Valentine’s Day in the U.S. means nearly 200 million stems of soft petaled roses will be presented as symbols of love, romance, devotion and affection. Where they came from,however, is not always such an affectionate place.
The roses get shipped from across the world (South America, Africa, Central America, and beyond) where flower farm workers (mostly female) are subject to sexual harassment, poor wages, and unsafe working conditions.
In Ecuador, amongst the highest spot near the equator, tall straight roses grow to bring more than 250 million dollars in revenue. Along with the money, however, are rumors of horrible working conditions. In a Frontline documentary, one flower farm worker says her employers fumigated greenhouses while she was still inside, wouldn’t allow her medical leave, and refused her pay when she became pregnant.
Thousands of people still work under poor conditions in flower farms. In Kenya, workers reported being forced to work 12-hour days for less than a dollar wages. Others say they’ve been raped while on their dark 5:00 am walks to work. However, now there is an alternative. You can choose to buy Fair Trade roses, grown from more environmentally conscious farms that focus on improving work conditions.
Support flower workers around the world by choosing Fair Trade roses this Valentine’s Day. You can buy them at Whole Foods Markets nationwide. Look for the Fair Trade Certified logo on your next batch of roses. If it has one, it means you’ve purchased flowers that guarantee growers meet strict social and environmental standards. It also means that workers receive a premium to invest in community delevopment with a portion of purchases assisting projects like scholarships, housing, health clinics and micro-enterprises.