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.

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:

 

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 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.

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.

Safeway’s Incredible Campaign For California Grown Flowers

Celebrating California Grown Flower Month

New video captures Safeway’s “Blue Bucket Campaign” featuring California Grown Flowers.

To help celebrate California Grown Flower Month throughout June, we’re featuring photos, examples and stories from farmers, designers and retailers who are championing California Grown Flowers.

We’ll be looking for standout examples, people who are making the extra effort to highlight California Grown Flowers and programs that help people connect with why origin matters.

One such story and amazing example is Safeway.

NorCal Safeway Sales Manager Crystal Hedgpeth and her team have an amazing campaign underway that really helps consumers connect with the origin of their flowers, communicates clearly their support for California’s flower farmers and, just as importantly, helps increase Safeway’s sales.

We wanted to learn more about the campaign and what inspired Crystal and her team to take such extraordinary efforts to spotlight the California Grown Flowers in their floral departments. So, we interviewed her.

Her testimony speaks for itself and really confirms what a difference it makes for consumers to know that Safeway cares where their flowers come from. It also highlights what a difference marketing the origin of flowers makes when you give customers a choice, and it confirms the consumer research we’ve done that shows the majority of consumers are looking for homegrown blooms.

On behalf of California’s flower farmers, thank you to Crystal and her team at Safeway for promoting California Grown Flowers.

It makes a difference.

California Legislature Declares June California Grown Flowers Month

SCR 58 Passes With Unanimous Support

 

Celebrating California Grown Flowers Month with an official declaration by California’s state Legislature. Pictured with me are Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Sen. Mike McGuire.

Today, I had the privilege of representing California’s flower farmers on the floor of the state Senate while Sen. Mike McGuire shared his remarks of appreciation for an industry that brings so much beauty to the Golden State. Sen. McGuire sponsored SCR 58, declaring June as California Grown Flowers Month.

Senators from up and down the state joined in their support for SCR 58 that declared June as California Grown Flowers Month.

Sen. John Moorlach and Sen. Jackson also voiced their support for the resolution during remarks prior to the unanimous vote in favor of the resolution.

Sen. McGuire giving his remarks from the Senate floor.

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.

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.