Friday, March 4, 2011

Cuenca's Flower Children

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After several blunt, tell-it-like-it-is posts, it's refreshing to share this account of a fun day trip that 24 “flower children,” including ex-weekend hippies Cynthia and me, took this week. Early Wednesday morning we boarded a comfortable bus for an outing to a rose farm and nearby resort.

After a pleasant ride to Canar we arrived at Altaflor, a flower growing operation that was much bigger and more impressive than most of us anticipated.

Altaflor employs over 200 people and ships on average 28,000 stems per day. During Valentine’s their production was over 60,000 daily. Folks, that’s a bunch of flowers (pardon the pun)!

We owned a large interior landscaping/floral business in Atlanta for 15 years, and during that time I visited many commercial greenhouses throughout Florida. So I must tell you how impressed I was with the efficiency and cleanliness of this operation.

Altaflor is a proud member of FlorEcuador, an organization that determines quality standards for its certified membership of fresh-cut flower growers. Minimal environmental impact, reduced usage of pesticides, and prohibition of child labor are admirable objectives that are required. I observed total compliance in all these areas. The workers were happy and the place was remarkably tidy.

It was amazing to be surrounded by so many flowers of all colors.

I’ve always thought of rose bushes as being, well-----bushes. But some of these bad boys were over 10 ‘ tall! Turns out that much height is needed to achieve the length and caliper of stem required.

70% of Altaflor’s entire crop is sent to Russia, of all places. And talk about cultural differences---Russia wants their roses with extra-long stems and blooms much more open at purchase than the US and European markets.

Commercial floriculture is more like the fashion industry than you might imagine. Exotic colors and types of flowers are suddenly the latest fad, placing growers under a lot of pressure to stay up with current tastes and styles while incurring considerable expense to eliminate unpopular varieties and produce new ones. Plus staying on top of funguses, diseases, and insects---this business is a business, my friends, not a hobby!

While at Altaflor we observed the whole growing, harvesting, packing and shipping processes, and I found it fascinating. I’m sure all of us left with a much greater appreciation of the work that goes into that bouquet of flowers we casually pick up at the supermarket or neighborhood florist.

It was time for a tasty lunch and relaxing afternoon, and we definitely got both at our next stop, Hosteria Uzhupud in nearby Paute. Uzhupud is a 19th century grand hacienda just 35 minutes from Cuenca that has been converted into a beautiful resort.

The main building is absolutely gorgeous and the extensive 30 acre grounds are lushly landscaped.

We all enjoyed dining al fresco on a sunny and warm Ecuadorian afternoon,

then doing our own thing—strolling the property, socializing, napping (Cynthia), or switching into swimwear and napping (me). It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.

After a short ride back to Cuenca we said our goodbye’s and for at least two of our group, a light dinner and an early bedtime awaited. I highly recommend a visit to Altaflor for an enrichment experience and to Hosteria Uzhupud for a lovely (and possibly romantic?) getaway.

1 comment:

JP said...

Excellent article!