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.

Sharing the ‘Origin Matters’ Message With the First Lady

By Diana Roy, CCFC Chair

 

Just before the Congressional Club’s First Lady’s Luncheon in Washington, D.C., on May 4, I had the opportunity to meet first lady Melania Trump at a reception. It was an opportunity I wanted to make the most of. After all, it’s not every day you meet the first lady of the United States; and her husband’s position on “buy American” initiatives meant this could be the chance of a lifetime to share the “origin matters” message on behalf of America’s flower farmers.

Once she had finished taking photos with prior guests, I approached the first lady, reached for her hand and introduced myself: “Hello, I’m Diana Roy, a flower farmer from California.” Still holding her hand, I also shared that all of the flowers at the reception and luncheon were American Grown and had been provided by my farm and several other flower farms from around the country.

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.

I added that this was the second year in a row we’ve partnered with the Congressional Club to provide the flowers and foliage for this important event.

In addition to meeting the first lady, I had a wonderful opportunity to meet second lady Karen Pence.

Hands still clasped, I continued by saying that America’s flower-farming families are proud of the beautiful flowers they grow, and that we have been reaching out to the White House for years, asking each presidential administration to feature all American Grown flowers throughout the White House, at state dinners and for special events.

Thank you to so many of our American flower farmers who sent their very best to this year’s First Lady’s Luncheon.  Photo by Susan and Becky Photography.

I concluded by saying that it was my hope she would help us by embracing our cause and reaching our goal.

At this point, the first lady suggested that I write a letter to her requesting that the flowers in the White House be American Grown. I was thrilled by that recommendation! (The letter has been sent).

Our wonderful team of volunteer floral designers did an incredible job with all of the flowers our farms sent.  Photo by Susan and Becky Photography.

I have to say, Mrs. Trump was pleasant and very approachable, willing to share her hand and her ear and happy to pose for photos with me and others. She seemed excited to be honored by the gathered crowd made up of members of Congress, their spouses, cabinet members and sponsors.

Left to Right; Jerry Hagstrom of the Hagstrom Report, Tim Dewey of Delaware Valley Wholesale, first lady Melania Trump, Kasey Cronquist, administrator for Certified American Grown, Beth Van Sandt of Scenic Place Peonies and Kurt Weichhand of Scenic Place Peonies.

As for me, I was excited to have the chance to share our message – that American flower farmers are ready, willing and able to fill 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with our blossoms and foliage. That consumers and retailers are on board with the movement to source flowers from local farmers who are using sustainable methods to grow the most glorious flowers in the world. That we can supply high-quality flowers in hundreds of varieties. That origin matters, America’s flower-farming families matter, and that bringing all American Grown Flowers to the White House seems like an easily accomplished task.

I am very hopeful that this opportunity – for America’s flower farmers and the White House  – will become a reality.

Certified American Grown was so fortunate to have such an outstanding team of volunteers for this year’s First Lady’s Luncheon effort.

Over 2,100 people attended the First Lady’s Luncheon this year.

Will the Tour Stop At Your Farm?

We're Seeking Applications for the 2018 American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour

Over the past three years, the Certified American Grown campaign has been hosting sold-out dinner events on some of America’s most beautiful flower farms.

Let’s put your farm on the map!

Halfway through the third season, we’re beginning to look at the opportunities for next year’s tour. A number of farms have contacted us to see what it takes to be on the tour, to let us know they would like to be on next year’s tour or to say they have already applied online. I can already tell we’re going to have some amazing choices to make for 2018.

And the sooner the better.

Setting up at Kendall Farms in Fallbrook, California in 2015.

If we’ve learned anything about hosting “pop-up” dinner events on a flower farm, it’s that you can’t start soon enough. There’s a lot that goes into preparing for a dinner in the middle of a flower field. The farm likes to be ready, we like to get the word out and media likes to have a lot of time to write about it.

It’s “all hands on deck” when preparing for a Field to Vase Dinner event. A floral installation underway at Jello Mold Farm in Mount Vernon, Washington in 2015.

So, in the days ahead, I’ll be meeting with the Certified American Grown Council to report on the success of our current tour as well as our plans for 2018. If you would like to have your farm considered for the 2018 tour, please let me know by applying online. We have a very quick and easy questionnaire that simply helps us organize the interest, look at where farms are located and ensure that there’s some understanding of expectations.

Click to fill our your farm application today!

Check out more of our American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour photos on Flickr.

Click to see more American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour photos.

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.

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.