Flower power: A blossoming Andean industry

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You may notice the billboards on your way up north from Quito as you reach the county of Pedro Moncayo. They call it the Rose Capital of the World. There’s even a “Reina de la Rosa” (Miss Rose) who’s first official representative dates back to 2011, during a pageant that not only included local aspiring beauty queens, but international participants as well. Rose plantations, one after another, starting from Pedro Moncayo and spreading in all directions through Tabacundo and over to Cayambe, seem to validate the importance of this product in this particular corner of the country.

But it is still a curious fact. Roses arrived only 30 years’ ago and their current worldwide proliferation is impressive, to say the least.
For starters, the production rate of Ecuadorian roses is virtually unmatched. The natural conditions (high altitude and year-round equatorial sun) make the land a prodigious producer of not only a highly-stable product, but a high-quality one as well. Much like a saturated photograph, the sun’s rays at an ever-intense perpendicular angle imprint a unique vibrancy onto the flower’s petals. With a variety that exceeds that of competing markets such as Colombia, and a burgeoning social consciousness, rose and flower production in Ecuador is a worldwide trendsetter.

Tiny Ecuador has taken the rose world by storm with all its brilliance and color.

At a local level, the flower industry has changed the face of rural Ecuador. Providing social benefits for employees unheard of in most regular agricultural activities, such as health care, daycare for working mothers, even systems of company shares amongst workers… these are things a decade ago did not exist. Especially in terms of women, whose particular attention to detail is highly regarded, incomes and job security has undoubtedly made a big difference.

Going organic

Sebastian Medina at the Flor y Campo guided us round one of Ecuador’s top flower farms, with neat-as-a-pin facilities, meticulous organization and an overall inviting atmosphere. No body suits, no excessive security, smiles and “good-mornings” from every employee. Success, he says proudly, lies in two central aspects.

Firstly, innovation: Flor y Campo creates a number of completely unique varieties of summer flowers, including giant gaudy astromelias and cabbage bouquets (yes, the vegetable). Secondly, creating sustainable, organic means of production. Both aspects take enormous amounts of patience, time and work, but will undoubtedly be worth it in the long run as costs are reduced and market niches are created.

Worm cultivation and other sustainable practices are becoming trends in the flower production industry…

While in terms of innovation very little can be truly revealed, each plantation guarding the secrets of their rose varieties well, all organic and sustainable processes at Flor y Campo are out in the open for everyone to see.

Tips for a more green flower production

This artificial “digestive system” creates natural gas that is used for heating and generating energy.
Creating natural pesticides from fungi keeps flowers clean from harvest to delivery.
Mite nurseries will produce a hungry army of flower caretakers that rid stems from other mites by eating them!

> Roses that don’t make the cut (and other discarded organic matter) can be recycled back into the soil.
> Vermiculture creates humus, an extremely high-quality organic fertilizer.
> This artificial “digestive system” creates natural gas that is used for heating and generating energy.
> Creating natural pesticides from fungi keeps flowers clean from harvest to delivery.
> Mite nurseries will produce a hungry army of flower caretakers that rid stems from other mites by eating them!

¿Rose tourism?

Flor y Campo is a fascinating look into state-of-the-art organic rose production in a people-friendly, presentable fashion. Few institutions are so well tended to, yet apart from Mount Cayambe’s spectacular backdrop on a sunny day, the experience is of the intellectual type – for the rose aficionado, per se. Not far, however, along the Pan-American Highway, you’ll find a true getaway at Rosadex, linked to spectacular Hacienda La Compañía.

Hacienda La Compañía, a receptacle of history and aesthetics in the heart of the Andes.

The hacienda has been kept practically intact from the day construction ended in 1919. The original owner brought nearly all the furniture and decoration (even wallpaper) from Europe. Vintage irons, antique phones, the type you needed an operator to get a call through, a gramophone, a century-old typewriter, and other objects that now belong more to the Arts than to the duties they once performed, are permanently on show. Roses (that ship to arrive in 6 days anywhere in the US) are also permanently on show, placed by the hundreds on every available tabletop. Francisco Vallejo, the man-in-charge, is convinced that many rose farms don’t understand the full potential of their product: “that’s why I flaunt them wherever I can.”

Adjacent to the house, linked by a handsome staircase, lies the original Jesuit settlement. The land served more of an agricultural purpose, so the church is of a lesser order, but still a mid-18th century heritage chapel with all the fittings: 200-year old paintings, a colonial dark-skinned Jesus Christ…

Check out the blooming showroom at Hacienda La Compañía, near the town of Cayambe.

Across the cobblestone path, another Jesuit building has been gloriously outfitted as a rose showroom, where more family memorabilia, including an antique corn step-grinder and female horse saddles, are pitted against the vibrant colors of Rosadex’s staggering rose varieties. Visitors can lunch in the main dining room, but cannot stay overnight.

For reservations, call +(593 2) 224 7825 or 09 749 4194 (haciendalacompania@yahoo.com)

PH: Jorge Vinueza

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