In case you missed it, Maria Okwa, the creative force behind Beija Flor, was featured on ABC Radio Darwin last week, sharing the inspiring story of Beija Flor's partnership with Henbury Café and offering insightful reflections on the floral industry. The conversation with Jess Ong wasn’t just about flowers; it was a deep dive into community spirit, ethical consumption, and the future of local flowers.
Maria touched upon the collaboration between Beija Flor and Henbury Café, now located in Casuarina Village and how Beija Flor reduces flower waste by donating unsold flowers to the café. The students use the flowers to decorate the café tables and create a beautiful environment for their customers. Henbury Café offers students from Henbury School invaluable hospitality experience from barista skills to baking and customer service. The café is a cherished space where students can grow, learn, and prepare for future employment.
Amid the personal stories and local initiatives, Jess also brought to light an industry-wide challenge: the lack of country-of-origin labelling for fresh flowers. Unlike many food products, where such labelling is standard, the floral industry often operates without disclosing the origins of its blooms. This practice can pose significant challenges for florists who create arrangements with stems from various countries, dealing with bundles of fresh products that lack any packaging or origin information. While many growers voluntarily provide this information, the inconsistency across the industry can make it difficult for consumers to make informed decisions about the flowers they purchase and for florists to communicate the provenance of their offerings.
A vital point of discussion was the importance of choosing a local florist when shopping online. Maria highlighted the challenge posed by middlemen, or "order gatherers," who often diminish the personal connection between florists and their customers and take a significant cut of the profits. By opting for local, customers ensure that their support directly benefits local artisans and businesses, strengthening the community fabric.
The conversation also veered towards the concerning shortage of local flower growers in Darwin, a pressing issue with the current generation reaching retirement. Maria expressed a keen interest in supporting the emergence of new growers, although she mentioned that diving into growing herself isn't feasible due to space limitations. Nonetheless, her commitment to nurturing the next generation of florists and growers with advice and encouragement was clear.
This conversation between Maria and Jess Ong on ABC Radio Darwin wasn't just about flowers; it was a deep dive into the ethics of consumption, the importance of supporting local economies, and the urgent need for sustainability and renewal in the floral industry. It's a reminder for all of us to consider where and how we spend our money and to recognize the power we have to make a difference in our communities.
So, next time you're considering purchasing flowers, whether for a special occasion or just because, remember the impact of choosing local. Whether it's stopping by Henbury Café for coffee and cake or choosing a local florist like Beija Flor, every decision can contribute to a more inclusive, sustainable, and vibrant community.