Glorious, gorgeous imperfect
Imagine a third of your year’s income depending on having just two good days?
Valentines and Mother’s Days are traditionally make or break for Australian flower growers. If things don’t go just right leading up to these two days it’s going to be a tough nine months until next year.
Sometime around the new millennium however, things stopped going right for many Australian flower growers.
It wasn’t bad management, bad weather, pests or any diseases – it was greed, plain and simple.
Flower wholesalers keen to make bigger profit margins copied their peers in Europe and America and began flying in cheap blooms from Colombia, Ecuador and Kenya.
Between 2007 to 2021 imports of cut flowers increased by over 400% until around half of the flowers sold in Australia were imported.
During this time 300 local rose growers became 30 and for a while it seemed like the flower industry might be snuffed out altogether.
But then something shifted.
Slowly at first but then popping up all over emerged a movement of local micro-flower farmers, passionate about growing real blooms and committed to taking care of the land.
The glorious, gorgeous imperfect bouquets they brought to market were the antithesis of the millions of identical plastic wrapped roses that had flooded florists’ windows.
And they were vocal – the growers wanted people to know that the bunches of air-freighted chrysanthemums being presented each year to beloved mums were grown with pesticides, fumigated with methyl-bromide and dipped in Round-up before they entered the country.
In a few short years awareness of locally grown flowers has spread and people are choosing their bouquets more carefully. Last year Flower Industry Australia introduced new yellow and green country-of-origin flower bands to help people find local blooms.
You can buy the most amazing bouquets from Anna Sfyris at 302 Flowers in Macedon Ranges (delivered Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays) here and look out for some special Mother’s day blooms coming online for delivery later in the week.
The harvest that heals
Last year Lisa from Thornbury wanted to be a part of Olives to Oil but didn’t have an olive tree.
Noticing one of her neighbours, Emmy, had a big old olive in her front yard Lisa left a note inviting Emmy to be part of the harvest.
Emmy accepted, and together she and Lisa spent the day picking 30kg of olives.
Not only did they get to share three litres of amazing olive oil that they had helped to harvest but they also had a new friendship.
If you find yourself in a post-pandemic funk, then getting involved in Olives to Oil might be the just kind of healing balm your heart needs.
This weekend’s dump of rain will be fattening up neighbourhood olives just nicely before the big collection in two weeks.
Here’s a bit of picking advice from Olives to Oil organiser Merrin Layden,
– Pick your olives on the day or as close to the day as possible
– Pick the olives by hand individually or in handfuls (better for a smaller tree/fewer olives. or
– If you have a big tree spread a tarpaulin or old sheet on the ground and shake the branches or use a rake to pull the olives down from the tree, then collect them up from the sheet at the end.
– If you’re confident, prune out branches that need to be cut anyway and strip the olives off them once they’re on the ground.
– Veteran Fremantle olive picker, Lindsay Miles, straps a large yoghurt tub handle over her wrist and strips the olives with one hand so they fall into the tub on the other.
When you’re done bring your olives to one of our four collection points and we’ll press them all together and give you back a bottle of the world’s most eclectic and delicious extra virgin olive oil in a few weeks
We’re inviting everyone (even if you’re not harvesting) to join us at CERES Brunswick East for the Olives to Oil Festival on Sunday, 21st of May with food, music, culture, face painting, olive pruning workshops and olive pressing.
Have a great week