Give your mom locally-grown flowers for Mother’s Day

by Debra Prinzing on May 4, 2012

in Growers,Home-Grown,Locally Grown,The Book Project,The Sustainable Marketplace

Taking the so-called expert to task

Narcissus 'Ehrlicheer' from Choice Bulb Co. in Mt. Vernon, with hostas from my garden.

Earlier this week, Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner was a guest on public radio’s Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal. Many of us listened in horror as this economics “expert” suggested that because imported flowers have such a huge carbon footprint, listeners should give their mothers PLASTIC FLOWERS for Mother’s Day. Here is a link to the entire interview, but I’ll just single out one of the stupidest things Dubner said:

They’re plastic flowers. And they’re beautiful, right? They do wonderful things with plastic these days. So here’s the thing, we may associate flowers with nature and plastic with the opposite, but is in fact a very simplistic view of how the world actually works.


I just had to respond to that crazy-making radio conversation in which Dubner almost got it right, but then went way, way wrong. I sent an email to Ryssdal’s producer yesterday. Here’s part of what I wrote:

I want to offer my friendly rebuttal to yesterday’s “Freakonomics” segment in which guest Stephen Dubner told Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal that listeners should not buy flowers for Mother’s Day but instead give their moms PLASTIC FLOWERS.
When I heard the opening lines of the segment, in which Stephen noted that 80 percent of cut flowers sold in the US are imported, my first thought was: “Oh, this is great…Stephen is going to advocate for consumers to support locally-grown, domestic cut flowers.”
Instead, my jaw dropped when I listened to him offer the ill-informed suggestion that listeners give their mothers plastic (petroleum-based and certainly NOT sustainable) flowers.
. . . there is a healthy, sustainable alternative to imported blooms; options that support the US cut flower industry (including the state of California, which accounts for 75 percent of all domestically-grown flowers – in your own backyard!)
I think it’s doing a disservice to your listeners to let someone like Stephen Dubner give them only half of the story. He did not provide your listeners with a realistic, intelligent alternative to imported flowers.
I was pleasantly surprised when a Marketplace producer contacted me to ask if I would record a portion of my letter for them to play on the show today. I was happy to do so. And while the comments I recorded were edited way, way down. At least I got to point out that plastic flowers are perhaps the last thing you would want to purchase if you care about sustainable topics! Here’s the clip.

I hope everyone who heard my comments was persuaded to give their Mom real flowers for Mother’s Day – local ones, preferably from a flower farmer in their own backyard.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob Mullins May 5, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Plastic flowers for Mother’s day? It’s almost an insult. Real fragrant flowers, locally grown, the real thing, is probably much more appreciated. Local, because you are paying for the jet fuel with imported flowers, and so the ” footprint” is unfavorable too. I like your reply to the guy.

Erin Dobosiewicz May 8, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I am a huge fan of NPR, but you are so so right about where they went wrong with that interview. Good for you for your response to them. Love your thoughts!

Kasey Cronquist May 11, 2012 at 12:36 am

Thanks for taking this one on Debra! This episode would have been laughable if the idea didn’t have a nationwide audience of consequence to our local flower farmers.

Our local flower farmers are not only important to their local economies, but have a passion for ensuring moms everywhere receive beautiful blooms from loved ones on her special day.

Thank you for continuing to go to bat for the domestic flower farmer and educating people everywhere that its important to know where your flowers are coming from.

Kasey Cronquist, CEO/Ambassador
California Cut Flower Commission

Jayne May 25, 2012 at 5:21 am

The last thing in the world I would do – taking fake flowers to my Mother, a fabulous octogenarian gardener! It would be akin to handing a bag of Burger King to Martha Stewart. It goes to show that even brilliant authors/thinkers can make a mistake once in awhile. Thanks for setting the record straight!

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