Why Colombian flowers make me smile!

In some ways the feeling I get when I go to Proflora - the trade show organised by Asocolflores every other year in Bogotá, Colombia - is completely indefinable.

It could be the sunshine but then I’ve also been there in the rain. It could be the people; undoubtedly Colombians are very warm and friendly but so are a lot of people. It could be the flowers; after all that’s why I go there in the first place and its true to say they are incredibly gorgeous!

Or maybe it’s the fact that the enthusiasm and passion is just so infectious and every aisle I walk through leads me to another industry player oozing with confidence and belief in this mad, mad world of flowers we work in.

Not just Colombian mind you; I’ve bumped into people from Ecuador, Holland, the UK, Russia, Kenya, America, Japan, China, Canada. In fact name a country and they are probably represented by a buyer, a wholesaler, an exporter and even a florist!

All eager to see not only the most wonderful flowers but, just as importantly, meet each other to exchange ideas, information and generally catch up at a show - and in a country - that is like no other I have been to.  Because whilst on the face of it I spent three days in a big hall with trade booths just like any other around the world the reality is that there is a difference and it is probably the oh so infectious indomitable spirit and sheer passion of the Colombians.

You see what I have experienced, ever since I first visited back in 2001, isn’t just about the flowers - which are gorgeous - but the whole back story of how flowers have - and continue to help so many and the way the Colombian flower industry uses its growth to nurture peace and harmony in a world that is increasingly harsh and challenging.

Is Colombia perfect? No, no country is. Has it resolved all its problems? No, no country has. But not only has it changed out of all recognition in the last 16 years (and, in my opinio,n as someone who has been there all for the better) as a fellow journalist said to me “Colombia is a model of society struggling to deal with the legacy of its troubled history and succeeding”. And that’s why I find it amazingly heart-warming to think that flowers have played such a huge part in helping and that each Colombian flower sold has an impact every step of its life.

It sounds incredibly corny but buying Colombian flowers really does make a difference. Not just to the profitability of florists and wholesalers because they are longer, stronger and more vibrant as well as having year round, stable pricing which makes financial planning far easier but because they genuinely help people have a better life; be it the flower worker who has a guaranteed job or their children who have a better start in life thanks to the education, medical and housing schemes offered by growers. Add in one of the most admired social and environmental schemes (Florverde) and actually its quite easy to see why Colombian flowers make me smile. It’s got a back story that carries a lot of hope.