is an information hub designed to grow the fair trade movement. together, we can create a market that values the people who make the food we eat and the goods we use.

« Back to News and Views
« Back to New Fair Trade Products/Projects

Ecuador Delivers Fair Trade Roses for Valentine’s Day

Just miles from the equator, rose farms have become a colorful focal point of Ecuador’s Andean countryside. With an elevation nearing 10,000 feet, the country’s proximity to the sun and cool nights provide perfect growing conditions for long, straight roses. Ecuador’s cut-flower industry supplies roughly one-third of America’s roses, but the industry is notorious for dangerous pesticides, poor labor practices and corrupt management.

Over the past 10 years, the fair trade model has transformed the coffee industry across much of Latin America. And while fair-trade-certified flowers have been available in Europe for more than a decade, consumer demand in the United States has not pushed flower growers to comply with fair labor practices or to produce a sustainable rose. But Michael Conroy, board chairman of TransFair USA, a fair-trade-certifying agency for the U.S., believes this is about to change.

“Most people in the U.S. don’t understand the conditions under which the flowers they buy are produced,” explains Conroy. “It was difficult to campaign against that production until we had an alternative.”

The alternative is fair-trade-certified flowers, grown in countries like Ecuador, and available to consumers across the United States. This is only the second Valentine’s Day that U.S. companies have opted to sell these “green” roses.

We traveled to Ecuador to learn more about how the flower industry has changed in the region and to see what sort of practices meet the fair trade stamp of approval.

John Nevado, a progressive grower in Latacunga, 56 miles south of Quito, is one of the leaders of the fair trade movement. As he took us on a tour of his two rose farms, Nevado explained some of the practices he’s adopted that are not only improving worker’s rights in the industry but also appealing to a more green-conscious consumer abroad.

“One of the effects of the fair trade system is that you’re empowering people by not only giving them extra money. They also take classes in rudimentary finance, accounting, project management, to manage the extra money they make.”

Recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, Nevado uses sustainable techniques such as growing chamomile to ward off certain pests, introducing spiders to eat other pests and using chili and garlic spray in lieu of chemical pesticides. These practices have made his fair trade roses hugely successful in Europe. He now believes that the American consumer is ready to pay a slightly higher price for a more “ethical” rose.

“I think we’re part of a global trend, from Al Gore to the yoga mom going to Whole Foods to buy organic vegetables,” says Nevado. “We’re all part of something bigger, [and] we’re finally realizing there are finite resources. We need to take care of those and the planet.”

Big companies are also getting behind the notion of free trade. During our visit to Agrocoex, another fair-trade-certified farm in Ecuador, the owner received word that Sam’s Club had agreed to sell his fair-trade-certified flowers. The U.S. wholesale giant has also signed up Nevado Roses to meet the increasing consumer interest. The real test, however, will be if there are enough American consumers who are willing to spend money on Nevado’s vision.

You can read this story in its original location and watch a related video at:



Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


Fair Trade Resource Network

PO Box 12347 Philadelphia, PA 19119-0347