Making the Arrangements for a World Market

This piece, written in collaboration with Chris Henry, won first place in the 2010 Society of Professional Journalists Pacific Northwest Region Business Reporting category. It was published Dec. 13, 2009, capping a full-time internship at the Kitsap Sun that lasted three months.

Besides taking the lead on reporting the labor aspect of this story, I shot and edited the accompanying video, which can be viewed here.

“Making the Arrangements for a World Market”
By Tara Garcia Mathewson, Chris Henry

Jorge Luis Tomas

Jorge Luis Tomas, a Guatemalan immigrant, harvests salal and other floral greens from land in Mason County, Washington.

BELFAIR — At 1712 Sherman Ave. in Evanston, Ill., Gail Jones, owner of Saville Flowers, reaches into a white cardboard box marked “Continental” and pulls out a sprig of greenery. The waxy leaves of the plant are lush green despite months of cold storage and a journey of more than 2,000 miles from Mason County.

Jones, in the business 44 years, said salal has been a staple of the floral industry as long she can remember. Saville goes through a couple boxes of it each week. That’s 50 bunches, each a handful of sprigs.

Continental Floral Greens of Belfair is one of the larger companies among a cluster of more than a dozen floral greens outfits in the Mason-Kitsap area.

Counting mid-size companies and small brush sheds, often literally operating out of the owner’s garage, there are an estimated 40 to 50 floral greens companies in Washington and Oregon, representing a multimillion-dollar industry.

Their inventory — salal, huckleberry, bear grass and other non-timber forest products — grows wild in the woods. But those who harvest it know it’s anything but free.

Click here to read a PDF version of this story, which is no longer available online.

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