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Carpinteria Valley farm flower tours highlight beauty and troubles in the industry

Growers in the Carpinteria Valley welcomed the public to their flower farms and nurseries on Saturday.

It’s all part of the 9th annual Carpinteria Greenhouse and Nursery tour.

David Van Wingerden of Westland Orchids took guests on tours through his family’s greenhouse where orchids are grown.

His family is celebrating their 50th year growing flowers in the valley. But, business is not what it used to be. Van Wingerden said the tours are a not only a rare opportunity to teach people about how flowers are grown and harvested, but also to spread awareness about the declining industry.

“California used to supply 80% of the cut flowers sold in America,” Van Wingerden said before one of his many greenhouse tours. “Now, 80% of flowers sold in America come from South America.”

While, Carpinteria is still a major source of the flowers sold in the U.S., many growers in the valley are finding they may no longer be able afford to stay in business.

“South America has very cheap labor rates and their government provides incentives for them to export in the U.S. and that makes it difficult for us to compete on price,” he said.

Van Wingerden said the family has been forced to diversify to survive. They no longer sell chrysanthemums or carnations, instead turning to orchids which are a higher value crop with a lower input. They also turned to hydroponic produce as a source of revenue.

Growers like Van Wingerden are asking the public to look for the Grown in California sticker on flowers before they make a purchase and to show support for American Grown flower farmers.

Van Wingerden worries flower farms and nurseries in the valley will cease to exist if the decline continues, but vows to fight back.

“We’re farmers, so we are stubborn, and we are resilient.”

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