If you have been shopping at Whole Foods (and other select retailers) you have probably seen Rainforest Alliance Certified flowers. You may have wondered- “What does the Rainforest Alliance seal mean?” The RA seal with the frog in the middle signifies that the producer has earned the right to display the seal by meeting sustainability standards.
The Rainforest Alliance Seal:
“The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and improve livelihoods by promoting and evaluating the implementation of the most globally respected sustainability standards in a variety of fields. Through RA-Cert, the Rainforest Alliance’s auditing division, we provide our forestry, agriculture and carbon/climate clients with independent and transparent verification, validation and certification services based on these standards, which are designed to generate ecological, social and economic benefits.”
Basically, the Rainforest Alliance certified seal means that they meet environmental, social, and economic sustainability standards and that they are improving each year. The seal makes it easy for consumers to spot products that they may wish to support as an easy way to make a difference. Read more at Shop The Frog.
I had the opportunity to attend a press trip to a Rainforest Alliance Certified Flower Farm in Costa Rica- a beautiful farm to visit as you may imagine.
Rainforest Alliance Certified Flower Farm:
We visited Plantas y Flores Ornamentales (P&F) tropical flower farm located in Río Jiménez de Guápiles, Costa Rica. The P&F flower farm first achieved certification in 2007. The farm covers about 450 acres total and maintains natural forest cover on over 10% of its land, conserving buffer zones for rivers while expanding its vegetative barriers by planting native species. Preserving some forest area is one small part of Rainforest Alliance Certification.
We met with Juan Pablo Villalobos, Production Manager, who is the man responsible for making sure that they meet the Rainforest Alliance certification standards. He said, “When they gave me the responsibility, I said there is no way we can do all of this. Now that we have come this far with so many improvements, I would say there is no way we could go back.” Those words really grabbed me. I think that they are at the crux of environmental issues as a whole: it seems to hard to make the changes, but once you make them you realize they weren’t as hard as you thought and you realize there are so many benefits.
What Are The Biggest Changes That P&F Made In Order to Achieve Certification?
P&F stopped burning their waste. They started composting and recycling. They started planting trees. They began conducting analysis on the quality of the water. They put in practice more stringent regulations on pesticide use. They increased worker training.
Benefits of Rainforest Alliance Certification:
Production Manager, Juan Pablo Villalobos, said that, “In the start we became certified to be a leader at the market, but we find less worker accidents, we find that workers are protected from pesticides. We find we are saving money by making our own organic nutrients for the soil, we find less soil disease. We are making environmental and social improvements and it is not just for the market any more. It has brought the employees and their families forward and we can not go back. We can not accept less.” This answer was given to us right after he showed us the new machine that breaks up the flower plant waste for composting. He was excited and I could feel it.
The visit to P&F was really beautiful. We began at their tropical flower packing plant. The flowers come in and get washed and submersed in a hot pepper dip to repel bugs. The flowers are cut just right and sorted and then they are packaged in groups or in bouquets and boxed for delivery. I asked one lady, “It is so beautiful but do you just get used to if after seeing it everyday?” She said, “For me, no. It is still beautiful everyday.”
Here are a few photos of the beautiful tropical flowers I saw:
After looking at all the beautiful gathered flowers, we went out see the section of preserved rainforest and the flower fields. In the small section of rainforest that we walked through, it was covered with plants, lots of birds, and insects, and we even spotted 3 Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frogs!
Then when we left the rainforest area we walked straight into the flower farm area and about 5 minutes later we spotted 3 sloths! There were two in one tree that was towering above the flowers and a third sloth was in another tree about 25 feet away that also towered over the flowers below. I felt very lucky to see them. The farmers were surprised at how excited we were but they said that they are proud to have the sloths living there and that is why they keep the trees.
It was fun spotting the beautiful tropical flowers in amongst their foliage. There were so many pretty shot at the P&F flower farm but I had to narrow it down to not overwhelm you! Here are a few views below:
You may also enjoy reading my article on Sustainable Agriculture at a Passionfruit Farm in Costa Rica or on sustainable agriculture practices that you can employ in your own backyard!