Running a flower farm is not the easiest business around. It is highly profitable given that the demand of flowers around the World increases exponentially, but it comes with a lot of immoral heartache that many would choose to overlook in return of greater profits. Flower farms have long been plagued with criticism such as unfair manpower rights, ease of being infected with diseases, and even slavery.
When retail florists purchase flowers from such farms to sell it to their customers, these customers are actually funding and encouraging such inhumane practices. At FARM Florist, we believe that it is our responsibility to ensure that our customers do not be responsible for such practices to thrive in the World – blood should never be in the hands of us and our customers. Their purchases with us would lead to the revenue contributing to better working environments with decent employee benefits. We partner with flower farms that do not overlook such issues that we find extremely important. Allow us to cover some of the factors that makes our flower farms so much different from others.
Diseases from Flowers
General labourers who work on flower farms face a big issue with being infected with a lot of different types of illnesses and diseases. There is actually an illness call Sporotrichosis that has been given the nickname ‘Rose Gardener Disease’. Just like other diseases pertaining to flowers, such situations happened when the fungus of flowers comes into contact with the skin of the labourers. A major responsibility of such workers is to not only cut the flowers, but it is also to wash them. That being said, while they can protect themselves with long sleeved clothing and gloves, they become vulnerable when it is time to wash the flowers. Their exposure to such high risk activity actually ensures that customers would be at very little risk of being infected. Such diseases manifest in the form of rashes and even high fever sometimes. When infected, they lose out on daily wage and more often than not, they are left to die a slow and painful death due to the sad fact that they cannot pay for medical treatment, or happen to be from developing regions that do not have access to decent healthcare.
We ensure that we work with farms that do not cut corners when it comes to worker protection. There are ways to purchase machinery that are developed to prevent the spread of such illnesses. Procedures can also be made to ensure the supervision of workers that would inevitably protect them. Shift work can also be adopted to ensure that workers are able to clean up after themselves after a short period of time before working on their next shift again.
Exposure to Harmful Pesticides
As part of a cost cutting scheme, some farms may opt for effective yet harmful pesticides. Inhaling too much of these emissions have proven that one can easily develop cancer. Imagine a large farm the size of 20 football fields worth of growing flowers, and every stock sprayed with such insecticides. It is no surprise to why surveys have shown that flower farm workers have a very low mortality rate.
The flower industry is rapidly growing and there are pesticides out there that have been tested and proven to be safe. It is important that florist such as ourselves verify the type of pesticides used. We patronise farms that use only safe grade pesticides and we hope that more florist shops in Singapore and around the World would do the same. We can make a difference if all farms around the World begin to adopt such practices.
Inhumane Treatment of Flower Farm Workers
Most flower farms are situated in poorer and lesser developed regions. There is a chance that a bouquet that you have received from another florist comprises of flowers that were processed by a child worker that receives little to no wage. In the present day that we live in, many refer to this still as slavery. It is common for flower farms to exploit labourers with little to no wage. What makes it worse is that the children of said labourers are usually forced into working in the same farm too. This provides them with zero opportunity of ever doing something else or breaking out of poverty. Children are preferred to pick flowers as they have more delicate hands. But, can you imagine a young child cutting up a bunch of roses filled with thorns on its stem? It is sad to think about, but it happens. Roses often come with a net wrapped around its petals so that they would not bloom and die too quickly. Such processes may only be done manually and businesses do not wish to pay so much for such labour.
During seasons of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, there has been documentation that such labourers have slogged for more than 24 hours without any breaks. The poor education, lack of other employment opportunities, and lack of manpower rights have allowed such sad practices to flourish.
Thankfully, there are farms out there certified with FairTrade certifications that ensure that they do not have practices that align to any of what is mentioned above. Yes, the flowers may be a little more expensive, but it is good to know that this industry may slowly but surely one day be able to be a humane and fair one. We love flowers, and we will do anything we can to make sure that our passion does not feed off blood and sweat of the less privileged.
The next time you buy flowers, it would not hurt to ask your florist a little more of where the flowers came from! Together, we can make tomorrow a better place for not only ourselves, but the World.