Meeting the First Lady of the United States

America's Flower Farmers Meet Melania Trump at First Lady's Luncheon

For the second year in a row, Certified American Grown Flowers had the honor and privilege of providing America’s First Lady with an all-American Grown Flower affair during the Congressional Club’s annual First Lady Luncheon.

This year, our delegation of farmers, designers and special guests had the opportunity to meet the first lady.

Left to right: Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore, Diana Roy of Resendiz Brothers Protea, First Lady Melania Trump, Margaret Lloyd of Margaret Joan Florals, Christy Hulsey of The Colonial House and Travis Rigby of Florists’ Review.

Certified American Grown flower farmer Diana Roy took the opportunity to speak with the first lady about American Grown Flowers, the cause and our interest in working with her and the White House to help ensure that all of the flowers displayed in the White House be American Grown.

It was an incredible moment for our young program.

Left to right: Jerry Hagstrom of the Hagstrom Report, Tim Dewey of DVFlora, First Lady Melania Trump, Kasey Cronquist of Certified American Grown, Beth VanSandt of Scenic Place Peonies and Kurt Weichhand of Scenic Place Peonies.

The first lady was gracious and very receptive. We didn’t have a lot of time, but Diana Roy did a masterful job in speaking with the first lady about Certified American Grown and expressing what an honor it was to provide all of the flowers for the day’s event.

If that wasn’t enough, our message was repeated and affirmed by the chair of the Congressional Club’s First Lady Luncheon. During her remarks, Carolyn Yoho took a moment to encourage everyone, “including the White House,” to support American Grown Flowers.

It could not have been more perfect.

We look forward to continuing to work with the Congressional Club on this wonderful bipartisan event and following up with the first lady’s office to encourage the support for representing America’s flower farming families in the White House.

Our Last Day in China

Trade Mission Proved To Be a Valuable Opportunity

On our last day in China, we traveled to a couple of wholesale flower marts. The first one was found in what appeared to be an abandoned shopping mall. Flower wholesalers have moved in and taken up residence in the the old shops.

Shanghai wholesale flower market in an abandoned mall.

For the most part, the flowers we found here were in pretty poor shape. Lots of lilies. Lots of roses and carnations. I saw a cart full of gerbera daisies stacked on each other. Care and handling or anything resembling post-harvest care or a cold chain was hard to come by.

They did have gerbera daisies in China. We didn’t see many, but this was largest amount I saw in one place.

We had a great meeting with one of the wholesale importers who was encouraged by what our farms produced. Ms. May had her own translator, Catherine, who also helped teach our farms about the importance of WeChat for the China Floral industry.

We met with Ms. May, an importer who was very interested in how she could import American Grown Flowers.

Our last wholesale market seemed to have better quality flowers than the first, but not by much.

Translating during our meetings did take some time, but pictures of our flowers really helped to inspire the discussions.

We visited a number of wholesale markets, retail markets and florists shops that were also doing e-commerce sales, but only one mass-market grocery store that sold flowers.

We wrapped up our trip with a nice dinner on the river in downtown Shanghai. It was a great way to end a very productive tour through the Chinese flower industry.

On our last night in China, we watched the sun go down while having dinner on the river. It was a fitting end to this exploratory trip to learn about the China flower market.

China’s Largest Floriculture Trade Show Did Not Disappoint

Over 30,000 People in Attendance

Hortiflorexpo is the largest floriculture trade show in China.

We were told it was going to be big, but the Hortiflorexpo in Shanghai was huge.

In fact, it was this show that anchored the schedule of our trip because it was a such a “must see,” and is only held every other year in Shanghai. But why is it held the week before Mother’s Day, you ask? I don’t think we ever had that clearly answered, but it didn’t seem to impact the attendance. According to show officials, they expected over 30,000 people to attend the show this year.

Our official delegation just outside of the show. Pictured (left to right) are Jason Kendall, Tyler Meskers, myself, Mike Mellano, Ashley Nally and Diana Roy.

Our delegation of flower farmers met with wholesalers and importers to discuss American Grown Flowers and any interest their might be in importing our farms’ flowers.

Our team meeting with an importer at the show.

We also walked the show and saw some familiar names and companies with booths at this year’s show. Australia, Holland and Colombia all had booths representing flowers that were being imported to China today.

Holland had a major presence at the show.

 

Jason Kendall checking out the banksia from Australia.

 

Asocoflores and Ball Horticulture appeared to share booth space at the show.

 

Oasis has a large presence at the show and throughout China. Oasis seemed to be at many of the wholesale flower market shops we visited as well.

We had about three hours after our meetings to walk the show. The floriculture portion was held in three huge buildings, but included bedding plants and landscaping-type exhibits as well. It was a big show and well attended.

It Was Incredible!

Beautiful American Grown Flowers Adorn First Lady's Luncheon

We’ve worked on some big events and we’ve had some great opportunities for our American Grown Flower farmers and their flowers featured, but I believe this week’s work in Washington, D.C., stands out above all the rest in its scale, influence and effort to drive awareness to the American Grown Flower movement.

This year’s First Lady’s Luncheon, hosted annually by the Congressional Club, was an all American Grown Flower affair. Our farms shipped over 18,000 stems of beautiful American Grown Flowers to a team of over 20 volunteer professional floral designers led by Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore, Christy Hulsey of The Colonial House of Flowers and Margaret Lloyd of Margret Joan Florals.

An extremely talented and wonderful team of professional floral designers rallied for American Grown Flowers for this year’s First Lady’s Luncheon.

This year’s lead designers, (pictured left to right) Kelly Shore, Margaret Lloyd and Christy Hulsey.

The results were incredible.

The sponsorship opportunity led to a meet and greet opportunity with first lady Melania Trump where Diana Roy of Resendiz Brothers was able to speak with the first lady and encourage the White House to adopt an all American Grown Flower policy. The request was reiterated by the Congressional Club’s Chair of the First Lady’s Luncheon Committee who took a moment during her remarks to acknowledge all of the beautiful American Grown Flowers and asked that “everyone, including the White House, support American Grown Flowers.” The request from the podium was met with resounding applause.

 

The official Instagram post from @Flotus included a shot of the beautiful American Grown Flowers on the head table.

 

Incredible.

Half of the tables enjoyed these beautiful Certified American Grown centerpieces.

 

And half of the tables enjoyed these beautiful Certified American Grown centerpieces.

Diana Roy of Resendiz Brothers with second lady Karen Pence.

If that wasn’t enough, after the luncheon concluded, Diana Roy and I had an opportunity to speak to second lady Karen Pence who had made special note of the request we were making and encouraged us to write a letter to her requesting support for an all American Grown White House.

It was an honor to meet second lady Karen Pence.

 

First Lady Luncheon Committee Chair Carolyn Yoho and I after the luncheon.

Meeting the first lady and second lady on the same day, talking to both of them about our farms and flowers and requesting that the American Grown Flower movement be brought to the White House … it could not have gone better. The day felt as if we were all a part of history in the making, and it was an honor to be a part of this annual bipartisan tradition.

A record number of people attended this year’s First Lady’s Luncheon.

Thank you to the following farms for their generous contribution of flowers:

Golden State Bulb Growers
Calla Co.
Ocean View Flowers
Dramm & Echter
Westland Orchids
Gallup & Stribling
Oregon Flowers
FernTrust
Sun Valley Floral Farms
Holland America Flowers
Pyramid Flowers
Mellano & C0.
Top Star Floral
Resendiz Brothers
Kitayama Brothers
Myriad Flowers
Ocean Breeze
Joseph & Sons
Eufloria Flowers
Green Valley Floral
Lynnvale Studios

A big thank you goes to Tim Dewey and DV Flora for helping us organize our flower shipments to D.C. Thank you to David Armellini of Armellini Logistics for their sponsorship to move the flowers to the East Coast and to Potomac Floral Wholesale for helping us with the last mile delivery.

I also want to thank Margaret Hofland of Accent Decor and Smithers-Oasis for their contribution and support again this year.

Certified American Grown had a wonderful group at our table during the luncheon. Pictured left to right is Margaret Lloyd, Kurt Weichhand, Beth VanSandt, Diana Roy, Rep. Ted Yoho, Christy Hulsey, Kelly Shore and Travis Rigby.

Wine, Flowers and the Library of Congress

California Grown Flowers Adorn Annual Wine Institute Reception

This year’s annual Wine Institute Reception at the Library of Congress was another beautiful opportunity to collaborate with our friends at Wine Institute and showcase our beautiful American Grown Flowers.

Andrea Gagnon and I at this year’s Wine Institute Reception at the Library of Congress.

The annual reception at the Library of Congress is the most popular reception on Capitol Hill each year (at least I think so).

Once again, we worked with Andrea Gagnon of LynnVale Studios, a Certified American Grown farm and floral designer to help with the floral design installation.

Three very tall and beautiful centerpieces adorned the reception’s appetizer tables. Smaller arrangements were also at every small table and hightop.

The design effort is no small feat. I have to imagine that designing flowers within the space and grandeur of the Library of Congress would be a bit intimidating for anyone, but you wouldn’t known it with Andrea. She and her team do an amazing job taking our flowers and making it all work beautifully.

Relationships Matter

Building, Renewing, Establishing Relationships Are Key Benefits of The Field To Vase Tour

Our recent American Grown Field to Vase Dinner at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad marked our 20th dining experience since launching the national tour in 2015. It was the second largest dinner we’ve held, with 175 people in attendance and a portion of the proceeds donated to The Flower Fields Foundation. The foundation helps bring students from urban communities to experience life on a flower farm. A fitting tribute to a cause that is not too dissimilar from our aim with the dinner tour.

In fact, it’s the people part of the dinners we hold that continues to renew and encourage the continuation of the effort. Bringing consumers, designers, farmers and media to a dinner in the middle of a flower field does make a difference. Having our guests tour the farm with the flower farmer, learn from our featured floral designer and share the importance of what America’s flower farmers bring to their communities and the economy resonates.

The conversations are lively and the experience is one-of-a-kind, and it’s in that environment that relationships are established, renewed or enriched.

Relationships matter.

After each dinner, I look forward to receiving our album of photos and seeing the experiences of our guests through the lens of our photographers.

Not only does the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour bring people to some of the most beautiful flower farms in the country, it also highlights how important this flower-loving community of people who care and can advocate for American Grown Flowers really is. With the tour in its third year, I know for sure these experiences will have a tremendously positive impact on the relationships we’ve established for years to come.

Click to see more photos from Carlsbad.


I Fly With Flowers and Niesha Does, Too!

The 'Fly-With-Flowers' Challenge

Following our most recent American Grown Field to Vase Dinner in Carlsbad, California, at The Flower Fields, I challenged our social media guru Niesha Blancas to fly with flowers. She’d read my blog posts on the topic, and somehow it came up as we were working together to prepare for our sold-out dinner crowd.

I said, “You should try it.”

She hesitated.

“Come on … trust me. Do it once and you’ll be addicted. It’s so fun. I challenge you to fly with flowers.”

So, she did!

Niesha with her lucky flight attendant.

The photos she texted me Friday morning confirmed she had accomplished the challenge.  I texted back, “How do you feel?”

She said, “My soul feels happy.”

Niesha’s experience was fun to see and was affirming as well. In the hustle and bustle of promoting and advocating on behalf of America’s flower farmers, watching the reaction you get from giving beautiful American Grown Flowers to someone “just because” is an encouraging reminder about what joy our farmers’ flowers bring to people everywhere.

The Fly With Flowers Challenge

So, I wanted to extend the challenge to anyone who wants to fly with flowers. It is a great way to spread good cheer and encourage those flight attendants who really do have a tough job dealing with all of us weary travelers. I would love to see a picture with you and your lucky flight attendant and then blog about your experience and any others that I receive photos from.

I flew home from Carlsbad with flowers too.

Send Me Your Jeans!

Nordstrom Is Offering Dirty Jeans For $425

Apparently dirty jeans are a thing!

Did you see this? Nordstrom is selling pairs of dirty jeans for $425.

Click here to see these jeans for yourself at Nordstrom.com.

Think about that for a second. People paying almost $500 for a pair of pants that look like … well, like you’ve been farming flowers all day long.

Here is how Nordstrom is selling these jeans:

Heavily distressed medium-blue denim jeans in a comfortable straight-leg fit embody rugged, Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.

I bet you’re thinking what I was thinking, “Is this a joke? Come on … not even hipsters are going to head down this road.”

But we’d be wrong. Click on the image and see for yourself. This is an actual ad by Nordstrom for dirty designer jeans.

So, this is my idea.

Certified American Grown will work out an arrangement with Nordstrom to sell authentic “Certified” American Grown Flower farmer jeans!

Next, we’ll work with Nordstrom to sponsor our American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour, supply our guests with clean jeans and let them go out into the field and dirty them up for an authentic experience that these dirty designer jeans just can’t compete with. We’ll charge $800 for that, but throw in a ticket to the dinner.

So, send me your jeans! Jeans that have been made dirty by a real American flower farmer will really drive a premium.

#OriginMatters

Not all of our flower farmers wear jeans, so next we’ll be introducing dirty designer shorts for $375 a pair.

Let’s Caravan To Homer!

Tickets To Homer Dinner Are Running Out

I’m really looking forward to experiencing the beauty of Alaska in the summer. I’ve been to Fairbanks when it was minus 41 degrees, so returning in July for the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner at Scenic Place Peonies in Alaska is going to be a lot of fun … and warmer!

I’m also looking forward to the 4.5-hour drive from Anchorage to Homer once I get up there. Based on conversations with Beth VanSandt and others who have made the drive and have shared how beautiful it is, it will probably take me 6 hours.

I’m talking to some of our guests who also flying into Anchorage and driving and are interested in caravanning to Homer. Sounds like fun to me! Of course, there would be some work involved with organizing that, which is why I’m posting about the importance of planning for this magical Alaska experience.

It’s a long but beautiful drive from Anchorage to Homer. You can fly from Anchorage to Homer, too.

Out of all of the dinners we’ve ever held, I really hear about the desire people have to go to Alaska the most. For some people, they are definitely coming. Wouldn’t miss it. For others, it’s just the “want” in their voice that communicates the dream-come-true opportunity it would be.

Of course, out of all of the dinners we’ve ever held, this is going to be the trickiest to get to, so I want to take a moment to encourage those of you who have expressed your deep desire to join us to start booking your flights, hotels and seats at the dinner table now.

If everyone who has said they wanted to go booked today, we’d be oversold and have a waiting list. But I understand there are planes, cars, lodging, etc. that everyone is looking at. That’s why we put together the Alaskan F2V Travel Tips. Here you’ll receive some contacts, insights and inspiring ideas on where to stay and what to do while your make the journey to Homer.

Sign Up For Tips!

I hope to see you there and, of course, we’re happy to answer any questions you have.

Bottom line … don’t wait to save your seat!