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.

 

 

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.

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.