Only In Alaska…

Alaska's Field To Vase Dinner Was Unlike Any Other

The view from Scenic Place Peonies lives up to its name.

Our most recent stop on the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour was Scenic Place Peonies in Homer, Alaska. This dinner marked our 22nd dinner in the past three years that we’ve been crisscrossing the country, inviting the the public to come and dine in the fields of America’s most beautiful flower farms.

As I was preparing to head up to the dinner we’d been planning for over a year, I was still getting comments from people who were asking me, “you’re going to Alaska?” Immediately followed by, “they grow flowers in Alaska?”

Yep. Peonies. And not just any ol’ peony. Big ones.

Dinner plate sized peonies greeted each guest as they took their seats for dinner.

Which was exactly why it was so important for the dinner tour to head up to Alaska and shine the spotlight on this burgeoning group of flower farmers who are harvesting these massive peonies during the months of July and August, when historically there hasn’t been any available in the lower 48.

And while the opportunity to tell the story of these farms was too great and something we had to do, it would also be the most risky dinner we’d ever planned.

When you consider that the largest city in Alaska’s population is just under 300,000 people and that market is a 4.5 hour drive for our host farm, we knew we would have our marketing hands full. Would people from the lower 48 really fly up to Alaska and then drive or fly down to Homer?

Yep. They did.

There wasn’t an extra seat at the table. The majority of people drove or flew into Homer for this Field to Vase Dinner, many from the lower 48.

The dinner was a sold out crowd of 116 people, many who flew in to Anchorage and made that drive to Homer. We had a number of people from Fairbanks and Anchorage too.

Flower farmers Kurt and Beth of Scenic Place Peonies.

Certified American Grown flower farmers Beth VanSandt and Kurt Weichhand of Scenic Place Peonies were amazing hosts. They had this incredible team of friends and family helping to prepare their farm for all of the guests who would arrive.

Kelly Shore of Petals By the Shore shares her love for Alaskan peonies during the dinner’s reception.

Kelly Shore of Petals By The Shore was our featured floral designers. You’ll remember Kelly from our work on the First Lady’s Luncheon earlier this year. Kelly was one of our lead designers for that event and did an amazing job. It as through that experience that she had met and gotten to know Beth and Kurt while working together in Washington, D.C. for the event. So, it was a fun reunion to have Kelly in Alaska designing for the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner on Beth and Kurt’s peony farm.

Kelly’s beautiful tablescape was a wonderful tribute to the Alaskan culture.

Kelly did an outstanding job. Working with Beth, she created a tablescape and design installations that honored the Alaskan fishing culture, the entrepreneurial spirit of Alaska’s peony farmers, while highlighting how all  growing momentum for American Grown Flowers.

Publisher Travis Rigby and Teresa Salts with Florists Review Magazine joined us in Alaska.

I have to also tip my hat to chef Dave. Dave Thorne of Delicious Dave’s did an outstanding job with the evening’s salmon dinner, especially the King Salmon… Which in full disclosure, I had caught the day before on the Kenai River (a 40-45pd King Salmon!).

Catching this King Salmon on the Kenai River was something I’ll never forget.

Chef Dave Thorne and I before his filet demonstration with the King Salmon I had caught the day before on the Kenai River.

Never before and probably never again will I be able to say that I caught dinner for one of our American Grown Field to Vase Dinners, but chalk this up as just another example of how incredible this dinner turned out to be.

Only in Alaska.

Were you there? Leave a comment, share your experience below. 

After over a year’s worth of planning, Beth, Kelly and I toast to a wonderful evening celebrating Alaskan Grown peonies and the growing momentum for American Grown Flowers.

This dinner would not have been so well organized, thought through and executed if it wasn’t for these three. A big thank you to Beth (her amazing team), Andrea and Rebecca Kopperud of LaBoum Events.

Thank you to Geyser Peak Winery for joining us in Alaska. The wine was a hit and a perfect pairing for the evening’s meal.

We had some awesome volunteers during this dinner who were wearing some pretty awesome shirts!

Thank you to our sponsors, our national and our regional sponsors help make this American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour a reality. We could not do it without their support and it certainly wouldn’t be as fun.

Canada Launches “Petals and Plates”

Flowers Canada Kicks Off Its Own Field To Vase Dinner Series

Floral Daily recently announced that Flowers Canada (Ontario) has launched its own version of the Field to Vase Dinner Tour, calling it “Petals & Plates.”

The Petals & Plates dinner series will stop at three Canadian greenhouses during the months of September and October to help highlight, “Canadian flower growers and their importance in our agricultural landscape.”

While I’ve certainly received a few emails and calls since the launch of their campaign, my response is the same, “I think its genius and I hope it becomes a massive success.”

I am impressed that the Canadian government has helped to underwrite the dinner tour. The government’s support is acknowledged on the event’s “About” page.

 

 

Society of American Florists Asks, “Will Marijuana Cultivation Affect Floral Industry?”

Recent Article By SAF Raises Questions About Future Supply

Today, the Society of American Florists (SAF) published an article regarding the impact cannabis might have on the floral industry. Writer Julie Martens was tasked with calling up our farms in California to get a sense of how things might be changing since the passing of Prop 64 in 2016, legalizing recreational use in California.
Bob Echter of Dramm & Echter and Janet M. Louie of Green Valley Floral do a great job of providing their opinions and experiences with how the legalization of cannabis in California might be impacting their business.  And I know a lot of farms in California and other states feel the same way as Janet, who is quoted in the article saying, “There’s a lot of interest in growing marijuana in California, but our plan is to keep growing flowers as long as it is economically feasible. Growing flowers is much more than just a business to us, so we would like to see it continue for the foreseeable future.”So, will marijuana cultivation affect floral industry?

The simple answer is yes; it already is. However, the real question is what will that impact look like? Negative? Positive? Business as usual?

It’s really too early to tell.

Of course, it’s something I’m watching from my position as CEO of the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC). I have a front-row seat to the decisions our farms are making since the passing of Prop 64. To put an even finer point on it, the CCFC’s budget is based on the sales performance of our farms. Before the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS survey), the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) annual floriculture survey or any county commission crop report ever comes out (note: all of those reports are voluntary surveys that cover the previous crop year), the CCFC is the first to see any changes in sales and production from the reports our farms provide each quarter, significant or otherwise.

I think the SAF article does a good job of tackling this tantalizing subject, and it’s something to be aware of and watch, but I can also tell you that no one was calling when some of these same farms were investing in lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes.

This is farming and farmers diversify.

It’s also important to ask, “why?” What is motivating these farms to consider selling their farms or replacing production. What is keeping flower farms from being totally successful and satisfied with their business in flowers?

I’ll tell you.

Competing for business as a flower farmer in the United States is hard. Really hard.

What’s so hard about it?

Consider that the primary competition for our farms are imports from South America, primarily Colombia and Ecuador. And California just passed a law to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Let’s just pause there.

The minimum wage in Colombia in 2017 is $1.18. The average worker in Colombia makes $246 a month.

For some perspective, the iPhone 7 in Colombia still costs over $700.

The state of California has also eliminated the ag overtime exemption that helped farms and their employees work longer hours during peak seasons.

The combination of these two issues alone will have real impacts on our farms as they try to compete with countries that do not share the same politics, social concerns, environmental standards and attention to workers’ rights.

The challenges our farms face, the pressure they feel, can be directly linked to their ability to compete in a market where flowers grown in other countries and flown to the U.S. aren’t required to meet the same standards.

It’s an issue of fair play.

U.S. flower farms play on a field (in their own country) that’s not level, and any decision to consider selling a farm or getting into cannabis production is symptomatic of a larger problem. That problem is directly linked to trade.

I certainly encourage you to read the SAF article, but I also encourage you to go deeper and follow along as we continue the “California Growing” series, highlighting current examples of California farms (including Green Valley Floral and Dramm & Echter) who are expanding, growing and further investing in flower farming.

See How Our Farms Are Waving The Flag For American Grown Flowers During July

Certified American Grown Flower Farmers Are Waving The Flag For Their Flowers In Lots of Ways

Certified American Grown farms continue to help wave the flag and show their pride for being a part of the growing consumer demand for homegrown blooms. Certified farm Eufloria Flowers recently launched their beautifully

Eufloria sleeves its roses with the Certified American Grown brand to help highlight how special their roses are in today’s floral market. Less than 1 percent of all roses in the market are able to display this brand.

redesigned website featuring their roses and the pride in their membership with Certified American Grown. That pride extends to their sleeves where their Certified American Grown Flowers logo is displayed proudly alongside their company logo for consumers to see, appreciate and support.

Adoption of the brand by Certified American Grown flower farms has helped make Certified American Grown the most recognizable consumer-facing brand in the floral industry. Today, millions of stems of homegrown flowers are being Certified American Grown and more and more of our Certified farms are sharing their pride for the program by placing the brand on flower boxes, flower sleeves, websites, email signature blocks, etc. One farm painted the logo on the side of one of their barns!

Smile Farms in New York is proud to be Certified American Grown!

Congress recently declared July as “American Grown Flowers Month,” helping to further the effort to increase the public’s awareness on why buying American Grown Flowers and supporting America’s flower farming families is so important. Origin matters. It does. And it is great to see more and more people finding that they can support our farms and find American Grown Flowers, thanks to the collaborative effort of farms who are using the Certified American Grown brand to help make that connection with flower lovers.

Check out all of these great examples of our farms doing their part to wave the flag for Certified American Grown Flowers.

Glad-A-Way Gardens is proud to wave the flag for Certified American Grown.

Texas Specialty Cut Flowers shares its pride right on their sleeves.

Sun Valley Floral Farms promotes its homegrown tulips using the Certified American Grown brand.

Summer Dreams Farms in Oxnard, Michigan, showing its pride on its website.

Truck wraps! You bet! Fox Hollow Peonies shows off their pride wherever they drive.

 

California Pajarosa let’s everyone know they are Certified American Grown right there on its homepage!

 

Certified American Grown Council member Rita Jo Shoultz takes her responsibility to spread the news with every email she sends. Check out her signature block!

 

We love this! Fellow Certified flower farmers using social media to highlight and support other Certified flower farmers.

A great in-store display at a Raley’s in Northern California by Kendall Farms of Fallbrook, California.

Alaska Beauty Peony Co-op is proud to be Certified, so it says on its website.

 

Janet Louie of Green Valley Floral highlights its pride on their website too!

Mellano & Company getting social with their pride for Certified American Grown Flowers on Instagram.

These are just some of the examples you can find out there from our farms highlighting their pride and working together to help really drive consumer awareness for our homegrown blooms.

What other examples are you finding? Leave a comment or send me your cell phone photos.

What’s Happening On California’s Flower Farms?

Learn How California's Flower Farmers Are Investing to Grow Their Flowers and Their Futures

What’s going on in California?

As I travel the country speaking with people about our industry, our farms and the American Grown Flower movement, I undoubtedly get asked where I’m from. After sharing that I live in California, the conversation typically turns to a discussion about the state, a  recent headline they read , a news report they watched or a trip they took to the California coast. If they are in the industry, they may start “talking shop” about our California Grown Flowers.

Visiting with guests during the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner at Destiny Hill Farm in Washington, Pennsylvania.

Regardless, I always enjoy the discussions and am struck by the varying impressions and opinions people have about the Golden State and, specifically, their understanding of California flower farming. Yes, California is the largest producer of cut flowers and greens in the United States, providing almost 80 percent of domestic production and approximately $300 million in farmgate value.

That’s a lot of flowers.

I enjoy every opportunity to talk about flower farming in the United States and the growing demand for American Grown Flowers.

But these aren’t corporate farms, venture capital companies or multi-national conglomerates growing flowers in California. They are family farms, dedicated to the craft of growing flowers, in some cases, for more than six generations. So, during this time of growing consumer interest in where products, like our food, are coming from, we thought we’d provide some posts that feature California flower-farming families, highlighting their farms, their flowers and their continuing commitment to grow, develop and expand their operations to meet this increasing demand for flowers grown here in the  U.S.

Each year, a dedicated group of California flower farmers descend on the state’s capitol to advocate for their futures.

We’re calling this series, “California Growing,” and for the next several weeks, the CCFC will be publishing a collection of stories on some of our farms that have great examples of investments they’re making in growing their farms and increasing production – and that have a bullish outlook on their future ahead.

I hope the series helps answer questions, inspires and provides perspective on what is really going on in California.

The series kicks off in Santa Paula, California, at Joseph & Sons’ flower farm.

California Growing | This Family Farm Is Gearing Up For Its Next Generation of Flower Farmers

Here are just a few examples of quotes from these stories:

 

Congress Declares July “American Grown Flowers Month”

Celebrating the Value of America's Flower Farming Families Throughout the Month of July

Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday June 27, Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24) introduced a bipartisan resolution designating July as “American Grown Flowers Month.” Co-sponsored by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-50), Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Rep. Don Young (AK-1), Rep. Jared Huffman (CA02), and Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49), House Resolution 413 declares July as the month to celebrate the economic and cultural impact of America’s cut flower and greens farmers and demonstrate Congress’ commitment to support America’s flower farming families.

Click to Watch: Rep. Carbajal Speaks on House Floor in Support of American Grown Flower Month

Congressman Carbajal spoke from the House Floor, introducing the legislation and encouraging fellow members of Congress to support American Grown Flowers Month.

“I have seen firsthand the value the cut flower industry adds to our economy and communities during my

The Incredible Francoise Weeks!

Francoise Shares Her Passion On the F2V Tour

There is only one Francoise Weeks and she joined us at Destiny Hill Farm as our featured designer.  Photo by Farm Chick Photography.

I have a vivid memory of speaking with Francoise during our Field to Vase Dinner in Detroit in 2015 and hearing her passion for sourcing and designing with American Grown Flowers. She was committed to the idea of sourcing local long before it became “a thing.” Sourcing from what grew around her is who she is and she is one of those rare designers who doesn’t have a problem telling a bride “no,” when something they’re requesting isn’t in season.

An incredible talent, Francoise Weeks makes beautiful arrangements from plants that other people would consider weeds. Photo by Farm Chick Photography.

Our conversation in Detroit touched on her desire to teach from flower farms and it was there we began discussing how to one day have her be a part of a future American Grown Field to Vase Dinner.

That opportunity turned reality this past weekend at Destiny Hill Farm in Washington, Pennsylvania where Francoise brought her amazing design talent to our Field to Vase Dinner tablescape.

Photo by Farm Chick Photography.

Francoise’s woodland design style is unlike anything we’ve ever seen on the tour to date. In fact, it is so unique, I don’t expect we’ll see it again, which is why it was such a privilege and honor to have her join this year’s tour.

There were 19 woodland arrangements on the table, each unique, each of them representing hours of time and attention. We have a tradition of making sure our table arrangements go home with our guests and when there isn’t one for everyone, we have a fun way of giving the centerpieces away. This time though, our winners walked away with their prize as if they had just won an expensive piece of art.

Which it was…

Thank you Francoise for sharing your time and talent with us on this year’s Field to Vase Dinner Tour.

It was an honor to work with Francoise Weeks at our American Grown Field to Vase Dinner at Destiny Hill Farm. Photo by Farm Chick Photography.

 

Even I learned some lessons from Francoise while in Pennsylvania.

Celebrating American Grown at Destiny Hill Farm

A Beautiful Evening On the Flower Farm In Western Pennsylvania

Photo by Farm Chick Photography.

Our Field to Vase Dinner at Destiny Hill Farm in Western Pennsylvania will go down as our miracle dinner.

Tornado warnings were sent to all of our phones.

Just twenty-four hours before our dinner began, Washington, Pennsylvania was under a tornado warning as a severe storm ripped through the area. We were all in a pre-dinner planning meeting when emergency alerts started ringing everyone’s phones. I was so impressed with receiving my first “tornado warning” alert on my iPhone that I took a screen grab of it.

The storm was intense. Lighting, booming thunder and sideways rain; it had everyone running for cover.

And just like that, it was over.

By Saturday morning the extreme rain and wind had died down and made way for a beautiful day as we prepared for our Field to Vase Dinner later that evening. While we fought a little wind during set up, by the time our guests sat down for dinner the weather could not have been more perfect for our celebration of American Grown Flowers.

The lavender fields of Destiny Hill Farms were a beautiful backdrop for our American Grown Field to Vase Dinner. Photo by Farm Chick Photography.

Now, Destiny Hill Farm is one of the most beautiful flower farms in the United States, but what makes this farm so special is the family behind the farm. The Cameron’s are a generous, fun-loving family that make everyone who visits feel like family. I also had a chance to work with an amazing team of employees and student interns who helped us make a magical evening come true for our dinner guests.

Our guests enjoyed a magical evening on the flower farm. Photo by Farm Chick Photography.

It was a privilege to finally meet Jim and Nancy Cameron, early adopters of the Certified American Grown Flowers program. Photo by Farm Chick Photography.

Jim and Nancy Cameron were early adopters of the Certified American Grown program and it was a privilege to finally meet them in person and host a beautiful American Grown Field to Vase Dinner on their flower farm. They not only rolled out the red carpet (or purple carpet, as the case may be) for our guests, but they get the award for the most organized set up.

Mimi York (left) did an amazing job as our event planner for our dinner at Destiny Hill. Niesha Blancas (right) helped us capture the magic via social media. Check out her facebook live interviews! Photo by Farm Chick Photography.

How so, you ask?

Meet Mimi York.

Mimi York, Destiny Hill’s resident event planner, had our table set on Thursday before the event. That was an F2V first! Mimi was a true pleasure to work with and it was her attention to detail that really helped ensure our guests had a memorable evening.

Of course any mention of our time at Destiny Hill would not be complete without mentioning Luther. In fact, Luther might have stole the show. Luther, the farm mascot is a miniature donkey that was rescued by the Camerons and basically roams freely on the farm. There is nothing quite like having a donkey greeting your guests to bring smiles and levity to any event.

Who doesn’t love a miniature donkey at a party? I could write a whole blog post on Luther. Photo by Farm Chick Photography.

You can find more beautiful images of our dinner at Destiny Hill Farm on our Flickr page. Thank you to MacKenzie Scheponik of Farm Chick Photography for such beautiful photos.

Click to see more photos from our American Grown Field to Vase Dinner at Destiny Hill Farm.

Celebrating California Grown Flowers Month at Arroyo Seco Weekend with Mud Barron

Flowers On Your Head Is a CA Grown Hit!

Festivalgoers gravitated to the all California Grown Flowers “Flowers On Your Head” tent during this weekend’s Arroyo Seco Weekend.

California Grown Flowers were a beautiful addition to this weekend’s festivities at Arroyo Seco Weekend. The CCFC collaborated with Mud Barron of Muir Ranch to provide fresh California Grown Flowers for his crowd favorite “Flowers On Your Head,” activation.

The crowd loved it.

A nice banner highlighting the celebration of California Grown Flowers in June hung proudly in Pasadena during Arroyo Seco Weekend.

And we loved being a part of Mud’s team of students who were on hand to help spread the #CAGrown news through an engaging display in the shadow of the Rose Bowl. CCFC Chair Diana Roy of Resendiz Brothers led the charge, ensuring our farms’ flowers arrived to Pasadena this weekend and helping with the activation.

Thank you to our farms for contributing their beautiful California Grown Flowers this weekend!

It was estimated that over 25,000 people attended the inaugural event.

Thank you to all of our farms that responded to Mud’s request for California Grown Flowers.  He reported back with his deep appreciation for the flowers that were sent, highlighting it was all for a good cause. Mud is the man responsible for the student flower farm and design program at Muir Ranch. You can learn more about Muir Ranch by visiting their website.

Staying On Mission

The CCFC Is Unique Organization With A Unique Mission

This weekend, one of our farmers reached out to me asking me to send him, “one sentence to describe the mission of the CCFC.” He was preparing to give a presentation and wanted to be able to clearly articulate the purpose of the CCFC to his audience.

Helping to keep your organization focused on your mission, your message and the people you serve is why a mission statement is so important.

The good news is that the CCFC’s mission is only once sentence:

“To provide a unified effort by farmers to enhance the performance of the California cut flower and foliage industry.”

I quickly shared this with him, but also forwarded him a less formal, more conversational version that I often use when I’m asked what the CCFC is about.

“The CCFC is a state agency that serves as the lead advocacy and promotion organization for California’s flower farmers.”

I was inspired to share this story in light of how important a mission statement is during times of challenge and uncertainty. At both the federal and state level, California’s flower farmers continue to face some difficult issues.

California’s flower farmers recently rallied in Sacramento to advocate for their farms.

The availability of labor, transportation, unbalanced trade agreements, a $15 minimum wage, family estate and succession planning and regulatory overreach are all threats to the continuation of California’s hallowed flower-farming heritage and tradition.

At the same time, we’re seeing signs of opportunity and progress. Increasing production of flowers by farms in Southern California. An increasing number of new and beginning flower farmers throughout the country. Increasing promotion and consumer demand for California and American Grown Flowers. A groundswell of support from lawmakers and consumers for America’s flower farmers. More requests for all-American Grown Flowers at major events such as this year’s First Lady’s Luncheon. Origin-based campaigns by major retailers such as Safeway’s “Blue Bucket Campaign” featuring flowers labeled California Grown.

A mission statement is important not only because of what it says, but also what it doesn’t say.

The CCFC doesn’t represent lettuce, cucumbers or tomatoes. You’re not going to see the California Cut Flower Commission discuss or get involved in the promotion or advocacy of crops that do not reflect our mission.

Our mission statement also makes it clear who we serve. The CCFC was created for and is focused on California’s flower farmers. It is a “unified effort by farmers” for flower farmers. As we look at issues, develop strategy and identify opportunities, we have to keep asking the question, “How does the work we do better serve California’s flower farmers?”

June is California Grown Flowers month. Our flower farmers recently rallied in Sacramento to help raise the profile of flower farming in California and encourage lawmakers to support this year’s resolution to declare June as “California Grown Flowers Month.”  This was a great example of farmers working together, staying focused and promoting what value they bring to their communities and the economy. To help us celebrate this special month, the CCFC featured a campaign that really symbolizes how coordinated efforts from the field to the store can produce successful mission-oriented results.

Just check out this fantastic “Blue Bucket Campaign” by Safeway. The entire Northern California division of Safeway has adopted the California Grown program and made it their own, increasing sales and getting the customer recognition they deserve for their efforts to source California Grown Flowers.

This is just one example of the kind of mission-driven initiatives that help our farms grow and succeed; the kind of effort that unites farmers and shows how working together on a common cause can make a difference.

Farmers join together in Pasadena to recognize float teams committed to California Grown Flowers.