Burpee CEO Reblooms Urban Agriculture

At the keynote speech of the Urban Agriculture Conference in New York City, organized by The Horticultural Society of New York, George Ball, Burpee Chairman and CEO told leading-edge urban gardeners and rooftop farmers to “stop and smell the cut flowers”.

Most urban agriculture projects consist mainly of vegetables and herbs with occasionally a few flowers on the side. Ball, a 35 year veteran of both the cut flower as well as the vegetable business, urged the participants at the May 16th conference held at the Kimmel Center of New York University, to meet the great potential, as well as pent-up demand, of fresh cut flowers that have almost vanished from urban homes, parties and other public and private events.

“Think of cut flowers as an endangered species” quipped Ball. “If you grow flowers in a 1-2 acre farm or garden, you not only serve customers who have not been pleased for over 30 years, but also you avoid regional competitors and government regulators in the fresh vegetable business.”

Ball went on to discuss the attractiveness of a cut flower urban farm to employees as well as customers. “You will have volunteers line up early every morning to work on a seasonal, outdoor cut-flower farm—vegetables don’t have that kind of deep and universal attractiveness.”

Ball added that the contemporary flower industry is dominated by huge exporters from countries 4,000-6,000 miles away, whose flowers are picked “green” when the buds are not fully pigmented (much as a tomato is picked green) and shipped by air-polluting jumbo-jets to wholesalers who keep them up to a week in storage. Finally, they are distributed to an ever-decreasing number of retail florists. “Today most florists are gift shops with a small cooler in the back filled with pale-colored flowers from Asia, South America or the Middle East” Ball said. “The consumers have fewer choices in flowers than they have in vegetables in a supermarket.”

Ball also pointed out the latest research at Rutgers University by Jeannette Haviland-Jones that proves that fresh flowers in the home elevates mild depression or other mood disorders. “So long as the flowers are proportionate to the room—not too many, not too few—they transform the space into a place of happiness”, added Ball.

“Vegetables are fuel for our body, but flowers connect with the deepest parts of our spirit.”

The Urban Agriculture Conference at the Kimmel Center was attended by over 300 urban gardeners and city farmers from across the nation.


The above is a copy of a press release that went out last week. Your comments are welcome! And please pass along to other bloggers if you have a chance. Thank you.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 11th, 2013 at 1:59 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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6 Responses to “Burpee CEO Reblooms Urban Agriculture”

  1. Karen Campbell said:

    You are 100% right. The last place I saw a truly impressive flower arrangement was at a large hotel in San Diego. When my grand mother passed away 30+ years ago, there were over 200 flower baskets and wreaths. Now you’re lucky to see a bud vase in a hotel or restaurant or 5 or 6 arrangements at a funeral.
    But there is hope. My 4 year old grand daughter thinks you need flowers in every pot or vase you own. And a pot or vase every place you can place one.
    Keep up the good work Mr. Ball!

    • George said:

      Thanks for your amusing post, Karen. I blame the “In lieu of” mob. Whose idea was that? There used to be, literally, thousands of commercial cut flower growers in the US. Now there are, at most, a couple of hundred. Denver, Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago-all had huge greenhouses devoted to them. All gone. We must revolutionize American gardening, starting with waking up the consumer. Thanks again.

  2. Jan Dragin said:

    Huzzah on this one. Hope you might deliver this same message at other urban ag venues, adding the reminders that integrating certain flowers and herbs within urban rooftop or on-the-ground vegetable gardens can help deter disease, disinvite pests, and attract beneficial insects, bees and other pollinators. Not to mention, surrounding the gardeners with beauty.

    • George said:

      Thanks very much, Jan. I have to be invited to give a keynote address. But perhaps we, as a company, should be more proactive about getting the message out, as you suggest. Thanks again.

  3. Becky said:

    We’re taking the time to develop our flowers this year for our backyard garden. I love the idea of encouraging cut flowers for urban growers!

    • George said:

      Thank you, Becky. It is amazing how many city florists have disappeared over the past 50 years. Phil Ochs singing, “Whatever happened to the flower lady?” in his album ‘Pleasures Of The Harbor’. The urban gardening movement will help remedy this sad situation.

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