Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Flower industry changed

I have been a professor at Cal Poly in the Horticulture and Crop Science Department since 1974, primarily teaching greenhouse production classes.

During this time I have seen remarkable changes in the fresh flower industry and believe a brief explanation of these changes may address Jeff Bringle’s concerns (“Floral frustrations,” Feb. 12).

California is leading the nation in fresh flower production and has been for many years. What has changed over the years is the variety of flowers being grown by domestic growers. In 1974, the majority of fresh flowers consumed in the United States (and also grown in California) were carnations, chrysanthemums and roses.

This has since changed dramatically, and now there are almost no carnations grown in the United States. They are all grown offshore. Instead of the three beds of carnations that were grown at Cal Poly in 1974, the fresh flowers that we currently grow at Cal Poly reflect the shift that has occurred in our industry.

Although we still grow some carnations, mums and roses, we also grow snapdragons, gerberas, delphiniums, lilies, alstroemeria and an assortment of other fresh flowers. This product mix more suitably reflects the wide variety of flowers being grown by California growers today. This change offers our Poly Plant Shop customers a wide assortment of fresh flowers that were not even available 40 years ago, and gives our students experience in growing fresh flowers more commonly produced by California growers.

Our department faculty members firmly believe that it is our responsibility to teach students to not only be job ready, but also to be prepared to become leaders in agriculture.

Although we could easily grow greenhouses full of carnations (we have a perfect climate for it), we would be doing both our students and our constituents, the California taxpayers, a disservice by doing so.

Virginia R. Walter is a professor in the Horticulture and Crop Science Department at Cal Poly.