The first thing you see when you walk into Rosa Flora’s main building is a declaration of the business’s Christian foundation. Hanging there is a huge, green banner that reads, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
The work going on in the rest of the building—from the board rooms and business offices to the greenhouses and loading docks—is a further expression of that commitment. Otto Bulk, Rosa Flora’s founder, explains: “As a farm built on Christian principles, we believe that we can give God all the glory through the growing of the best fresh-cut flowers in the world.”
Rosa Flora, as you might guess from its name, began as a cut rose operation. Otto and his wife, Corine, began the business in 1978, after immigrating from the Netherlands. It is now co-owned their son, Joshua Bulk, and daughter, Arielle, with her husband, Ralph DeBoer.
Today, Rosa Flora produces a wide variety of flowers—few of which are actually roses. In the 1980s, Otto foresaw the hazards that globalization might pose to his business.
Ralph DeBoer explains: “Roses, you can chop, throw flat in a box, fly across the country, leave on the tarmac for three days, and when you pop them in water, they bloom.”
Given the rose’s hardiness and the revolution of global shipping, it was only a matter of time before other countries would be able to access the North American market at a lower cost than Rosa Flora could do in Ontario. So, they diversified into specialty blooms.
Today, Rosa Flora’s primary production is in Gerbera daisies. With their thick, sturdy stems and vivacious, colourful petals, Gerbera daisies seem invincible as far as flowers go. But in fact, they are technically difficult to grow and especially tricky to pack and ship. This makes cross-continent shipping a problem, so Rosa Flora’s Ontario location is perfect for supplying the “local” North American market.
Rosa Flora has also expanded its specialization to include other temperamental flowers: snapdragons, lisianthus, and stephanotis. Today, the company grows 50 million stems a year and ships across the United States and Canada. You’ve probably seen Rosa Flora blooms at your grocery store or in your holiday flower arrangement.
Rosa Flora has kept its edge by adopting sustainable technology. Water catchment and wetland filtration systems help the business to use and reuse water effectively. A carefully monitored integrated pest management system reduces the need for pesticides. An onsite wind turbine and a carbon neutral biomass boiler generate power for the greenhouses. Rosa Flora runs at about 95% efficiency—a fact that enables this large operation to remain in Ontario and continue growing.
The family’s enthusiasm for their product is palpable. “I could talk about growing lisianthus all day,” Ralph quips. Rosa Flora’s motto—pride in every petal—is exemplified in the joy this family finds in their work.
Originally written for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, 2018.