British Flowers at The Oxford Real Farming Conference 2019

Article Published By Carole Patilla on Jan 10 2019

by Wendy Paul, Organic Blooms

 

When Fiona Haser Bizony (Electric Daisy Flower Farm) initially approached the ORFC about taking British Flowers to their 2019 event, the response was:

“No one wants to hear about that.”

Fiona pursued it and how wrong they were! 

Along with Fiona, Jan Billington (Maddocks Farm Organics) and Jo and I (Organic Blooms) attended the ORFC to fly the British flowers flag.  We thought we’d get maybe a dozen people to our talk, timetabled simultaneously, as it was, with that of Elliot Coleman, a leading figure in organic farming. So we were surprised to find ourselves with a full house of around 50 people. Fiona chaired the session and began by giving a history of the cut flower industry in the UK and its decline, and an outline of its current situation. Our audience were suprised to learn that 90% of the cut flowers and indoor plants, which make up the UK’s annual £2 billion trade in this sector, are imported from all over the world, with much of it being sourced through the international auctions in The Netherlands. They were also surprised to hear that the our domestic cut flower and indoor plant trade is equal in value to that of the UK music industry. 

 

Jo and I talked about Organic Blooms: its origins, its future plans, and how we run our business as a social enterprise. We showed images of our nine acre site, the flowers we grow,  and how we work with adults with support needs. 

Jan then talked about her edible flower business, Maddocks Farm Organics, which, on four acres, has over 100 varieties of edible flowers, including 1000 roses. 

Both our businesses are certified organic by The Soil Association (SA), credentials we are proud of and passionate about. 

Fiona spoke about developing her new 2.5 acre site just outside Bath, again telling her story of being on a farm and needing to find her own space.  Fiona has an artistic background and is amazingly creative, as we all know from her fabulous calendars. 

The session finished with a Q&A session -  by this time we were running over, but the steward allowed us to carry on as everyone was enjoying it so much!  

Questions focussed mainly on organics: 

  • Why aren’t many growers going for certification? 
  • Challenges around growing and sourcing organic seeds, bulbs and compost. 
  • Do I need to be a florist?
  • How do you get land? 

So many questions, not enough time. 

The three representatives from the SA in the audience listened with great interest and we raised concerns with them about the lack of organic flower seeds currently available.  Jan is exploring the option of professional training in seed saving with the SA in the future.

It was an exciting experience to be at the conference. We could have said a lot more as we all love what we do and talking passionately about British flowers. It seemed to be infectious as, to quote Sara Venn, 

“Everyone leaving the room wanted to be a flower farmer!”

 

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