Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Suburbia: Keep It Hillocky

Where do the suburbs end and Suburbia begin? John Levett remembers an English developer and keeps track of the Vuitton handbags cropping up in Petts Wood, what once was London’s southeastern edge.


All photos of Petts Wood: John Levett

By John Levett

Uncle Jack and Aunt Beattie lived in Beckenham in Kent. Mum and I lived in Bromley; a bus ride away. Mum ran a small grocer’s shop and Jack and Beattie bought vegetables from her. I took the vegetables over to Beckenham on the bus. At Jack and Auntie Beattie’s I got to watch television. That was the reason they bought the vegetables. We didn’t have a television and they did and they could more easily have bought their fruit and veg round the corner than take the delivered-to-your-door-by-a-smiling-kid-on-a-bus option. But this was 1953 and they were better off than we were. The television is the key class indicator here. Inviting me over to watch it would point up the class discrepancy within the family and that wasn’t very English. The vegetables were the McGuffin.


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Posted by Julie on 09/10 at 11:33 AM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapeSecular CustomsPermalink

Monday, September 08, 2008

Monthi Fest, Mary’s Birthday

Coming soon to a town near you? Maybe, if you live in proximity to any Konkani speakers, for whom this is the biggest celebration of the year.


With flowers at the altar, Monthi Fest

St. Joseph’s Church, Belman, India, 2007

Photo: Wilson D’Souza Shirva

Does September 8 ring any bells? Or rustle any sugarcane? If you live in India’s western port city of Mangalore or are among the 7.6 million speakers of Konkani on Earth, it surely does. This is Monthi Fest, Holy Mary’s birthday. And while it’s not much celebrated in most of the Catholic world, in parishes of Mangalore this is “the most important day for Konkani-speaking Christians.” The superlative flowers leave no doubt about that.

This website will cheer your eyes, with photographs of religious rites throughout Mangalore and outlying towns. The rituals are slightly different place to place but everywhere they combine the honoring of baby Mary (“Monthi” in the Konkani language) and the blessing of harvest season’s first fruits, vegetables, flowers, and grains.

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Posted by Julie on 09/08 at 03:39 PM
Culture & SocietyReligious RitualsPermalink

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Heliconia Shares: Welfare Colombian Style

What might ‘social security’ or ‘JobCorps’  look like in the ‘Land of Eternal Spring’?


An Embera family, members of an agribusiness training program in the village of Valparaiso, Colombia, bring locally grown flowers and locally made textiles to Medellin

Photo: Greg Allikas

Greg Allikas, a.k.a. Mr. Orchid Eye, spent part of August in Colombia during Medellin’s famed Feria de las Flores. Greg was attending the 15th Orchids, Birds and Flowers Show (Orquedeas, Pajaros y Flores) at the city’s Botanical Garden. “As you might expect, the flower show in this ‘City of Eternal Spring’ was spectacular,” he writes, “and the orchids varied and unusual. Although I am tempted to dazzle you with photos of the magnificent flowers I saw…,” Greg instead sent us photos of a Colombian family and notice of the ambitious community entrepreneurship program they’ve joined: Agronegocio Dâchinâmê, (trans. “Agribusiness Mother Earth”).

This human flower project is based in Valparaiso, Colombia. It’s dedicated to fortifying the Embera people who live in the village’s La Maria Indigenous Community. Greg writes that the effort intends to teach business skills grounded in local agricultural know-how, capitalizing on the region’s superb climate for growing things:  “By strengthening strategies for producing and marketing exotic flowers and foliage, community members are developing the means for their own self-sufficient business model.”

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Posted by Julie on 09/07 at 11:28 AM
Culture & SocietyCut-Flower TradePoliticsPermalink

Friday, September 05, 2008

‘Give Me Land, Lots of Land…’

Flower farming, a venture with promise in Africa, is stagnating in many nations as “land reform” runs aground. And there are other high hurdles ahead.


Zimbabwe lands

Source: FAS/USDA

As recently as twenty years ago, Africa’s flowers were minor leaguers in the global flower market. That’s not so today, as Kenya (principally) but now also Ethiopia and more southerly African countries plow ahead. They hope to best South America and China by likewise capitalizing on sunshine, cheap labor and open land.

But whose land is it? Confusion and, in some nations, violence over that question have made flower farming enormously risky business. Brigitte Weidlich’s story of a cut flower operation in Namibia is fresh, and representative. She writes of the Wiese family’s 90 year old farm, Ongombo West near Windhoek, which once “exported arum lilies to the Netherlands worth several millions of Namibia dollars annually.”

In 2004, it was the first farm to be expropriated by the Namibian government, after a labor dispute. The white owners had to relinquish their rights to the property. In the years since, according to Weidlich’s report, the farm has been idle; “all infrastructure, including the large green houses for the defunct flower export business, has deteriorated.” Six “erstwhile farmers” who were resettled there to work the land have had to hire out on neighboring farms. And now the national Ministry of Lands has posted a want ad, hoping to attract “experienced and reputed engineering companies for the assessment of rehabilitation required for existing irrigation infrastructure.”

A Namibian official calls the situation at Ongombo West “a delicate issue”—another way of saying “big flat flop.”



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Posted by Julie on 09/05 at 06:39 PM
Culture & SocietyCut-Flower TradePoliticsPermalink
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