Why would a Texan move to California to become a farmer?

This is a guest post by Jennifer Everett, Farm Manager for California Floral Greens in Watsonville, CA. Jennifer also serves as a Commissioner for the California Cut Flower Commission.

You can follow Jennifer on Twitter.

I grew up on the family farm admiring my dad and wanting to be a farmer just like him.

It has been almost 5 1/2 years ago now that I asked myself, “why would a texan move to California to become a farmer?”  At that time, my father, Jim Everett, was offering me a chance to move to the sunny state of California and manage a total of 120 acres of floral greens.  I had been teaching chemistry for the last 7 years and was looking for a change of pace, when the opportunity

Stem by Stem

This is a guest post by Bill Prescott, Marketing Communications Associate for Sun Valley Floral Farms. Bill is responsible for Sun Valley’s social media platform, blogging and multi-media communications.

Subscribe Sun Valley’s “Flower Talk” blog and follow Sun Valley on Twitter.

 

A little over a year ago when I started working at the Sun Valley Floral Farm, I was out walking the farm with Lane and the other growers.  I was likely asking the team all sorts of rookie questions about flower farming,

Sun Valley Floral Farms’ CEO and head flower farmer Lane DeVries proudly display’s his farm’s commitment to promoting their “CA Grown” flowers.

“Where do we get the water? Where do we get the bulbs? How much does a single bulb cost?”

Lane and the growers patiently answered my questions as we walked at Lane’s unusually fast pace.  My eyes were wide open as row upon row of lilies, tulips and irises were discussed and inspected.  I noticed many flowers left in the fields, ones that hadn’t bloomed yet, it seemed to me that these would just be left to bloom out.

I asked Lane, “So are you just going to leave all those other flowers out there?”

He replied,

#FlowerFarmer: A Familial Occupation

This week I’ve invited Ivan Van Wingerden to guest blog on Field Position while I’m on vacation. Ivan represents one of California’s “next gen” flower farmers. We are fortunate to have him continue the family tradition of flower farming in California and writing for me while I’m out of the office…

Please leave Ivan any comments or questions you might have and we’ll make sure he gets back to you.

Enjoy!

Guest Blogger: Ivan Van Wingerden, Ever-Bloom, Inc.

IvanVW

Ivan Van Wingerden standing among the anthurium crop in their Carpinteria, CA greenhouse

“So, do you want to be a farmer or a priest?”

Those were the two vocational choices for my grandfather and every Van Wingerden son for the previous 400 plus years.  Amazingly, given any other opportunity, both my father and I have also chosen the same path that my grandfather did—and are happier for it.  When growing a beautiful product is a family tradition, it builds a support group of multi-generational knowledge and expertise and a green thumb to boot!

My grandfather started with a simple wood frame glass house for his tomatoes and grapes in Holland.  When the family transplanted themselves to California in 1967 he started a five-acre flower business with his brothers and giant family support group.

Twelve years later, with the support of my grandfather, my dad bought

10 Valuable Examples of the #CaGrown Hashtag

One of my goals in 2013 was to become more active with Twitter.

A great example of one of our California flower farmers using the #CaGrown hashtag.  (I added the #AmericanGrown, #CaGrown and #OriginMatters hashtags onto the original image.)

I was somewhat active already on Twitter [read 2009 blog post, “Why I Twitter.”], but I also knew we hadn’t been tapping into Twitter’s true potential as a platform for our farms and their flowers.  In fact, I even joined a group called the “Twitter Team” this year to help hold me accountable to my 2013 goal and to better understand the benefits of this social media platform by learning from others.  I understood what Twitter was, but I wanted to explore how we could more effectively advance our message that California’s flowers represents America’s fresh and local choice when buying flowers and to help lead the charge in the movement for more American Grown flowers.  So, tweeting, retweeting, favoriting and hashtagging has all become second nature and now is a part of my day-to-day responsibilities.

I’ve learned a lot, but I have to say that one of the most important points of learning has been

[Video] Why “CA Grown” Matters

If there were to be a renaissance in the flower industry, it would be to bring back American grown flowers.

A recent nationwide survey of 1,000 consumers found that 74% of people who bought flowers did not know where the flowers they purchased were grown.

Yet, in that same nationwide survey, we learned that 58% of consumers would prefer to buy CA Grown flowers over those imported, if given a choice. So, apparently where flowers come from does matter to a majority of people.

3 Important Points I Shared During IFE in Miami

Last week I had the privilege of speaking to standing room only crowd of my floral industry colleagues at the International Floriculture Expo to give my part of the “State of the Industry” program.  My part of the presentation was to represent the state of the domestic cut flower industry, recognizing that approximately 80% of the flowers sold in the United States are imports.  With California representing almost 80% of what remains in U.S. flower farming, the position and perspective of the Commission’s role on behalf of the state’s flower farmers does provide for a good overview.

My presentation was titled “Heart & Soil,” recognizing the daily effort and commitment U.S. flower farmers make to remain competitive with imports.

With only an hour for two presentations and some Q&A, my part needed to remain

Are You the “Ultimate Flower Fanatic?”

The Farm to Float Experience Project

I am very excited to announce our search for a special person to join me and the flower farmers of California for the most iconic floral parade in the world on New Year’s Day.

Who are we looking for?

Someone with a lot of passion for flowers.

Someone who cares about where their flowers are grown.

Someone who has always wanted to sit street side on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California as float after float of gorgeous blooms go by (Don’t worry, we won’t make you camp on the street).

Our search is headquartered on our

Help Us Name This New CA Grown Rose!

The CCFC is working hard to try and determine a name for this BRAND NEW rose varietal, only available in California!

What should we call it?
A) Star Struck
B) Disco Queen
C) Funfetti

We need to know today!

Leave your vote in the comment section below or go add your vote on our Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/CaliforniaGrownFlowers

Make Her Feel Extra Special, Buy American Grown

All hands on deck at Mellano & Co, as farm workers bring the flowers and greens in from the field to meet Valentine's Day demand.

Each year I am impressed at how much media attention the cut flower and floral industry receives for Valentine’s Day.  Or maybe it’s that I’m actually more impressed at how little attention it gets, aside from our two big flower holidays; Valentine’s and Mother’s Day.

For our farms in California, it’s a rush to get the product from the field to consumers for an important holiday marked by love and romantic expectations.  For the Commission, it’s a rush to get answers, stats and interviews lined up for reporters on deadline to capture the short attention span of their readers and viewers.  However, this year I recognized a distinct theme of interest in the information being requested from the Commission.

That theme?  Origin Matters.

TIP: Red roses are classic. But pink, peach and lavender offer a unique spin. Check out these “NOT SO Usual Suspects” and ask for California Grown Flowers!

Reporters were, and are, increasingly interested in understanding where flowers come from and ask questions as to why not all flowers purchased this Valentine’s Day would be grown in the United States.  Obviously some reporters, those who call each year, are well aware that the majority of the flowers sold in the United States are from South America.  However, even they are almost always surprised to learn that less then 3% of all the roses sold in the U.S. this Valentine’s Day will be American Grown.

True story.

This graph is from a previous post I had written for Valentine's Day that you can find here: http://ccfc.org/blogs/blog/2011/03/07/where-do-your-roses-come-from-probably-further-than-you-think/

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, there are 27 rose farms remaining in California and roses continue to be a very important crop for our state.  However, relative to the production that arrived from offshore this week and last, it will be increasingly difficult for the average consumer to find, let alone identify, a bouquet of California or American Grown roses.  In fact, since federal trade policy was established in 1991 to allow for the duty free access of roses into the United States from Ecuador and Colombia, American flower farmers have seen almost all of the demand for roses move offshore (see graph above).

Ah, but with such challenge, there is the opportunity!

If a person is seeking romance this Valentine’s Day, if a person is wanting to be environmentally sensitive this Valentine’s Day, if a person is looking to mind all of the details involved with making this Valentine’s Day extraordinary for that special someone…then finding and giving a bouquet of California Grown or American Grown roses would go a long way in telling that special someone just how special they are!

Origin Matters!  Make this Valentine’s Day extra special and ASK for California Grown flowers.  It makes a difference!

  • Do you know where your flowers came from this Valentine’s Day?
  • What are you looking for when you’re buying flowers for that special someone?
  • Does origin matter to you?

From California’s Flower Farmers: Thank You Ram Truck

Detroit gets it.

Farmers are the hot new thing.

After a full two-minute ad by Ram Trucks during the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl (great game, darn Niners), I couldn’t help but feel an extreme sense of satisfaction that a company like Ram Trucks saw to it that their two minutes would be a tribute dedicated to the hard working American farmer.

Click on the image to view the commercial.

Of course, my satisfaction isn’t because I’m a farmer (I’m not), but rather that a company with their massive marketing budget, a company with their opportunity to advertise during the Super Bowl, a company that could have said anything they wanted to with their two minutes, chose to align their brand with the American farmer.

Apparently somebody at the top of their organization thought this approach would sell more trucks.

I think it would also sell more flowers.

And I think we’ve been saying that…

Now for our industry, Teleflora’s annual Super Bowl ad was suspiciously absent from this year’s Super Bowl commercial lineup.  However, consider for a moment if Teleflora were to take this approach in their marketing efforts?  Rather than “Save the Florists,” how about “Save the Farmer?”  The American Flower Farmer.

Not likely.

In fact, any effort like this by Teleflora would look more like Whole Foods’ effort with their Whole Trade Flowers. We can see how that is working for Whole Foods by reading their customers’ comments found on their own blog post promoting their Whole Trade Roses for Valentine’s Day:  http://wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/share-your-love-whole-trade-flowers

My point here is; why doesn’t our floral industry see the opportunity of association with the American farmer that Ram Trucks identified?

Origin Matters.  American Grown.  Buy Local.  Made in the U.S.A.  California Grown.

These statements can (and should) all be true and marketable statements when it comes to the flowers Americans really want.

If the California Cut Flower Commission had the ability to spend $4m on a thirty-second, sixty-second or two-minute Super Bowl commercial, I’m confident that we’d focus the entire time – and the entire budget – on driving home the connection between our farms, our farmers and our flowers.  It would have been a commercial featuring that same authentic, “American Grown,” value driven message that you saw by Ram Trucks and Jeep during this year’s Super Bowl.

However, I would submit to you that we don’t need a Super Bowl budget to make this message work for our industry, we just need retail champions to start working the message.

It’s true, when it comes to the field of competition, South America has the America flower farmers pinned back at the 20 yard line.  We currently represent less than 20% of all flowers sold in the United States, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Due to federal trade policy, America's flower farmers have lost their home-field advantage to the South American flower industry.

People do care where their flowers come from, they do support local and they will buy American Grown flowers if given the choice.

So, this week, I have to admit, I’ve gone to work each day feeling a bit more empowered and encouraged about the position of our nation’s flower farmers.

And for some reason…I want to buy a new Ram Truck.

The Ram brand has declared 2013 “The Year of the Farmer.”  I couldn’t agree more.

You can meet our flower farmers here: http://www.ccfc.org/flower-lovers/meet-a-farmer

How do you see the momentum for American Grown, Made in the U.S.A., products impacting the floral industry?  Do you see an opportunity for a resurgence in American flower farms driven by this consumer demand for local?

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