Marin Independent Journal
Woo lover with organic flowers
February 4, 2006
ECO-ENTREPRENEUR Gerald Prolman has found his way straight into this Master Gardener's heart! His innovative floral
company grows flowers without one iota of nasty, gnarly pesticide, fungicide, herbicide or synthetic fertilizer and distributes
them worldwide. I love this idea and wanted to share it with you - and it's a nice gift for Valentine's Day. Fresh, fragrant
organic bouquets could score some of you guys nice points with the ladies. The world's first online organic florist, Organic
Bouquet, is headquartered in Marin. The company is committed to the highest environmental and social standards.
You may be asking yourself why we need organic flowers if we're not eating them. Good question, but the answer requires a
little background. The fair trade movement is growing fast, as more and more concerned citizens worldwide are becoming
increasingly interested in the work conditions of farmers and the farming practices that preserve the environment for future
Seventy percent of all flowers sold in the United States are grown in Colombia and Ecuador, according to the U.S. Department
of Agriculture. On average, each rose grower in Ecuador uses three poisons to kill worms, four to kill insects and six to control
fungi. Many of these chemicals are tightly restricted in the United States because of their threat to human health.
Nearly 60 percent of the floral workers surveyed experienced symptoms of chemical poisoning such as headaches, dizziness,
handtrembling and blurred vision (Environmental Health Perspectives 2002). Many of the workers are exposed to these
chemicals in greenhouses where more than 100 chemicals are regularly used in enclosed spaces. As Prolman says, "Organic
flowers are not about us. They are about the health of workers and the planet itself."
Just like organic produce, organic flowers are grown and harvested using the same techniques I've been talking about during
my preachy rants about sustainable farming, mulch, cover crops, compost, integrated pest management and water conservation.
Prolman and "his people" have helped convert 20,000 acres of farmland in five countries to producing organically. By doing
so, they have eliminated the use of millions of pounds of chemicals. (According to the EPA, world pesticide use exceeded 500
billion pounds in 2000 and 2001.) But it goes well beyond this. The term "organic" tells you something about the conditions
under which the product was grown. It does not, however, promise the crops were grown under fair labor standards or in a
healthy work environment.
Prolman's company, Organic Bouquet, is certified by Veriflora, the new eco-label certification standard for the floral industry,
which was masterminded by Prolman. When you purchase flowers that are both "organic" and "Veriflora," you are not merely
supporting sustainable farming but are also reassured that field workers receive overtime pay, health benefits and are working
in a safer, chemicalfree environment.
Whenever I find another successful, socially responsible company, I have a brief glimmer of hope for the world. In that
moment of optimism, I decided to purchase some flowers. I didn't really need them, but I knew I could write a better article if I
had an actual organic floral bouquet sitting on my desk.
I ordered a bouquet of roses online from the "charitable bouquets" section. The cost was competitive - a dozen roses sells for
$39.95. The 'Versilia' roses were a stunning pale peach, looked great for more than a week, and a percent of my purchase was
donated to Heifer International, a humanitarian organization working to end hunger worldwide. Organic Bouquet donates
proceeds to many charitable organizations including Project Hope, Care, Working Assets and Amnesty International.
You can go to www.organicbouquet.com or phone 1-877-899-2468 to order. Click on Valentine's Day bouquets where you
will find breathtaking rose bouquets and/or artisan boxes of organic, fair trade chocolates. (I ordered some of those, too!) So,
let's recap: Guys, start ordering Valentine's Day flowers before you hear those two cringe-and-flinch words dreaded by most
men, "couples therapy."