Thailand At Work – Village Flowers
A Love of Fashion, Flowers and Hard Work
Wonderful Wi’s passion for fashion, albeit, blatantly missing in the above photograph is only really surpassed by her love of flowers. At long last, my village girl has decided to turn her hobby into a small fledgeling business. A business she hopes will bloom someday into a nice little earner.
In Thailand marigold (dao ruang) flowers represent success and good fortune, hence their popularity and use as good luck garlands and decorative floral arrangements for Buddhist festivals, weddings and even politics. Thailand’s Loy Krathong Festival and both local and nationwide elections are a massive business for marigold flower growers.
Wilai’s contribution to Thailand’s money-making flower market is for the time being a small one. Nonetheless, one which like the marigolds she nurses from seeds to full bloom is growing each day. However, those days consume a lot of time, patience, effort and tender care. And now, after months of meticulous graft Wilai has about 3,000 marigold flowers in various stages of growth dancing to the rhythm of the wind on a small plot of land at the rear of our village house.
The first stage of Wilai’s flower production line starts by planting tiny marigold seeds into small nursery beds. After 7-10 days the seeds begin to sprout into small plants. From there, they are replanted into the main flower nursery with each plant spaced about 10-12 inches apart. A marigold flower takes about 40-50 days to grow from seed to full bloom and will re-bloom many times over. Marigolds are very durable flowers and once fully grown, need little care.
So when do the rewards come in and how much?
Little Reward For a Lot of Hard Work
Wilai’s nursery plot can cultivate about 5,000 flowers, but at present, she is still working at reaching that limit. At the moment, she has to content herself with having around 500 marigolds in full bloom at any given time. That means for the time being there is only a minimal reward.
The marigold floral arrangements displayed above, along with the cut flower heads, are Wilai’s sole source of income from her business. Once made, the marigold bouquets get passed on to a shop in a nearby town, then sold for 7 baht each on Thailand’s Buddhist Days. Wilai’s share is three baht (10 US cents) for one. That’s not enough money to rouse a westerner from his sleep. For an Isaan villager 200-250 baht, three or four times a month is very helpful indeed.
The bigger bucks, or in truth baht, will come when Wilai is ready and able to cut 1,000 or more flowers at one time. Already a flower seller has eyed the quality of her growing crop and is waiting to buy marigolds in bulk from Wilai. Those days are not too far away, but the rewards in western terms do not add up to much. Below is the proposed price for every 1,000 marigolds sold in their various sizes.
- Large – 600 baht ($20 US)
- Medium – 500 baht
- Small – 400 baht
Reaping the Rewards
Wilai’s target of 5,000 plants could reap a harvest of 8,000-10,000 flowers each month. Those figures will gross a level of earnings that would convince most westerners to turn over and go back to sleep. In Thailand, that income is a very significant slice of one month’s salary. And Wi’s eventual goal is to rent a small plot of land adjacent to her current one to allow her marigold venture to bloom even more.
Wilai’s passion for flowers is now beginning to draw some small reward, that’s good. I will keep this website updated on my Isaan girl’s progress in trying to nurture a one-time hobby into a big booming blooming flower business.
Village Flowers is another addition to my Thailand at Work series which you can explore further by clicking on the link provided.
Martyn, what a sweet idea – gardening for income. As gardening is her passion, I predict that she’ll do well.
Catherine the idea is sweet but once unwrapped there’s been and still is a lot of hours and hard work involved. The Young One puts in about four hours work each day tending to her plants.
Sweet idea….sweet peas…they are one of the few flowers/plants (sweet peas) I can recognise because my football went into them quite a few times when I was a kid. I can now add roses and marigolds to my short list.
I have a lot of respect for people like Wi who put so much time and effort into making something that’s their own. It may not be a lot of money given a Western perspective, but Isaan is not the west and a couple of thousand baht a month can really go a long way. I hope she is very successful in her new venture.
Lawrence M – I will pass on your kind words to Wi, she’ll enjoy them very much.
A couple of thousand baht a month in Isaan is very useful money indeed. It will pay the monthly electric and water bills easily with enough left over for a kilo or two of beef.
From small acorns grow giant marigold businesses.
I really enjoy reading about people at work (especially now I’m retired) and your series is the best I know for this. Marigolds are a growing concern in Isan (this sort of thing is catching — you’re a bad influence, Martyn), I don’t remember them being much used a few years back. (Incidentally, there’s a nice use of them at the top of my recent post on Life in Phana.)
I’m sure this will become a very good business and I wish Wi every success with it. Actually, I don’t think the comparison with western income levels is very relevant because Thai people mostly have a very different attitude towards the time/money relationship: a much more long-term approach, I think. And people who are living & working at home figure rightly that the time spent working there doesn’t really count. See all the people who sit all day long in their rarely-frequented shop. What else would they be doing? So any extra money is very welcome and as long as Wi doesn’t spend it all on fashion she’ll accumulate quite a lot, I imagine (though she might want to smarten you up a bit!).
Lawrence – You’ve posted a very well thought out comment which delves deep into the minds of Thais, especially those living in the rural areas. They do seem to take to working from home as a part of their everyday life rather than the chore that factory work and its like bring about. It’s not the done thing to sling up a hammock in an office.
I saw the marigolds on your latest post and have commented about them.
It’ll take a fair few rai of marigolds to smarten me up.
Hi Martyn, a timely reminder about values.
Mike – Thailand and its wonderful country life is always a reminder to me that money isn’t everything (it helps). I’m sure Thailand’s villagers would like bucketfuls of baht but they do a damn good job of hiding it.
Martyn , good for Wi , I love to see the way Thai’s have of making a little or lot of money and the same hard work and time goes into both and they love the reward big or small , I can say that our village is also full of folks who as it nwere work from home , BUTTT the big thing here in Whang Pho if food , and plenty of it , every corner and yard has a table set up in the evening around here and ohhh at the wonderful food that gets put on these tables , I think of Wang Pho every evening as one BIG BUFFET.It almost makes one forget cooking at home , the competition is getting sooo great that Ciejay said today a lady she knows was selling her Red Curry for 10 baht, all others 20 baht. Thanks for the up-date on village work , one thing I have notice during my years here in the LOS “the hardest workers are the women”, have you noticed that ???. Malcolm
Malcolm – You are right about the food. Thailand is one big buffet and Wang Pho sounds like it is the biggest buffet of all. Red Curry at 10 baht a go, is the lady’s cooking pot big enough to keep up with the orders?
In Wilai’s village I’d say the ladies are the hardest workers because most of the men seem to work in spurts, one day on and a couple plain idle.
Hopefully Wi can make a go of things and believe me I’ll be backing her up in any way I can.