Friday, March 4, 2011

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

Okay, so we stole the title for this blog post, but on a trip to the AltaFlor Rosa farm this week, we saw clear evidence that is rose is not a rose is not a rose. We saw magnificent roses in every color imaginable, and some of the roses were twice the size of any we had ever seen before.

We visited this “rosa finca” on a tour from Cuenca, along with one of the tour guide/owners of this 17 acres of roses grown in a small village about 20 miles out of Cuenca. Since Ecuador gets 12 hours of sunlight per day, the country is a great place to grow roses, and grow they do!

All of those 17 acres of roses are under plastic canopies that provide ultraviolet protection for the roses (did you know that UV rays are not good for roses?). The roses were grouped by name, and Alta Flor is also creating new varieties to compete on the world market because, as the owner/tour guide indicated, the public is “fickle” about roses, and a rose color that is “hot” one year, may not even sell the next.

This rose farm is an impressive and busy operation, employing 200 people, 60% of whom are women. [A SIDENOTE: The men from this area of Ecuador are mostly immigrating to the US, so few men are available for any kind of farm work.} The tour guide also made sure we all knew that no children were employed, that workers work a 5-day week, and that if they work on Saturday or Sunday, or if they work any extra hours, they get paid time-and-a-half or double time, depending upon the situation.

The farm personnel cut on average 28,000 roses a day (individually by hand), but around Valentine’s Day, they may cut as many as 65,000 per day to keep up with the demand. They send their roses largely to the US and to Russia, but several other countries, including Ecuador, the UK, Colombia, France, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Canada, Italy, and yes – Holland, get them too. Not counting oil, flowers are the 3rd largest export from Ecuador.

A couple of tidbits: Russians like their rose stems LONG, and we saw some rose bushes that were 6 to 7 feet tall. Americans prefer shorter stems. Roses are packaged according to stem length, with each rose individually measured.

It was quite an impressive operation, and we were able to see every stage from the cutting to the bagging to the packaging to the refrigerated trucks coming in for exporting. The roses that were cut today could very well be in your market in the US (or elsewhere) within a few days. Here are some pictures to give you a sense of the operation, and we have added some pictures of the outstanding roses.

Juan Pablo (JP) our guide and one of the family members who owns the finca

one small section of the 17 acres of roses -- note that these roses are around 6 feet tall

wash the rose plants to control parasites

each one is individually cut and placed in green net wrapping

the final outdoor wrapping process; these flowers are about ready to move into the refrigeration unit

bundled, in a trolley and ready to be reeled inside

at the entrance door to the refrigerated area
each flower is individually measured and placed in compartments with roses of the same color and same length stem

wrapping the flowers after the thorns have been removed from the bottom part of the stems 

wrapped and ready to be placed in boxes

boxed.  Now all it needs is a cover, and it is ready for shipment.

Wanna buy these?

or these?

or these blue ones?

lots of choices!

spectacular perfection -- these could be on your grocery shelf in the US in four days

lovely yellow

or maybe white with tinges of green suits you better

my personal favorites


  1. How much do the workers make a day?

  2. I think the pay must be okay. According to Juan Pablo, there is no turnover, and most of the workers have been with the finca since the rose farm started. They all seemed quite happy to be there.