The first time I went to Sun Valley Floral Farms, it was during one of the open house celebrations that they hold each July. I didn’t know anything about this big farm on the outskirts of town, and if I went with any preconceived idea of what a flower farm looked like I probably pictured an operation like Don
Sun Valley is nothing like that. If you pulled into their parking lot, you wouldn’t know at first whether you’d arrived at a company that produces flowers, televisions, or shoes. Eventually you’d look beyond the loading dock and the warehouse and you’d get your first clue — greenhouses stretching into the distance and open fields beyond that — but initially, you’d just see a dusty parking lot, a guard at the gate, and some generic-looking processing facilities. You could be anywhere. The realization that this company ships out about a hundred million stems a year sinks in slowly, as you walk through one greenhouse after another, each with a few hundred thousand lilies or tulips in various stages of bud and bloom.
For the first time, I would see flowers as the factory-produced merchandise they have become. This is business, big business. I could pretend that the flowers I buy to cheer myself up or congratulate a friend on her new baby are somehow unique, fragile, and connected to nature and gardens and plant life, but here there is no denying that each blossom is a unit of profit. What I do with it, what meanings I impose upon it, is my own business. But while it’s in the greenhouse, it’s a product, pure and simple.