3 Advocates of the American Grown Flowers Movement You Should Know

One of the primary objectives of the California Cut Flower Commission has been and continues to be to promote the virtues and values of California Grown flowers.  However, in a country where, over the course of the past 30 years, approximately 80% of the flowers being sold in the U.S. are now being imported from places like Colombia and Ecuador, the task of educating a consuming public as to the benefits of buying locally grown blooms seemed nearly impossible just 3 years ago.

Where your flowers come from matters. Do you know a champion for locally grown flowers? Let me know.

However, as they say, the one thing you can always count on is change.

With the growing popularity of farmers markets through out the country, U.S. consumer food safety concerns rising, the Slow Food movement and increasing demand for Made in America products, it now appears that the consumer’s desire for their flowers to be as local as their food may have been just a matter of time.

And like any popular movement of significant consumer interest, certain individuals or change agents are recognized as early adopters and champions for such change.  What individuals or personalities come to mind when you think of the “Farm to Table,” “Sustainable Agriculture” or “American Grown” movements?

So, its with great appreciation that we see are seeing these same change agents rising to the challenge to champion the cause for locally grown, American Grown, flowers.  At such an early stage of this growing movement for American Grown Flowers, there isn’t any kind of formal organization or association where we can find a list of these individuals.  So, I thought I would share the three people who come to my mind when I think of the current champions for change in the floral industry.

This list is in no way exhaustive.  I know there are more passionate American Grown flower advocates out there.  Just yesterday, I received an email from a person who wanted me to get to know two other champions for locally grown flowers.  Of course, I’m looking forward to getting to know them too, but here are the three people I think everyone should know today:

J Schwanke – uBloom.com

From the Flower Fields in Carlsbad to the tulip fields of Arcata, J’s passion for American Grown flowers has helped connect thousands of people with the passion that goes into flower farming in the United States.

J Schwanke’s history and experience in the industry makes him a natural front runner in the early adoption of the locally grown movement for flowers.  Born at a floral convention in Nebraska and a recent recipient of the Tommy Bright Lifetime Achievement Award, J has a rich personal and professional history in the floral industry.  So, in 2010 when J set out to do an online video series with the California Cut Flower Commission to document the cut flower farming community of California, the work project became more of a personal passion.  Hearing first hand the stories and circumstances California’s flower farmers faced amidst the flood of cheap imports from South America over a twenty year period, J has gone from a professional promoter to a personal advocate for all domestic cut flower farmers.  And its not just about California’s farmers, J just completed a video series featuring Florida’s fern growers which debuted this summer.

Debra Prinzing – Author, “The 50 Mile Bouquet” & “Slow Flowers”

Debra Prinzing speaking amongst the field of gerbera daisies during a recent “Field to Vase” dinner in California.

Ironically, I first met Debra Prinzing while at a trade show in Florida.  It was by phone and she had called to interview me for an LA Times article she was writing on Valentine’s Day.  I do a lot of these types of interviews, so there was no way that I could have known that this particular person I was speaking to would go on to publish two books that strike at the heart of encouraging people to think more locally when it comes to flowers.  Her passion for this cause appears to be unending.  She has not only authored books and articles on the subject, but she has since launched a website, www.slowflowers.com, dedicated to help floral customers connect with local florists that guarantee consumers access to American Grown flowers.  That is an unheard of concept in today’s cut flower market, but with consumer research showing the increasing demand for locally grown flowers, this is tool for customers to get more of what they really want.

Christina Stembel – Farmgirl Flowers

As founder of Farmgirl Flowers, Christina Stembel is building a reputation for making different choices when it comes to the flowers she buys and sells. She make sure they are local ones.  Photo Credit – SF Chronicle

I remember a 2009 Valentine’s Day interview with the SF Chronicle where I was quoted in an article that also included a quote from the owner of a San Francisco floral shop called Farmgirl Flowers.  Its not uncommon for a reporter to seek a quote from a retailer in their media market and also want a statewide perspective on the industry as a whole.  What was uncommon about this particular florist was her commitment to locally grown and how she delivered their flowers to her customers…by bike.  “Only in San Francisco,” I thought and I moved on.  Since then, Farmgirl Flowers has become a widely known and highly successful florist in the Bay area, who has caught the attention and respect of thousands of customers for her principle commitment to California Grown flowers.  Farmgirl Flowers founder, Christina Stembel and I have since shared more than just that one interview in our collaborative efforts to spread the word about the value and virtues of buying from our local flower farms.  Her commitment to locally grown, American Grown and California Grown flowers makes her a renegade in the floral industry.  And she’s just the person flower buyers are looking for right now.

So, again, these are the three champions that come to my mind when I think of who is leading the conversation for change when it comes to where we source our flower from.  And yet I know there are more people like J, Debra and Christina out there who share the same conviction and passion for encouraging people to seek and source flowers grown in our own country.

Who else should be on this list?  Is there someone you know that has a passion for sourcing American Grown flowers?  Leave me their name in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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17 thoughts on “3 Advocates of the American Grown Flowers Movement You Should Know

  1. Hi Kasey, I would like to nominate LeRoy Franzoia, President and founder of California Flower Shippers Inc. in Mountain View, California. He oversees nurseries that produce beautiful California grown Gardenias and Stephanotis. His company ships flowers all over the states and he is very passionate about selling the best flowers and foliage that the State of California has to offer. His telephone number is 650-965-5155

    • Thank you Irasema! LeRoy is certainly one of our well known industry advocates for California’s flowers and farms. California is fortunate to have many hard working individuals who continue to believe in the viability and vitality of flower farming in California.

      What makes the three people I’ve identified as unique and significant is that they are buyers or consumers of our flowers. They don’t own any dirt or have any stake in the actual production of flowers, yet as designers and flower lovers, they all share a principle interest in seeking, sourcing and supporting America’s flowers.

      As we continue to see the locally grown, “Farm to Table, trend grow, I suspect there will be many more like J, Debra and Christina.

      Do you know any designers, flower lovers or consumers that share this same #AmericanGrown passion when it comes to the flowers they buy?

    • Thank you Irasema! LeRoy is certainly one of our well known industry advocates for California’s flowers and farms. California is fortunate to have many hard working individuals who continue to believe in the viability and vitality of flower farming in California.

      What makes the three people I’ve identified as unique and significant is that they are buyers or consumers of our flowers. They don’t own any dirt or have any stake in the actual production of flowers, yet as designers and flower lovers, they all share a principle interest in seeking, sourcing and supporting America’s flowers.

      As we continue to see the locally grown, “Farm to Table, trend grow, I suspect there will be many more like J, Debra and Christina.

      Do you know any designers, flower lovers or consumers that share this same #AmericanGrown passion when it comes to the flowers they buy?

      • Thank you for getting back to me. I can think of three people right now, Gerry Gregg, AIFD, who is the Creative Director of United Wholesale Flowers in San Jose. His use of natural products such as Manzanita branches, ghost wood and pine cones manipulated with California grown flowers is magnificent.

        Greg Lum, AIFD, a great designer who inspires admiration and awe for his creativity designing floral pieces in competition and by helping other industry leaders such as Gitomi Gilliam, Thomas De Bruyne and Araik Galstyan. He has been the winner of the Kitayama Brothers Design Contest two years in a row.

        The third person is Rachelle Nysmonger, AIFD, who owns Flowers by Rachelle in Chico. She is also the President of the Teleflora Unit for Northern California and along with Gerry and Greg is also a member of the Northwest Chapter of the American Institute of Floral Designers.

        Once again, thank you and please keep your Field Notes reports coming. I very much enjoy reading them.
        Irasema

  2. Hi Kasey,

    Great article! I would like to add Angela Treadwell-Palmer owner of Plants Nouveau http://www.plantsnouveau.com/about/. Her company specializes in breeding new varieties of plants and flowers which I am growing a few myself and loving them! I am sure you probably know of or know her. But, for the readers sometimes the breeders I think are overlooked for what they do for the industry.

    In bloom,

    Debbie

    • Hey Debbie!

      You know, I knew I’d leave someone off my short list. You are certainly someone that I know is working hard to bring locally grown/American Grown flowers to the New York City market.

      Thank you for sharing Plants Nouveau’s website, I had not heard of them, so I’ll check them out.

      Keep us posted on the demand for American Grown in the NYC!

      • Thanks Kasey! I forgot to mention the name of my company in case people were looking for a NYC florist in this arena specializing in gifts and events.. http://www.nycfarmchicflowers.com Also, a shout out to Molly Oliver and Deborah (above) here in Brooklyn. They are doing great work and have been an informative resource for me.!

  3. I’m doing my best to represent Wisconsin with my efforts at Farm To Vase! (www.FarmToVase.com) Everything I use is grown within 30 miles of Madison, WI, and I couldn’t do it without the many incredible craft growers in my area. Most notably Fair Field Flowers (www.Fairfieldflowers.biz), a cooperative of 10 flower growers who combine efforts to bring flowers in for florists in Madison and Milwaukee. (Emily Watson of Stems Cut Flowers in Milwaukee is another great advocate for slow flowers!) More about my philosophy for designing in a cold weather climate in this article I wrote for Cut Flower Quarterly: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B60cQ1FsKhWVYzdGa2RhSFV4bms/edit Editor of CFQ and Executive director of ASCFG Judy Laushman should be on the list as well!

    Thanks for asking!
    Ann Sensenbrenner

    • Thank you for your suggestions Ann! I have visited your website and I really like how you feature the farms you work with to source the #AmericanGrown flowers you use.

      I have heard of the Fairfield farms and its great to see the cooperation to supply their local market while in season.

      I have also enjoyed getting to know Judy and the members of the ASCFG since my time with them back in Tacoma. There is a lot of synergy for the American Grown Movement for flowers and a lot that can be accomplished working together to help people find the locally grown flowers they’d prefer.

      What kind of momentum are you finding in WI Ann?

      • There’s real momentum here in WI. My orders are growing by about 20% a month, some of the more traditional grocery store floral depts are now advertising locally grown flowers, new growers are popping up in the surrounding communities, reaching out to me offering to grow whatever I request. Brides are emailing that they want whatever is local and seasonal the week of their wedding, and they want to display the list of farms at the reception. It’s AWESOME.

        I think the greatest initial strides will be made in cities, like my town of Madison, where the Farm To Table food movement is already well established. Progressive urban communities, surrounded by rich agricultural land.

  4. Thanks for this great article! My urban farming partner Deborah Greig and I run Molly Oliver Flowers, a small Brooklyn,NY-based floral design company sourcing primarily Brooklyn (and Queens)-grown flowers, on top of flowers sourced from the handful of regional growers we have left in the region who sell at farmers markets. Deborah and I are both farmers by trade, and came to love flowers and floral design through our experience growing in California. We both manage urban farms and teach youth and adults about food justice, sustainable agriculture and flowers. We’re really excited to support our regional growers and introduce more local flowers into the wedding scene here! http://mollyoliverculver.com/

    • Hi Kate! Thanks for your comment. The California Cut Flower Commission and the ASCFG have a great working relationship.
      In fact, we supported their recent efforts at the OFA Shortcourse last week in Ohio.
      There is a lot of good energy and momentum for the flower farmers of America to work together to let people know they have a choice when buying flowers and that #OriginMatters.
      BTW, great website!

  5. The growing list of advocates for sourcing American Grown flowers is inspiring! Bloom2Bloom, a newer company to the floral marketplace, is committed to sourcing American Grown flowers and gives back to non-profits with every bouquet purchased. They should be included in this conversation as well.