by H Mac Wooten
OH the flowers are beautiful, you shouldn’t have! No, you really shouldn’t have. You’re hurting people in developing countries and you’re helping people in developing countries. Which is it? The answer is both. I’ll bet their government couldn’t tell you. The government probably can’t explain it to their citizens nor (in my opinion) are they inclined to. My mother-in-law is the recipient of flowers on many occasions (from us). I can’t say that I ever given much though to the origin or who worked in (possibly) poor conditions and low wages to make her smile. She will probably receive more flowers for her 92nd birthday if we can’t attend. In my years of living here in Peru I have never fully understood the thought process of many businesses here. On many streets here, there is a neighborhood store (tienda) just like many places in many countries. There’s one coming soon to your neighborhood. Here, directly beside the neighborhood tienda, there is another tienda. An exact copy with the same items and the exact same prices. In addition to those two, there is another across the street and another at the end of the street. A business that barely exists and provides a minimum income for a family is diluted by 4 others in the same block. It appears that the owners thinking is, if you can sell it and make money, I can too …. and make money. This business plan is also copied by the restaurants here. They are also identical and offer the exact same menu at the same price. Everyone struggles under this business plan. Sorry, we were talking about flowers. I explained to my neighbors that I foresaw a problem with everyone planting flowers and flowers being a discretionary product when the world economy was going to hell, there were a lot of hard working people who were going to lose. Their response was that “everyone sells their flowers and makes lots of money”. People here quit planting food crops and started planting flowers. Land owners rented their land for others to grow flowers. Well, ……. I guess the bump in the road has finally come, the chickens have come home to roost and I honestly admit that it took far longer that I anticipated. The toxicity of the pesticides used for flowers is a good topic for another blog. But for this blog it’s “I told you so” ! Flowers, for most of us who are from developed countries are not something we generally have on the table, or am I that different? Flowers are usually a tool, ploy, or distraction that we (men) use to temporarily get ourselves out of trouble for extremely poor judgement. Flowers for most everyone I know are waaay down the list on our discretionary spending budget. Flowers are further down the list than greeting cards and opera tickets and ironically as I’m writing this I’m listening to Mozart’s Don Giovanni. I’m here to dine with you!
Scroll back up and look at the picture of the field of flowers for a moment. Notice anything? Yes, they’re beautiful. Why are they so beautiful, you ask? Because they should have been picked a week ago. The flower boom or bloom has started collapsing here. BTW I just made that up! A triple hand full of flowers is selling for about 20 centimos or $ 0.07. The entrepreneur who rented land, bought and sprayed everything with expensive and extremely toxic pesticides , fertilized and worked their butt of everyday for months, now can’t afford to harvest his crop.
Is this a lesson in gardening or economics? It’s not much of a lesson in either. It’s a hard lesson for people who barely manage to get by but see their neighbor next door and across the street and everyone else growing flowers and they’re all falling into the same hole. If they had grown alfalfa, a.k.a. green gold, they would have come out ahead. Almost everyone here raises cuy
(guinea pigs) and they ALL eat alfalfa … everyday all day. I’m no economist and not much of a farmer, but we work with the locals and our neighbors and explain the issues with the dangerous pesticides and try to teach better farming practices and show them our organic successes.
I wish I had more answers but I don’t. I work with what I have, one day at a time and hope to reach and teach some and hope I also learn something every day. I enjoy flowers as much as anyone but, flowers like many other things in life do come to us at a price and probably has a story behind it. I for one don’t usually think about the hardship and working conditions behind many everyday items we use and enjoy i.e. clothes, electronics and food just to name a few. Send you mom some flowers soon or just call her and tell her you love her and don’t wait for a special occasion.
* Chacras is a Spanish term used for Farm
Teach a Teacher and our Volunteers provide Professional Development and help teach basic teaching skills to Teachers in some of the poorest areas. Please visit us at www.teachateacher.org and www.teachateacher.wordpress.com and at teachateacher on Facebook.
Mac Wooten is President of Teach a Teacher nonprofit and picks flowers when the neighbors are away! A native of Greenville S.C. We live and focus most of our work in the Ancash region of Peru.