A growing trend to use cotton stems in floral arrangements is providing new income streams for farmers as millennials seek to curate more “natural” looking homes.
Toowoomba florist Cherie Zimmerle said the popularity of the stems — which can cost up to $20 each — had grown alongside the dried flower trend, which was behind a boom in the Australian native flower industry.
She said consumers were becoming more thoughtful with their purchasing, opting for a longer-lasting, homegrown, high-quality product.
“The great thing about cotton is that you don’t have to go and buy a new bunch every week,” Ms Zimmerle said.
“The leaves dry once it’s picked, and the cotton lasts just as a cotton-wool ball would.”
Ms Zimmerle said what was once considered a hipster trend is now seeing everyday Australians purchasing cotton for in-home decoration.
While most Australians would only be exposed to cotton after it has been processed into clothes or linens, the growing appreciation for the raw product is providing new opportunities for farmers.
Cotton Australia chief executive Adam Kay said displaying natural fibre showed the other qualities of cotton.
Natural look doesn’t come cheap
The hunt for a natural home aesthetic doesn’t come cheap.
Ms Zimmerle says a very large stem in its raw state costs about $20. However, the price can change depending on what the client requests.
“Some clients like it in its raw state, looking very, very natural. Others really want the cotton to look like perfect little cotton balls with no sort of debris or anything on it,” she said.
The longer it took to prepare a display, the more expensive it would be, she said.
By comparison, the price of a cotton bale in the past harvest season was, on average, $580 a bale – equating to a crop value of about $6,960 a hectare.
If those stems were instead sold in a florist, the approximate value would be $20,000 a hectare.
In Melbourne, a bunch of cotton with three stems could set you back $55, while in Sydney an arrangement of cotton and eucalyptus will cost $88, with a standard bunch of dried cotton setting you back $45.
For those who cannot afford the real stuff, retailers have picked up on the trend and now sell artificial versions across the country.
‘Just a nice little niche’
Ms Zimmerle sources her cotton from a local farmer — about 90 per cent of Australia’s cotton businesses are family farms.
And while Mr Kay does not consider the selling of cotton to florists as diversification, he says supplying some of the crop to florists provides extra money for the farm, with minimal effort required.
“The numbers that are being sold are tiny and … when you think that there would be 100,000 plants in the paddock, it’s probably about one hectare worth of cotton that’s being sold around the nation,” he said.