After eight years working as an interior designer in Sydney, Erin Dore swapped stilettos for gumboots, heading home to establish Petal Head farm and florist on her parent’s historic Gympie property in regional Queensland.
- Erin Dore left interior design to become a flower farmer
- 8 million more flower stems were imported last financial year
- Flower Industry Australia says it isn’t widely known that many imported flowers are treated with glyphosate
COVID-19 made Ms Dore re-evaluate, so she invested all her savings and is now earning a living from her green thumb.
Since January she has packed the large house block with stunning flowers grown from seed, or bulbs in the case of striking hot pink dahlias, donated by neighbour Marge.
“People are just kind of amazed by the colours and the textures, so that’s what makes me really excited,” Ms Dore said.
“It is physically very hard work at times so it’s not for everybody, but I don’t mind that, I don’t want to sit on my bum all day.”
Heavenly scented sweet peas are another offering from the “she shed”, next to 131-year-old Stumm house, built for the late local identity, Gympie Times owner and politician, Jacob Stumm.
“We did a few markets, but we actually found that just selling from the farm, using Facebook and Instagram has been the most successful because it’s just such an enjoyable place to come and visit as well,” Ms Dore said.
Time to grow
Flower Industry Australia CEO Anna Jabour said Ms Dore wasn’t alone in wanting a tree-change.
On the day we spoke she had three emails in her inbox from people looking to start flower farms to meet local demand.
“A lot of the public don’t realise that many flowers are grown overseas so there’s been a real pushback towards buying Australian grown,” Ms Jabour said.
Imports herbicide treated
Last financial year 209,500,000 flower stems were imported, up 8 million stems on the year before.
The federal government has issued a special permit, allowing the stems of imported roses, carnations, lithianthus, chrysanthemums and delphiniums to be dipped in a dilution of glyphosate up to 5 centimetres from the bud.
It prevents them from being grafted onto local root stock and potentially transmitting exotic viral and other diseases.
An Aldi spokesperson said the treatment process was in direct accordance with the Australian Department of Agriculture’s guidance to combat pests posing a threat to Australia’s ecosystem.
“There are government bodies who assess any risk and outline the appropriate industry-wide control measures, which we strictly abide by.”
Call for transparency
Flower Industry Australia wants consumers to be given the choice of avoiding herbicide-treated blooms by introducing country-of-origin labelling for flowers.
“There are no kudos for the flower farmers and there’s nothing telling you where they [the blooms] are from,” Ms Jabour said.
In a statement, Coles said it made it a priority to support Australian growers and that: “the importation of cut flowers is used to complement the offering of local growers in order to meet customer demand and preference”.
A Woolworths statement explained the supermarket’s flower suppliers were all Australian-based but that it would import certain varieties at key times of year.
Ms Jabour said carbon emissions from flower miles should be considered.
The federal government is evaluating 2016 country-of-labelling reforms and considering the “costs and benefits” of extending the scheme to non-food items like cut flowers.