Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spreading the “Buy Local” Love at the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland

The Sigil of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland

Thursday and Friday of this week I set up a little display table outside of the 227th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. This annual meeting is an opportunity for clergy and lay people from all parishes all over Maryland, to come and and network, reconnect and do the business of the church. My idea in attending as a vendor was to chat people up to see what they are doing for flowers at their churches and to see if they were interested in learning more about buying their flowers locally.

For the most part, people that came over to talk were interested in learning more about how to buy local. Many didn’t know where their church flowers were coming from. Some knew the florist that their church used, but weren’t sure where the florist was getting the flowers from. I shared resources with them, explaining that there are flower farms in most communities in Maryland that they can access at Farmers Markets or directly at the farms to provide flowers for the weekly alters, weddings and funerals.

One thing I did hear a lot-which I didn’t really have an answer to-was that lots of folks buy their flowers for the church at Sam’s Club or Costco. When I offered up buying locally grown flowers instead, the question always was: which costs less? To be honest, I’m not sure. I know that cost is a big consideration, especially for churches who have limited or no budget for flowers. I also know that buying locally and supporting small businesses  is important in creating sustainable communities. I’m going to do some cost comparisons and get back to them.  I’ll be sure to post what I learn.

One thing about our flowers-that I LOVE …is that they bring people together.  Everyone wanted to stop by and smell the lily of the  valley, or compliment the lilies (from Farmhouse Flowers) or talk about their garden or their wedding flowers. That was definitely the highlight for me. Chatting with people about something we all love-flowers.

Thanks to my good friend Rev. Kris Lindh-Payne for of all of his help and introductions at Convention. His commitment to social justice and buying locally is inspiring. I’m so fortunate to know him!


  1. Ellen - I'm proud of you! That's awesome.

    Remind them that places like Costco pay poverty level wages, and keep most people under 32 hours / week so they don't have to provide benefits. Furthermore, unlike the local flower-grower (or LoCoFlo) those places don't hire or use local web developers, bookkeepers, accountants, distributors, attorneys, benefits providers, insurance agents and so on (that is to say, the congregants). Then think of all the local businesses that Costco puts out of business: Food & clothing stores, opticians, pharmacies, tire shops, bakeries, electronics stores....

    So there are two costs. The dollar cost, and the social cost. The dollar cost may be lower, but not really. Places like Costco import stuff, and export money from our local economy causing all these other businesses to suffer. And the resulting social cost is much much higher. The drain on the people who work there causes a much higher impact on social safety nets - like those that the church provides.

  2. Thanks John! You are so right-there are dollar costs and social costs. That's what I want to get across. I will research the difference in the dollar cost-but also want to break down-like you have-the real social cost of regularly buying flowers from big box stores.