Company banking on pesticide-free nurseries - Dan Fost Sunday, August 28, 2005
Organic Bouquet has only nine employees, but its founder, Gerald Prolman, foresees it growing like a weed.
Prolman said Organic Bouquet is part of a growing trend of socially responsible companies, many of them from the Bay Area, that have a mission to both make money and do good.
He points to studies of the LOHAS movement -- an acronym for lifestyles of health and sustainability -- that claims 63 million consumers, or 30 percent of all U.S. households, with buying power of $230 billion.
He's ready to educate those people, many of whom already buy organic produce, about something they rarely think about: pesticide use in flowers.
At least 70 percent of the cut flowers now sold in the United States are imported, mostly from Ecuador and Colombia.
Working conditions there are not nearly as bad as Prolman had believed, thanks in large part to pressure from European shoppers who buy a lot of flowers, yet workers still suffer illnesses that advocates attribute to poisoning from pesticides. Pesticide exposure is especially dangerous in greenhouses, where many flowers are grown.
Yet even as growers become increasingly progressive, organic is still a difficult standard to adopt, especially when the demand is still in its infancy. Prolman has found it more practical to work on a wider sustainability standard that still allows use of some pesticides.
That standard, called Veriflora, was developed in conjunction with Emeryville's Scientific Certification Systems, and it has Prolman selling two types of flowers, organic and sustainable. He sees the Veriflora flowers as building a bridge to organic, and consumers can feel good that they're helping not only the environment, but also the lives of the workers.
Prolman's flowers are priced competitively with nonorganic flowers, with a dozen roses selling for $39.95. A dozen roses at 1-800-Flowers.com sell for anywhere from $29.99 to $49.99.
Organic Bouquet sells its flowers online, in retail outlets -- they're in some Whole Foods stores, but not in the Bay Area yet -- and through an innovative program with nonprofits and other like-minded businesses. Under this arrangement, Prolman sells flowers at a discount to members of the World Wildlife Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other groups. Those groups then get a portion of the profits.
His newest deal was with San Francisco's Working Assets, which will sell flowers at www .flowersforchange.com, giving 2 percent of the proceeds to nonprofit groups.
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Prep Time : 40minCook Time : 1hr 30minType of Prep : Bake, RoastCuisine : ItalianOccasion :
From the pages of Fine Gardening MagazineContainer Plantings in the Shade Yield a Spectacular GardenYou don't need a lot of sun or even access to the soil to have a lovely gardenby Gary R. Keim
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GRANT WOOD'S "American Gothic" is the most recognizable painting in the history of American art, which should make the modest Carpenter Gothic structure in the background the art world's most famous house.
According to two new books, "American Gothic" began with the house, not the people.
Grant Wood narrowed the Gothic window and sharpened the roof's pitch.
But in the mind's eye the house fades, dwarfed by the stern faces of the farmer with the pitchfork and his inscrutable daughter (who is often mistaken for his wife).
Now, just in time for the painting's 75th birthday, two new books about the painting reveal that it was the house, not the people, that inspired a visual triangle so compelling that it brought instant fame to a previously unknown artist and then went on to serve the purposes of art, commerce and parody over and over again.
The house, board-and-batten with a gabled roof and an arched window, has meanwhile lived out its years like some taken-for-granted muse, paint peeling, walls buckling, subject to vandalism and neglect. Built outside Eldon, Iowa, in 1881, it stands vacant, overlooking a defunct rail depot and a parking lot, drawing only the most knowledgeable pilgrims, because there are no highway signs outside of Eldon pointing the way to the house.
Steven Biel, a Harvard historian and author of the new book, "American Gothic: A Life of America's Most Famous Painting" (W. W. Norton, $21.95), said the first time he visited the house it was "simultaneously really underwhelming and cool."
When Wood encountered the house for the first time, it was August 1930, and he was in Eldon to teach a painting class. Legend has it that the artist, then 39 and out for an afternoon drive, was so struck by the house that he stopped to make an oil sketch.
Thomas Hoving, a former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and author of "American Gothic: The Biography of Grant Wood's American Masterpiece" (Chamberlain Bros., $13.95), writes that it was the oddity of a large, Gothic-style window in a small frame house that caught Wood's eye. "He thought it was silly and pretentious and roared with laughter," Mr. Hoving said in an interview. Perhaps to accentuate this fact, Wood elongated the house's proportions, narrowing the window and further pitching the roof.
It was only later, after he had returned to his native Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that Wood made a new pencil drawing and added two tall, narrow figures to the foreground. The house "gave me an idea to find two people who, by their severely strait-laced characters, would fit into such a home," he explained in a 1933 interview. His models were his sister, Nan Wood Graham, and his dentist, Dr. Byron H. McKeeby, who posed separately. That October, the painting won a third-place prize at a juried exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago and entered the annals of art history.
According to Helen Glasson, 77, whose grandparents were living in the house when Wood drove by, he changed the curtains from crisp lace to a single dotted shade. Wood had a reason for redecorating, as Mr. Hoving points out in his book: the shade's dotted pattern mimics that of the woman's calico apron, yielding a visual pun that tethers the house to the couple it chaperones.
Other puns include the way in which the figures are "literally bonded together," Mr. Hoving writes, by the sloped roof of the house, each side disappearing behind a long, narrow head; the echo of the farmer's gold collar stud in the house's gold lightning rod; and the way the tiny peaks of her rickrack apron imitate the peaked shape of the window, the lines of which are echoed in the front seams of his overalls, themselves a near mirror-reflection of the pitchfork.
The house passed from owner to owner until the 1960's, when it was periodically empty or rented. It enjoyed a brief moment of celebrity in 1985 when the owner, Carl Smith, who had inherited the place from his mother in 1971, refused offers from the state to buy it, citing concern for his tenants. In 1991, the centennial of Wood's birth, Smith donated the house to the state, and the State Historical Society of Iowa has tended to it ever since, providing a series of renovations and offering low rent - it's currently advertised at $250 a month - to its tenant-caretakers.
The most long-lasting of these so far was a former Eldon postmaster, Bruce Thiher, who lived there from 1997 to 2003 and is able to report on one view of the house Wood never saw: the interior. "It's what I would call very plain, completely unornamented, almost Shaker style," Mr. Thiher said. He described an oddly angled circular staircase connecting the ground floor to the room behind the famous Gothic window - which, it turns out, mirrors another, facing the backyard. "Now, when you look at that painting, Grant Wood took certain artistic liberties," he added, referring to the second floor. "In the house itself, the gable is much lower than in the painting - you can only stand up just barely at the apex." At various times the town has talked about restoring the house - for at least the 37 years he has lived there, said the mayor, Roger Gosnell - and two years ago it received a state grant to build a visitors' center across the street. A local group is busy raising additional money.
"We've had soup suppers, silent auctions, bake sales, sold T-shirts and tote bags - you name it, we've done it," said Linda Durflinger, a town councilwoman. If all goes as planned, the center will be up by the end of 2007.
Shirley Slycord, who lives in the mobile home just across the street from the house and occasionally trims its shrubs, feels slightly more blasé. "It's really no different from any other house," she said, speaking by telephone.
Ms. Slycord said people often drive up and want to take a picture. Sometimes they hand her their cameras and ask her to capture them in front - always in the standard pose, of course.
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