Waving the Flag at WFFSA

Certified American Grown promotes America's flower farmers at annual conference

This year’s annual Wholesale Florist & Floral Supply Association (WFFSA) conference was held at the Miami Airport Convention Center and Certified American Grown was there in a big way.


Certified American Grown farms stand with the all American Grown American Flag during the WFFSA reception on Wednesday night. Pictured left to right Ben Dobbe of Holland America Flowers, Nicollete Wakefield of Holland America Flowers, John Donati of Ocean View Flowers, Jana Wilcox of Ocean View Flowers, David Register of Fern Trust, Eddie Espinoza of Green Valley Flowers, Kasey Cronquist of Certified American Grown, Misty Welborn of Mellano & Company, Mike M. Mellano of Mellano & Company and F.J. Trzuskowski of Continental Floral Greens.

The Certified American Grown farms rallied to promote the American Grown program to the nation’s

CCFC’s Support Impacts College-Level Floral Design Course

This guest post by Professor Paul Thomas, a floriculture professor at the University of Georgia. The Commission and its farms have been engaged in supporting the successful launch of the floriculture program at the University.


By Paul Thomas
Floriculture professor, University of Georgia

For the last three years, freshly harvested cut flowers from members of the California Cut Flower Commission have been flown to Atlanta for a series of special events. However, they did not wind up at local floral shops or in arrangements for a local wedding or banquet. From Atlanta, they were shipped to Athens, Georgia, home of the University of Georgia Bulldawgs. Those flowers were used weekly in the new college-level floral design class offered at UGA.

A full class of eager UGA students learning about floral quality using California cut flowers.

From the first offering, the class has had capacity attendance. The class was so popular, it is now offered every semester, including the summer term. Class evaluations are sky high and there is a waiting list to enroll every semester. As wonderful as this success may seem, none of this would have happened if it had not been for the significant support given by the CCFC.

“We had no funds other than the small student fee when we first offered the course,” said Frank Flanders, the UGA Floral Design professor. Budgets are tight and had it not been for the donation of flowers these first years to get us on our feet, this class would not have happened, much less become the success it is now.

Co-instructor Paul Thomas, a professor of Floriculture at UGA, expanded upon the importance the CCFC donations. “Using U.S-grown California cut flower material was important enough for us to work up the courage to ask for assistance: professional packing and shipping and unparalleled freshness. I grew up in California and I have had the honor to work with several of the floral producers in California for a few years now. I knew where the best flowers were and thus we approached Kasey Cronquist and the CCFC Board for assistance in helping us get started with the best materials possible. I can still remember the morning I opened up an email from Kasey and saw our request had been approved! This was what we needed to have the best materials to be successful and to be true to the intent of the curriculum.”
What makes this class different from any other in the U.S. is that a significant component of the course syllabus centers on teaching students to recognize floral quality. “If you have poor quality, or poorly shipped flowers, the learning experience is not very good, nor are the designs.  Learning how to select and evaluate flowers is essential,” said Thomas.

Both Professors feel the results have gone far beyond their initial vision for the course. “From incredibly beautiful protea’s from Resendiz Brothers Protea, to near-perfect tulips and iris from the Sun Valley Group, we were provided some of the best material any designer or design teacher could hope for. I had the opportunity to tour Mellano’s production site two years ago and was amazed at the variety and depth of the inventory. Mike Mellano did not spare anything as we received many (new to us) materials not commonly found in the Georgia floral market these last three years.” said Thomas.

Flanders added: “For example, Kangaroo Paws are mainstream on the West Coast. We rarely ever see them used here in Georgia. Our students were both amazed and challenged by having to integrate new materials into their designs. I believe we received material from every member of the commission and when you look across the product lines, there is an incredible selection of cuts to pick from.”

UGA students on a field trip to dry-goods distributor Burton and Burton Inc., learning more about the industry.

In addition to the design basics and floral quality training, the class also takes the time to familiarize students with the supply and distribution pathways. “We take students on field trips to our local floral distributor, Flowers Inc., where the students see how flowers are handled and stored in a large scale operation. We also take them to the dry-goods distributors such a Burton and Burton Inc., where all of the support materials for a good design can be purchased. This summer we also took a few students to the Produce Marketing Association conference where they toured APHIS inspection sites at Miami airport, local floral product suppliers and re-wholesalers, distributors and visited the trade show. All of these activities broaden the students awareness of what supports the industry and how it all happens.

The effect this type of program has on students was highlighted recently when Flanders visited a regional wholesaler and was greeted by one of his former students. She said that after taking the floral design class she knew what she wanted to do for a living. She is currently seeking an internship to enhance her ability to have a career in the industry.

UGA Floral Design class and the future of the floral industry.

“I can barely put into words how grateful we are to CCFC for its help” said Flanders. “By providing support in the form of fresh flowers the first three years, the members of CCFC gave us the chance to establish a classroom hard-goods supply base (vases, ribbons, etc). It also gave us time to establish a realistic budget. Student fee increases are difficult to get approval for unless you have the proposed economics based on actual need. Getting a program like this started is next to impossible in the U.S. without some external industry support. In return, we make sure the students know about the CCFC, what they do for the floral industry and what they have done for us though the donations of these flowers. Over 200 students have completed the course and now those students know where the best cut flowers come from. As they find their way into the industry, the design shops and classrooms at the high school level, they will bring this awareness with them.”

An Incredible Kick-Off

Arcata Field To Vase Kicks Tour Off With A Sold Out Crowd

Last week’s dinner at Sun Valley Floral Farms was a beautiful start to a tour that continues to help communicate the stories and value of our American flower farms.

A beautiful table of tulips, surrounded by 1.4M tulips growing in the greenhouse, awaited guests.

And this dinner was oversold!
In fact, we were going to have to add two chairs at either end to fit 152. By the day of the dinner there was a wait list of people and I was told that we had people asking us to call them and let us know if there were any no shows. Everybody showed.

And The Tour Begins!

The 2016 American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour

Have you ever imagined what having a four-course meal prepared by an talented chef in the middle of a flower field might be like?

AY_AGF_F2V_Map_Dates-01What started as a simple effort to draw people into the conversation about where flowers come from by inviting them to the flower farm, has now become a national tour in its second year.

In 2015, the tour crisscrossed the country, giving people a one-of-a-kind opportunity to attend a pop-up style dinner on an American flower farm. This, of course, is significant, not just because

New York Times Features Farmgirl Flowers’ Commitment to American Grown

It's more than a niche concept, it's a movement for more local American Grown Flowers

Sunday’s New York Times featured a great story on the success of Farmgirl Flowers of San Fransisco. The article does an outstanding job of sharing Christina’s passion and commitment to local. Stembel is quoted as saying, “I won’t use imports. I won’t offer an import line. I won’t test it out and see if people care. It’s not aligned with what the mission for our company is. Nor do I think it’s the right thing to do business-wise.


The article by reporter Gloria Dawson also included perspectives from varying segments and people in the industry, including myself. 

January issue of Society of American Florists’ Floral Management.

Tom Prince, president of Prince & Prince, discounted Farmgirl’s success, calling it a “niche concept.” He went on to say that Farmgirl’s model only works because the business is near the growers. 

I don’t want to sound defensive, but Farmgirl’s example of commitment, passion and loyalty for locally grown flowers is on the rise throughout the country. She’s not the only designer seeking more local American Grown options for clients and customers, she’s just the one that


It Was The Best Year Ever For CA Grown Certified Rose Parade Floats

The CA Grown logo was displayed proudly on the award winning Miracle-Gro Float. Miracle-Gro’s float received the Governor’s Trophy for the best depiction of life in California. Very fitting.

I can remember vividly the conversation with flower farmer and CCFC Commissioner June VanWingerden over seven years ago about how the Commission needed to make an effort to be a part of the Rose Parade again. She felt that the Rose Parade was a natural place for us to raise the profile of our farms during the biggest one day floral focused event in the country, that just so happened to be in our own backyard.

So, with promotion committee’s blessing, we went to work.

CDFA Secretary Ross congratulates Miracle-Gro VP & General Manager, John Sass.


At the time it wasn’t clear what that might look like, but I think we can all be proud of what has taken place since the decisions were made. Last week’s support for CA Grown Flowers and our certification efforts at the Rose Parade was amazing. Let me just rattle off a few of the high points:

  • Secretary Karen Ross’ continued support and involvement with our certification efforts
  • Certificates of Recognition from Das Williams and Senator Connie Leyva
  • 4 Certified CA Grown entries
    • Miracle-Gro
    • California Milk Advisory Board
    • CalPoly Universities
    • FTD Parade Vehicles
  • All 3 Certified floats were award winning
  • 1 Certified American Grown entry (National Park Service)
  • 2 Flower farmers on the Miracle-Gro Float
  • 38 Farm Ambassadors (volunteers)
  • 7,500 “CA Grown” stickers distributed
  • HGTV mention of CA Grown Certification
  • ABC mention of CA Grown Certification
  • Front Page Santa Barbara NewsPress
  • Ty Pennington support and endorsement of California Grown Flowers
  • Post Parade activation for California Grown
  • 50,000+ stems of flowers donated to CalPoly
  • Hundreds of amazing photos on Flickr by photographer Linda Blue!

Our red shirt Ambassadors did an amazing job helping us spread the news about CA Grown flowers.

We are working on a full report of the coverage our efforts received on this year’s efforts, but I think if you were anywhere around the parade last week, you couldn’t help but appreciate how far we’ve come with bringing California Grown Flowers back to the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Keith White (center)with Secretary Karen Ross during the FTD CA Grown Certification Ceremony last week. Pictured left to right is CCFC Chair Mike A. Mellano, Chair-elect Diana Roy, Keith White, Secretary Karen Ross, Harry VanWingerden and Linda G.

Our organization could not accomplish all of this without the leadership and the support of our farms, volunteers and our staff.

  • Thank you to our farms who donated the 50k plus stems of flowers to CalPoly float.
  • Thank you to our Ambassadors for giving of their time.
  • Thank you to Growers Logistics for donating the transportation of all of our flowers for CalPoly
  • Thank you to Kathleen for her efforts during the busy Christmas holiday to make sure the flowers made it to Pasadena.
  • Thank you to Adrienne, Neisha and Linda for their efforts to manage our press relationships, post parade activation and our cool new t-shirt design.
  • Thank you to Carly at Kahn, Soares and Conway for helping to manage our elected officials’ support
  • Thank you to Diana Roy, Juan Carlos and Mike Mooney for helping with our volunteer managment
  • Thank you to Linda G. for being our lead Ambassador and helping to organize everyone to promote our cause to all of the consumers who came by during deco-week.
  • Thank you to Andrea for your support in connecting all of the dots, answering questions and making sure we all had rooms for the night.

Secretary Ross enthusiastically certifies the California Milk Advisory Board’s float CA Grown on Thursday.


We worked with Miracle-Gro and California Grown to have a presense at post parade where all of the floats are left on display for three days. We handed out over 7,500 CA Grown stickers to passersby.

Because It Made A Difference

American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Ends In Detroit

The 2015 Field to Vase Dinner Tour ended on Saturday, but on the highest of notes.

Lisa Waud unveils her plans to develop a future flower farm on the grounds of The Flower House.

Lisa Waud unveils her plans to develop a future flower farm on the grounds of The Flower House.

Pairing the American Grown Flower House project in Detroit with our Field to Vase Dinner Tour was perfect. 

As we prepared and procured flowers for Lisa Waud’s project, I spoke to many people who wanted to understand this project, the attention it was getting and the “why.” 

Have You Seen These Amazing Field to Vase Photos From Portland?

We Found Portland Love For Local American Grown Flowers


Last week’s dinner at Oregon Flowers was a wonderful example of what the Certified American Grown tour represents. An authentic experience on a Certified American Grown flower farm, celebrating American Grown flowers.


Guests were treated to a stunning floral installation and design by Elizabeth Artis of Espe Floral + Foliage and an amazing Pacific Northwest dinner by

Field to Vase, A Documentary

Short film highlights the values and virtues of buying and supporting local American Grown Flowers

I hope everyone has had a chance to watch the film that was released on Friday that features one of our stops on the Field to Vase Dinner Tour that was held at California Pajarosa in June.

Haejung Kim and Hyunsoo Moon, a Los Angeles based husband and wife team, did an amazing job interpreting the “why” and telling the local American Grown Flowers story in such a compelling way, its nearly impossible not to feel moved by their work and the cause.

This video provides such an emotionally compelling piece that clearly communicates the value and virtues on buying and sourcing local American Grown Flowers.

It’s honest, authentic and transparent and

5 Awesome Achievements In 2015 I Should Have Blogged About Already

Let’s face it. It’s basically August.

Awesome Acheivements

We’re well over halfway through 2015. At this point, there’s is no denying that I’ve failed miserably in my goal to blog each week in 2015, but it certainly has not been due to lack of content to feature. This year has been the most intense year of