Tuesday, 15 Jun 2021

Buy British flowers! Pesticide warning as producer declares UK ‘is fresher’

Countryfile: Matt apologises for picking 'unacceptable' flowers

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But beware – you don’t know what you might be breathing in. That’s the message from Roz Chandler who has set up the British Flower Growers Association to try to make a difference to the way we see and buy our blooms. With 90 percent of flowers sold in supermarkets and florists imported – mainly from Holland but also Kenya, Ecuador, Colombia and Ethiopia – Roz is out to revolutionise the British flower market.

She is particularly focused on the ethics behind the business.

Roz, 58, explained: “All Valentine’s Day roses come from Kenya and Ethiopia but they’re not labelled like food.

“Because there is no ‘fair trade’ you don’t know how they’re handled, what they’re treated with or how they’re sent and packaged.

“Overseas flowers are treated quite heavily with pesticides. When they’re packed and sent they’re dipped in some horrendous chemicals and then sent to us. And the first thing we do is breathe that in.”

She said a recent study even suggested some of the chemicals might be carcinogenic. She said: “My mission is to change all that in my lifetime, by being vocal about it.”

Mum-of-two Roz, a former city high flyer, sold her digital marketing company and moved to the coun- tryside in 2007 with husband Andrew.

She said her move into the floral market was an accident: “I didn’t mean to start the business at all. We bought a five-acre smallholding just outside Milton Keynes back in 2007. I had no idea what I was going to do with the land.

“I went on a chicken course and got chickens, then I went on a goat course and got goats.

“Then I did a one-day cut flower course – I don’t even know why I did it. I really liked it and thought I can have a go at this.

“We built three raised beds, they were tiny, and they grew. It felt really good. Then I thought, I know I’ll start a business. It was only meant to be a hobby when I first started.

“The first few years took lots of investment in both time and cost.

“Then I just learnt as I went along – I read more, did a few more courses, started doing wedding flowers and working with a florist.

 “Then I brought in a horticulturist who helped me with all the propagating and gardening stuff.”

She said that demand for flowers for funerals had grown as a result of the pandemic: “Before Covid our main business was high-end marquee weddings. We were doing up to 60 weddings a year, then Covid hit. We had all these flowers growing and I thought, what are we going to do?

“Sadly, we became a funeral business overnight. During that first lockdown there were no flowers being flown in from anywhere, so if you were having a funeral in our area it was either our flowers or no flowers.

“Then people started seeing our flowers – they’re British, natural and beautiful – a different look and feel to the usual funeral arrangements.

“And they smell for a start, and they’re fresher because we’ve just picked them. Cost wise we couldn’t compete with the supermarkets, I don’t think anyone could.

“But you can produce a beautiful bouquet for example, delivered locally for about £40. It’s not outrageous. Our flowers are not treated at all and they smell divine.”

Of the British Flowers Grower Association, she said: “It’s about creating a community, not just flower farmers. I want it to be anybody. I’ve registered it and I’m all ready to go. ”

 Visit flowersfromthefarm.co.uk

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