I’ve been working in the floral industry since 1995. I started in a little, well respected shop called Crocus Hill Flower Market, known for its unusual selection of interesting flowers from all around the world. Here I learned about proteas, one of my favorites, for they are other-worldly, native to Australia and South Africa. Later I worked in landscaping, in the Twin Cities and on Martha’s Vineyard, which delighted me for the broad strokes you could paint, it was like installing massive living floral arrangements. Eventually, I opened Sassafras Floral & Garden Design, with two partners, and we pumped out garden installations, weddings, and large scale corporate designs. I relished the fast pace and hard work, the sheer hustle of it all. I rarely thought about the flowers and where they were coming from, the hundreds of thousands of commercially grown roses I handled. If I did think about it, and the chemicals I was exposing myself to, it was brief, and overshadowed by my confidence that my hippie upbringing would allow me a long and healthy life. As a child of the 70’s, we lived for a period in a van, where my mom literally made tofu from scratch...she was an early proponent of organic and whole foods. Though I bitched endlessly about carob chips and fresh ground peanut butter, I secretly felt like I had a stronger set of armor than other kids that had twinkies and jif in their lunches. As a florist, the pace often necessitated eating as we worked, with our pesticide covered hands as we churned out arrangement after arrangement for increasingly ostentatious events. The global effects of the industry in terms of social justice started to gnaw at my conscience. Marginalized communities were losing their land to massive flower farms that were abusing water and land resources and polluting the environment just as pinterest was blowing up the wedding industry. Events got more and more elaborate, and frankly I was burned out. I wanted to tell my clients to elope, invest in a house, prepare a pinterest board dedicated to working through marriage. After working that way for 17 years we decided to slow our pace of life and move to the country.
Fast forward to 2013...I got a job working in a traditional local flower shop here in Menomonie, WI as we were getting settled. This is where I really started to think about the carcinogens on the flowers and in the materials and chemicals I was working with. Floral foam is a magical invention, you can literally create anything with it. But it is loaded with known carcinogens. Florists shape it to all kinds of incredible shapes and specifications and breathe the dust all day long. You can read more about its toxins here:
I felt instinctively that I had to get out of this type of floristry. I also hated the amount of plastic waste I was seeing come through and dumped right into the trash. I would work this way, in a facility without recycling, and come home and watch Our Blue Planet with my young kids and feel horribly hypocritical. In 2017 my husband encouraged me to open my own shop, and Hive & Hollow was born. We decided to really focus on sustainability, and began forging relationships with local farmers and artists, and opened on September 5, 2018. Nine months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 46. Of course I cannot definitively make the direct correlation between the floral industry and my cancer, but I can’t help but wonder, what if I had worn gloves, what if I had had a better hand washing regimen...?
SO, I write this post for all my floral friends...please be careful. Wear gloves, wash your hands, do your self exams, and better yet, find farmers who are growing locally, and ask them about their growing practices, then support them, for they hold the key to the health of our industry and our planet. Take care of yourselves. ❤️