Gita Simeonova, 59, picks roses in a rose garden in Buzovgrad, Bulgaria on May 23, 2018. Simeonova, who painted her manicure specifically for the process of rose-picking, says, "When I return home, my apron smells as if it's been dipped in rose oil. My entire garden is scented of it."
This rose garden is property of married couple Tihomir Tachev, 38, and Aleksandrina Aleksandrova, 38. This year, the two joined rose producers across Bulgaria's Rose Valley in protest against the low purchase prices of rose flowers. Producers say rose purchase prices have fallen from 3 to 5 leva BGN (currently about $1.80 to $3 USD) per kilogram in previous seasons, to just 2 leva BGN (currently about $1.20 USD) per kilogram this year - half of which they use to pay their rose-pickers, and use much of the rest for costs related to cultivating roses. Rose distilleries have refused to buy some of the producers' rose yield due to what they say is an inability to process any extra in an over-saturated market, with more and more rose gardens popping up each year. Some rose producers say they suspect the distilleries have instead colluded to lower the purchase prices of roses across the valley, and say they'd like the government to regulate the entire chain between producers and processors, setting a contractual minimum purchase price via a Rose Act. Bulgaria‚Äôs Minister of Agriculture, Rumen Porozhanov, has announced he is indeed considering a law on oil-bearing roses - and perhaps other essential oil crops, like lavender.
Tachev says, "There's beauty in Bulgaria, there's nature, but there is no country to back you up. It's only during elections that politicians care about us. Until then, you are on your own."
Photo by: Yana Paskova for National Geographic Traveler