Jordan and I visited a Colombian flower farm today. As most reading this post know, my parents are florists and they work with a wholesaler in Columbus, OH to purchase the flowers for their store. While we were in Zanesville, they emailed them and asked if it would be possible for us to tour a growing facility. We were put in touch with Ivonne who was our host for the day.
Ivonne arrived at 7:00AM and we drove about an hour to the outskirts of Bogota (traffic here is insane). There we met a number of people in charge of the 65 acre growing facility and they walked with Jordan, Ivonne, and I around the farm. The growing process is actually fairly complicated with a plant moving 3 times before finally being harvested. The flowers are then sent to the US, Russia, Japan, or really anywhere in the world.
In the first step of the process, rootless cuttings are taken from "mother plants" that are permanently planted. These are planted in special soil comprised of burnt rice coverings, in a very hot greenhouse. They remain there for a number of days until roots sprout and they are harvested. They're then moved to the final greenhouse where they will finish growing. Depending on the variety of plant they take 16-20 weeks until they bloom and are ready for harvest.
People then move through the rows, picking out the most fully developed flowers and actually pull the entire plant out of the ground. They pull out the necessary number for a bunch (typically 10 stems), measure the stems with a poll cut to the right length, and then cut off the stems below that point. The roots and stems are left in the isle between rows and are later removed. The freshly cut bunch of flowers are immediately placed in cellophane wraps and set aside.
The bunches are then collected and placed in buckets of water that are hoisted onto an elevated trolley system which runs throughout the facility. This is actually a new part of the process; they previously used carts, but the roads are bumpy and the new system is much more efficient and gentle on the flowers.
After the flowers are collected, they're brought to a post processing building where they are checked for pests, grouped by variety, and tagged for orders. The bunches of flowers are then boxed and refrigerated until a truck comes to bring them to the airport.
We finished up the tour of the facility and Ivonne took us to the north side of Bogota for lunch and to see the area. The north side of town is much more modern and nicer than the area that we're staying. There were many upscale shops and places to eat. We were treated to a lunch of Sausage (Chorizo, Morcilla, Longaniza) with Potatoes and Fried Banana with Cheese and tomato topping as appetizers. Both were fantastic, although the Mocilla (blood sausage) wasn't my favorite. For the main entree I had steak with fries (papas fritas) and Jordan had fish (type unknown) with coconut rice and fresh vegetables. Everything was fantastic.
We topped off the day with some ice cream and a ride on a Collectivo back to our hostel. Collectivos are like mini busses. They have their destination in the front window (in pretty small font) and you just wave them down to get on. They then proceed through the streets at a terrifying pace towards their destination. At any point you can hit a button to get off anywhere on the route, they try to pull over to the side, but you may get dropped directly into the middle of the street. We made it though without issue.
Thanks to all the Multiflora staff and special thanks to Ivonne for taking time out of your busy schedules to show us around and give us a taste of the local food. We had a fantastic time. Thanks also to Jason of Doran - Engel who lined up the tour, it was a great experience.