|Colorado Flower Growers Assn. carnation ad |
(Morgan Library, Colorado State University).
I was in Miss Carter's sixth-grade class at Kullerstrand Elementary School in Wheat Ridge, a Denver suburb, and one day she took us on a class trip to her fiancé's family business.
They were commercial carnation growers with a complex of greenhouses somewhere in west Denver, and we were told all about the growing and dyeing (yes, many were dyed) of carnations.
Denver was the "carnation capital of the world," as far as the locals were concerned. The greenhouse industry took off in the 1870s as irrigation systems were built. By 1928 there ws a Colorado Flower Growers trade association, and carnation-growing peaked around the time that Miss Carter became Mrs. Davis (I think), and we kids had to accustom ourselves to her new name.
What happened? This timeline from an online history of the Colorado flower trade tells part of the story:
1976 – The carnation industry in Colorado begins to decline due to increasing competition from Californian and South American flower growers, the rising cost of fuel for heating and air-conditioning the greenhouses, and limited expansion of greenhouses in the state.Two further explanations: The OPEC oil embargo of 1973 led to the sudden jump in prices for heating oil, gasoline, propane, diesel, etc. And the "increasing competition" from South American cut-flower producers was a direct result of the War on (Some) Drugs, with American dollars going to (chiefly Colombian) growers on the theory that building i[ that industry would make producing cocaine, etc., less attractive.
Judge for yourself how well that scheme worked out, but at least roses and carnations got cheaper at the grocery store flower counter. People were selling cheap carnations on street corners — remember that?
By the time I was in my twenties, you could find numerous empty greenhouses in certain Denver neighborhoods—shattered glass roofs, no sign of vegetative life but weeds. Many were located on sites that were probably attractive to developers.
I wonder, though, what happened to my teacher and her husband. Did they see what was coming and bail out? Did they go bankrupt, eternally bitter at the U.S. government for subsidizing their competitors? Did they close the business, sell the land, and find something new?
That story came crashing back when I saw this headline: "Major Flower Business Fears Migration to Marijuana."
The CEO of 1-800-Flowers frets he might lose some of his best suppliers in states that have burgeoning marijuana industries, saying he’s afraid growers will realize that cannabis could be a more lucrative profession.Too late for the Davises.
Such an exodus would expand the ranks of marijuana growers, adding a crop of seasoned veterans to the industry’s ranks.