The number of cut flower producers in the United States dropped 14 percent — to just 316 companies — from 2009 to 2010, according to a new report from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
That statistic certainly doesn’t reflect the state of the local cut flower business. Thousands of people across the U.S. are growing cut flowers and selling them at farmers markets, to local florists and supermarkets, through CSAs and subscription services. But we’re the guerrilla growers, the under-the-radar growers who don’t show up on statistical reports. Nobody is tracking us, so we can’t really put a number to our numbers. I just know that I talk to flower growers nearly every day in the course of publishing Growing for Market. And nearly everyone seems pretty optimistic about flower growing.
The USDA numbers do provide some interesting data about what’s happening at the more conventional end of the flower industry. The 2010 Floriculture Crops Summary reported that although the number of producers declined, the wholesale value of cut flowers increased 4% from the previous year. California’s cut flowers accounted for 76 percent of national production. The value of cut foliage was up 6 percent, while the number of producers was down 6 percent, to 161. Florida’s cut foliage crops accounted for 78 percent of national production.
As another sign of the declining domestic production, USDA just announced it will eliminate its annual Floriculture Crops Summary. Instead, the data will be collected with the Census of Agriculture, which is taken every five years.
Another set of statistics was reported this month by Florists Review magazine. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of retail florists dropped 7.5% from 2008 to 2009, the 13th consecutive year of declines. And the number of floral employees is at an all-time low, dropping 15.5 percent in the most recent census.
The number of retail florists in the U.S. has fallen 34 percent since the decline began in 1997.
Clearly, the floral industry is changing quickly. Our challenge as growers is to remain flexible and to continue to develop our local flower markets — because, no matter what happens, people will always need flowers in their lives.