If you're like me, you've been getting coronavirus updates in your inbox from any company you've ever done business with. I don't really want to add to the pile, but I did want to take a second to talk about the coronavirus pandemic impact on my business, the Seattle area in general, and the floral industry at large.
First, let's start small. I am both a farmer and florist, and this pandemic has been disastrous on both sides of my business. Farms are essential, so I am still allowed to tend farm and keep things growing, which is a relief. (To be honest, it's also a great way to stay busy.) However, finding a market for floral products has been challenging to say the least. Right now in Seattle, there are no weddings, no events, no farmer's markets, no deliveries, no florists, and no wholesale markets. I believe the only approved outlet right now for flowers in Seattle is through grocery and as add-ons to food deliveries. I know some flower farmers are still delivering flowers in Washington, but this is legally dubious. I would rather take the loss than endanger anyone, so I have chosen to pause CSA bouquets from the farm. The tulips that are ready right now are being enjoyed in my house, or set in a bucket outside for passers-by .
Obviously, the floral side of my business has also come to a standstill. Florists are not essential businesses, and gatherings are no longer allowed . I have been working closely with each of my wedding clients to check in, adjust plans, and think through contingencies if needed. Unfortunately, some of my couples have already had to postpone their weddings after planning them for years. It's been heartbreaking for them, and I've been trying to be as supportive and helpful as possible in an impossible situation. I'm grateful that so far, I am still available for their new dates. My hope is that by summertime, we can all come together to celebrate, laugh, dance, and socialize again! These couples deserve to be celebrated, and I can't wait to make some magic for them.
In the meantime, businesses of all sizes in Seattle have been struggling due to coronavirus. There have been countless closures of small businesses that rely on the human experience of being together. Everything from restaurants to tattoo artists are finding that they cannot operate in this time. Even local tech businesses like Rover have needed to lay off staff, because their services are not being used right now. (Tech people may be able to work from home, but not if they are being laid off .) It is a really difficult situation for a lot of people who have suddenly lost their income, including some of my potential clients. My heart is going out to everyone in our city who is suddenly jobless or has lost their income for the time being. And none of us know how long this will last--how many months do we need to stay "in business" with no business? How much money in the bank do we need to make it through this year? Nobody has the answers.
The floral industry at large has also been devastated due to coronavirus. Several American flower growers are facing historic losses, including Eufloria, my favorite California rose supplier. (Since announcing they were closing their doors, workers have come back on a volunteer basis to continue watering the roses.) While my business is focused on sourcing flowers as locally as possible, about 80% of flowers sold in the US are imported. The Dutch flower market is one of the biggest "movers" of flowers, and their business is down by 85%. Growers are trying to give away as many flowers as possible, but most of these flowers are being composted. There are videos circulating of bulldozers moving product from the flower auction into the trash bins. It's absolutely heartbreaking.
I will personally hang on to this business as long as I can, because I'm an optimist, and because my husband still has his job. I've started sowing some vegetables, which will at least feed us. I may add veggies to the CSA or partner with other farmers to move flowers. And of course, we're all holding out hope that weddings will still be possible later this year.
If you want to help right now, and you still have income, the biggest thing you can do is buy flowers at the grocery store. Our local growers are selling through Town & Country markets. I know Trader Joe's also sells American-grown flowers alongside imports. The American-grown ones will usually have a little symbol on the packaging. But at this moment, I actually won't advocate for only American-grown. Because buying any flowers will help farmers right now. The whole industry is drowning, and grocery sales are the life preserver. If grocery stores can continue to move flowers, farms can stay in business, even with limited operations.
I hope this gives you a little insight into what we are facing as an industry, and as a small business. I also hope you are all staying safe and healthy! And if you have a little patch of land, I'd encourage you to start working it as an outlet for all your stress . There is nothing more grounding than fingers in the dirt, and nothing more gratifying than supporting new life. Take care, y'all!