Flower growers bet on organic boom by mmcsx


									2E                                                                                              BUSINESS                            ●          THE BEAUMONT ENTERPRISE                 Sunday, February 12, 2006

Flower growers bet on organic boom
  By JULIANA BARBASSA                                                                                                                                                                  really interested.”
     THE ASSOCIATED PRESS                                                                                                                                                                 But there are signs that this
                                                                                                                                                                                       might be changing, said Ger-
    WATSONVILLE, Calif. —                                                                                                                                                              ald Prolman, who started
Along a fog-blanketed swath                                                                                                                                                            Organic Bouquet, the first
of coastline waiting to burst                                                                                                                                                          national online distributor of
forth with vivid colors, there                                                                                                                                                         organic flowers, in 2001.
are signs of the yesterdays,                                                                                                                                                              Part of Prolman’s mission is
todays and tomorrows of the                                                                                                                                                            education, letting consumers
flower industry.                                                                                                                                                                       know that if they’re getting
    Empty greenhouses flank                                                                                                                                                            pesticide-free chocolate and
Josh Dautoff’s farm, relics of                                                                                                                                                         wine for their valentine, they
the bust that came when                                                                                                                                                                also can get their flowers with-
cheap imports drove his                                                                                                                                                                out added chemicals.
neighbors out of business.                                                                                                                                                                Many people who probably
    Tiny yellow bulbinellas,                                                                                                                                                           would want to buy organic
tropical        red-and-white                                                                                                                                                          flowers just don’t know they’re
amaryllis and more than 150                                                                                                                                                            available, he said.
other varieties replace the                                                                                                                                                               “This is a matter of supply
daisies his parents grew in the                                                                                                                                                        and choice, rather than supply
simpler days of floral farming,                                                                                                                                                        and demand,” he said. “The
when a family could make a                                                                                                                                                             more we make it available, the
                                   icals harmful to workers or the    American countries.
living with one flower.                                                                                                                                                                more people ask for it.”
                                   environment.                           For decades, California had
    A barren six-acre plot will                                                                                                                                                           And his investment is pay-
                                      Organic flower sales are        supplied the nation’s flower
soon hold the seeds of a future                                                                                                                                                        ing off. After an initial struggle
                                   expected to grow 13 percent        shops. But producers here
crop of organic sunflowers.                                                                                                                                                            to introduce the idea and find
                                   annually     through       2008,   couldn’t compete with South
    “People come to us looking                                                                                                                                                         suppliers, the company took
for something different,” said     according to the Organic           America’s lower wages and
                                                                                                                                                                                       off, tripling in size between
Dautoff, 29. “No one’s coming      Trade Association.                 steady sunshine.
                                                                                                                                                                                       2004 and 2005. Now 85 per-
to me now asking for organic          Many in the industry hope           Foreign growers also bene-
                                                                                                                                                                                       cent of his flowers are organic,
flowers. But I have faith that     the decision to go organic         fited from being able to use                                                                                     and the rest are on their way to
they will.”                        eventually will be an environ-     more pesticides to create                                                                                        becoming organic.
    Farmers who weathered a        mentally friendly but also a       beautiful flowers, but the                                                                                          This     Valentine’s       Day,
wave of cheap imports in the       financially sound alternative      chemicals left workers with                                                                                      Organic Bouquet will ship
last decade by coaxing their       for farmers trying to stay         blurred vision, trembling                                                     Tony Avelar/The Associated Press
                                                                                                                                                                                       120,000 organic flowers to cus-
fields to yield hundreds of        afloat, much as finding inter-     hands, headaches and dizzi-         A yellow oriental lily and a marigold flower bloom inside the                tomers around the country.
harder-to-find varieties are       esting new flowers, colors and     ness.                               packing room of the Dautoff’s Exotic farm in Watsonville, Calif.                Prolman gets most of his
increasingly betting on organ-     shapes helped them survive             California still grows 72                                                                                    roses in Colombia, where he
ic flowers, a nascent industry     when foreign competition was       percent of domestically pro-        roses,” said farmer Marc            cides to wash from soils. They           works with an organic grower
that is taking bloom on the        crushing local production in       duced flowers. But today, 80        Kessler of California Organic       also need to encourage bene-             who can offer lower costs. But
heels of the organic food          the 1990s.                         percent of the flowers Ameri-       Flowers, who grows more than        ficial insects to protect against        he gets organic tulips, laven-
boom.                                 “There’s going to be learn-     cans buy are foreign, com-          100 varieties on two acres,         destructive ones and rotate              der, sunflowers and other
    Though the market for          ing curve, because flowers         pared to 45 percent fifteen         then packages them for ship-        crops.                                   summer bouquets here, and
organic flowers still is small —   have to look good, and they’re     years ago.                          ping around the country.                Also, the wholesale buyers           said he ultimately would like
sales totaled $8 million in        very susceptible to all kinds of       That shift left a sad stamp         “But organic gives us an        who make up the bulk of the              to rely more on local growers.
2003, a fraction of the $19.4      pests,” said Peggy Dillon, a       on California’s coastal flower      edge, and I can compete with        mainstream flower market still              On Dautoff’s 20-acre farm,
billion consumers spent on all     spokeswoman with the Cali-         farms. There were 45 farmers        unique varieties, special col-      don’t want organic, said Dar-            an old wooden sign left over
flowers nationally — it’s grow-    fornia Cut Flower Commis-          growing roses in the Wat-           ors and fragrances and fresh-       rell Torchio, who has run a              from when his parents started
ing fast as consumers wary of      sion.                              sonville area in 1991. Now,         ness.”                              flower wholesale business in             the business — Dautoff’s
chemicals start looking for the       “But the organic foods          there are about 10, Dillon said.        In spite of its promise, the    San Francisco for 26 years.              Daisies — reminds him of the
same standard in other prod-       movement took a while to               Great greenhouses, once         organic market remains limit-           He deals with caterers,              time when it was possible to
ucts such as soaps, clothing,      leave the health food store,       fragrant with roses, loom           ed, and the financial risks are     wedding planners, florists,              make a living growing one
cosmetics — and Valentine’s        and now it’s big business.”        empty in the chilly fog next to     substantial, which makes it         and still hasn’t seen a surge in         flower, and a common one at
Day bouquets.                         The trouble in the flower       Dautoff’s fields. Now it’s          hard for Dautoff, who wishes        demand.                                  that.
    There’s no evidence that       fields of Central California       cheaper for San Francisco           his whole farm could be                 “If they market it right, peo-          His foray into organic also
organic flowers are healthier,     started in 1991, when the          markets to fly them from            chemical free.                      ple who like to buy organic              will begin with one flower, but
but consumers are increasing-      United States reduced tariffs      Colombia than buy the ones              To halt the chemical cycle,     could be interested in it,” Tor-         he hopes it will spread to his
ly willing to pay more for         on flowers brought in from         his neighbors used to grow.         farmers need to leave fields        chio said. “But the people               exotics and something bigger
products made without chem-        Colombia and other South               “I can’t compete on regular     fallow for three years for pesti-   using it commercially aren’t             altogether.

Counties struggle to Oil companies look to Container shipping
control livestock odors future after good year forever changed trade
 By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER              northern Missouri.                      By DAVID R. BAKER              don’t trust that the flush                 By GEORGE RAINE                        The numbers are even
     THE ASSOCIATED PRESS              In a county with a declin-       SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE           times will last.                       SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE                larger today. A vessel capable
                                   ing population, limited indus-                                             Conoco’s cash stockpile                                                   of carrying 6,600 20-foot con-
    SHELBYVILLE, Mo. — Hog         try and young people leaving            Say you’re an international    grew 59.6 percent in 2005 to             Globalization is having an           tainers can carry 77,000 tons
farmer Chuck Wood is no            after high school graduation,       oil company making more            $2.2 billion. Chevron’s rose by       anniversary.                            at up to 24.8 knots.
stranger to stink. Around          the potential investment by         money than the gross domes-        $752 million to top $10 billion.         It was 50 years ago that                 “Containerization      has
here, they say, manure is the      Cargill is at risk, said local      tic product of Latvia.             ExxonMobil’s cash was not             Malcom McLean, an entre-                transformed global trade in
smell of money.                    farmer Mark Wilson.                     What do you do with all        included on its earnings              preneur from North Carolina,            manufactured goods as dra-
    Some neighbors of north-           “If you pass a health ordi-     that cash?                         release.                              loaded a ship with 58 35-foot           matically as jet planes have
ern Missouri’s numerous fac-       nance of any kind, you’ll put a         More likely than not,              ◆ Paying the Man.                 containers and sailed from              changed the way we travel
tory-size livestock operations     ‘Closed for Business’ sign at       you’re going to shower bil-            Last year, ExxonMobil’s           Newark, N.J., to Houston.               and the Internet has changed
are less effusive. They call the   every entrance to Shelby            lions of it on your stockhold-     total taxes passed $98.6 billion,        He wasn’t the only one to            the way we communicate,”
pervasive odors a public           County,” he said at a recent        ers. You’ll build up your own      according to the company’s            suggest that containers might           said Joseph Bonney, editor of
health threat, leading to res-     public hearing.                     cash stockpile, in case you        financial           statements.       make shipping more effi-                the Journal of Commerce, the
piratory illnesses and mood            West of Shelby County,          want to buy one of your            Chevron’s hit $31.9 billion, and      cient. But he was the first to          bible of the shipping industry.
disorders, not to mention          Macon County commission-            smaller peers. And you’ll          Conoco’s were $28.3 billion.          design a transportation sys-            “The Asian economic miracle
plummeting property values.        ers approved an ordinance last      pump billions more into                Although the idea faces           tem around the packaging of             of the last two decades could
    In the past decade, more       month requiring large-scale         finding enough oil to replace      stiff resistance from the             cargo in huge metal boxes               not have happened without
than a dozen Missouri coun-        livestock operators to obtain a     all the barrels you’ve sold.       industry and the White                that could be loaded and                the efficient transportation
ties have passed health ordi-      county health permit and sub-           Buoyed by crude prices         House, some politicians and           unloaded by cranes.                     that containerized shipping
nances restricting the location    mit soil samples and approved       that refuse to drop, America’s     consumer advocates want a                Container shipping even-             provides.”
of concentrated animal feed-       waste disposal plans.               largest oil firms have report-     windfall tax imposed on oil           tually replaced the tradition-              Two books are to be pub-
ing operations, or CAFOS.              The largest livestock oper-     ed record earnings in recent       company profits or at least           al “break-bulk” method of               lished in April around the
Several others, including Shel-    ators must be at least a mile       weeks. The jaw-dropping            the industry’s tax breaks from        handling crates, barrels and            anniversary of McLean’s sail-
by County, are debating such       from occupied dwellings and         numbers — almost $371 bil-         last year repealed.                   bags, and stowing them loose            ing. One, by Bonney of the
ordinances even as state legis-    at least two miles from simi-       lion in annual revenue for             Tyson Slocum, director of         in a ship’s hold, a system in           Journal of Commerce and
lators mull whether to make it     larly sized operations.             ExxonMobil, with $36.1 bil-        the energy program at the             use since the days of the               Arthur Donovan, a maritime
more difficult for local govern-       Farm owners also must           lion in profit — prompted          Public Citizen lobbying               Phoenicians.        Replacing           historian, is called “The Box
ments to do so.                    post bonds ranging from             howls of protest from politi-      group, said the money would           break-bulk with cargo con-              That Changed the World.”
    As Shelby County’s presid-     $10,000 to $70,000 or more as       cians and consumer advo-           help pay for research into new        tainers dramatically reduced            The other is by economist
ing commissioner, Wood, 61,        protection against possible         cates incensed by the high         fuels to replace oil, the kind of     shipping costs, reinvigorat-            Marc Levinson, titled “The
is caught in the middle of a       waste spills.                       price of gasoline.                 research President Bush tout-         ing markets and fueling the             Box: How the Shipping Con-
debate pitting neighbor                Emotions about the new              Most of the attention has      ed in his State of the Union.         world economy.                          tainer Made the World Small-
against neighbor in a tight-       Macon County ordinance              focused on how the firms               ◆ Paying the boss.                   McLean, who died in 2001             er and the World Economy
knit, rural community desper-      run raw.                            make their profits. But with           Oil firm chief executive          at 87, shares the credit with           Bigger.” They describe the
ate for economic salvation.            More than 200 mostly            so much money flowing in           officers were well compensat-         Matson Navigation Co. of San            sweeping change to a world
    “They don’t want to limit      angry citizens packed the           the door, how are the compa-       ed in 2005, according to the          Francisco, a longtime force in          of lower shipping costs.
growth; they don’t want a          county courthouse Jan. 12,          nies spending it?                  Forbes magazine annual list           Pacific shipping. Two years                 Both tell the story of
health ordinance,” Wood            threatening their commis-               ◆ Keeping the stockhold-       of top-paid chief executives          after McLean loaded his ship,           McLean, who began his
said. “But they sure don’t         sioners with retribution at the     ers happy.                             ExxonMobil chief execu-           the Ideal-X, Matson’s Hawai-            McLean Trucking Co. in
want a hog farm next to them       next election and shouting              A look through the annual      tive Lee Raymond, who                 ian Merchant inaugurated                North Carolina with a single
without a say in it.”              down speakers who support           reports of America’s three         retired at the end of last year,      container shipping in the               vehicle in March 1934 and
    State law requires indus-      the ordinance.                      largest oil firms — ExxonMo-       made about $25.8 million,             Pacific, carrying 20 24-foot-           went on to make a fortune.
trial-size livestock operations        Weathered       farmhands       bil, Chevron and Cono-             according to Forbes.                  long cargo holders from                 He told people that the con-
— those with at least 7,000        trembled with emotion as            coPhillips — shows one obvi-           James Mulva of Conoco             Alameda, Calif., to Honolulu.           tainer-shipping       concept
beef cattle, 17,500 hogs or        they described the perceived        ous beneficiary. Any investor      made about $16.8 million,                The world took note of               came to him early in his
700,000 chickens — with ani-       threats to their livelihood.        with a lot of oil company          while Chevron’s David O’Reil-         McLean’s Sea-Land operation             career when he had to cool
mals primarily confined                “This is about property         stock had a very good 2005.        ly made roughly $8.2 million.         in the Atlantic and Matson in           his heels at Hoboken, N.J.,
inside to be at least 3,000 feet   rights; this is about freedom,”         ◆ Finding more oil.                ◆ Politics.                       the Pacific, and containeriza-          waiting his turn to load bales
from a residence. Smaller          said Rosemary Britt, a fourth-          With their profits now             The oil industry long has         tion began to take hold.                of cotton on a ship. He real-
facilities can be as close as      generation cattle farmer.           soaring, oil firms are pouring     been famed for its lobbying              In 1959, according to Mat-           ized it would save time and
2,000 feet to a home.              “You don’t understand what’s        money into the hunt for more       clout. As an industry, it spent       son research, the industry              money if he could simply
    Those standards, enforced      at stake here.”                     oil, as well as maintaining        about $25.7 million on political      was loading and unloading               load his trailer onto a ship.
by the Missouri Department             The public division and         their billions of dollars’ worth   donations in the 2004 election        0.627 tons per man hour. By             He decided to get into the
of Natural Resources, are woe-     hostility pains Wood, who           of pumps, pipelines and            cycle, according to the Center        1976, with container shipping           shipping business.
fully inadequate, said Putnam      plans to add 2,500 hogs at a        refineries across the globe.       for Responsive Politics. Exxon-       well established, the figure                Another milestone for
County farmer Terry Spence.        second facility nine miles              For years, exploration         Mobil gave $935,016, Chevron          was 4,234 tons per man hour.            container shipping occurred
    Spence’s home near the         south of the 2,400 hogs next        spending remained relatively       gave $499,242 and Conoco              A ship’s time in port shrank            in Vietnam, Levinson writes.
Iowa border is two miles from      to his Clarence home. The           flat, even though many com-        $372,828. All three gave more         from three weeks to 18 hours.           During the rapid troop build-
80,000 hogs owned by Premi-        expansion is far from any           panies were having a hard          than 80 percent of their dona-           In 1950, an average com-             up of 1965, the military was
um Standard Farms Inc.             neighbors, he notes.                time finding enough new oil        tions to Republicans.                 mercial vessel could carry              flummoxed with the prob-
    “I wouldn’t wish that on           After meeting with legisla-     to replace what they sold.             Note, however, that the oil       10,000 tons at a speed of 16            lems of getting supplies to the
anybody,” he said.                 tive leaders in Jefferson City,         ◆ Saving some for later.       industry isn’t Washington’s           knots. With container ship-             war zone with one primitive
    The talk of public health      Wood said the commission-               You don’t have to spend        top contributor. By the cen-          ping, the average commercial            port on the Saigon River and
restrictions comes as Cargill      ers will put the Shelby health      cash, after all. Some of it        ter’s tally, it ranks No. 16,         vessel carried 40,000 tons at a         a partially functioning rail-
Pork looks to expand its con-      ordinance on hold pending           could prove handy in case          behind, among others,                 speed of 23 knots, Matson               road. Container shipping
tract livestock operations in      state action.                       you want to buy a rival or         lawyers and doctors.                  said.                                   worked.

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