with when everything goes right. Yet, they are still an agricultural commodity, like vegetables or fruit or grain, with many of the same frustrations and just as much hard work. However, you couldn't ask for a more attractive physical environment in which to work, and if you're friendly to the flowers, you might make some real good buds.

Growing cut flowers is more intensive than other agricultural commodities. First of all, most cut flower growing operations grow several different types of cut flowers, both for security and to keep clients happy. Multiple crops ensure that at least some of them will be successful even if one or more of the others fails. The variety of crops also helps the clients who would otherwise need to shop around with various growers to get all the different flowers that they need. However, the variety also means that there are many different crops out there that have varying requirements. Growing a few acres of Peruvian lilies, even fewer acres of gladiolus, and even fewer acres of baby's breath is nothing like growing a few hundred acres of artichokes. Incidentally, if you one day have a baby and are concerned about her breath, don't feed her artichokes.

The last thing you want is your baby choking on an artichoke.

Unlike vegetables, flowers need to be perfect. No pressure. They are grown not to be consumed but for their color, their texture…well, for their good looks, basically. Blemishes are not allowed. There is no need for even slightly damaged flowers. There may be a few sweethearts out there who might want to take in and care for a tulip with broken petals, but not enough to make it worthwhile to salvage them, unfortunately. Unlike tomatoes, the less than perfect flowers cannot be made into flower "products." You can't break them down into parts and sell them for scrap. There is no such thing as canned flowers, flower sauce, flower soup, or powdered flowers. It just does not work. We've tried it. It was a regrettable experiment.

This requirement of perfection only adds to the intensity of the work. Besides working long hours in all kinds of weather, floriculturists need to be aware of how environmental conditions can damage their crops. Some flowers may not like the heat of summer in particular locations. Others that grow through winter cannot take the frost. Sounds a little like your grandparents.

Floriculture is only a bit more lucrative than other horticultural industries, but not by much. Why do so many people not only grow cut flowers, but actually seem to enjoy doing it? The work can, at times, be just as stressful as many other types of work, but there is plenty of outdoor activity to help alleviate stress. The crops alone have a beauty all their own. Some of the clientele are demanding and crazy, but others can be fun to work with. It’s not a bad little career if you don’t mind never being able to afford a second house. But who needs all that extra space, anyway?

To an outsider, floriculture may not seem like much fun, so don't expect your friends to understand. There are not many different types of jobs within the industry to choose from, and most of those involve basic labor. The allure is impossible to explain to those who are not already interested in it. Either you have flower power or you don't.

Somewhere a parade is missing a float.

Most of the people involved with floriculture are the laborers in the production crews. They do all the real work growing cut flower crops, including harvesting, processing, and eventually packing for delivery to wholesale clients. Sales representatives market the produce to brokers, wholesalers, and some of the floral design studios that want to buy directly from the growers. The two main types of management are "production" managers and "operations" managers; although production managers tend to manage everything, including operations, for most cut flower growers. Many managers are also owners.

Humongous, megacorporate big box factory type growers are not as common in the cut flower industry as they are in the wholesale nursery industry (that grow nursery stock). Floriculture is one of those idyllic industries with which the inferior quality of factory growers cannot compete. Growers of quality crops really prevail here. There has not yet been an assembly line that can turn out row after row of perfect sunflowers. We're sure someone is working on that somewhere though.

On the other hand, there is considerable competition from South American growers that import (or export, depending on where you are when you’re reading this) produce that is probably better than factory grown, but still inferior to locally grown. It is actually amazing that there is still a market for such produce, since it has reliably proven its inferiority for decades. Yet it is still out there, crowding the wholesale markets and keeping prices lower than they really should be. Imagine if other markets were flooded with cheaper, inferior product. Thank goodness that we don't live in such a negative utopia, and that this epidemic of inferiority is contained to the floriculture industry. Ahem.

There is nothing easy about floriculture, yet there are many advantages to it that appeal to the many who choose to make a career of it. If interested, feel free to sniff around.

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