Meet Your Commissioner: Michael A. Mellano PhD, District 4

Michael A. Mellano, PhD | District 4 | Mellano & Co.

Flower farming is a highly intensive, competitive and busy business, what compels you to volunteer your time as a Commissioner for the California Cut Flower Commission?

There are several reasons why I volunteer.  First I believe that we as an industry can and must work together in order to remain competitive going into the future.  There is a lot that we can do to advance our cause by working together that would be impossible or at a minimum very slow to do if we only worked as individuals.  The structure and make up of the CCFC optimizes that effort and ensures that there is fairness for all growers of all sizes in the state relative to focus, priorities and funding of our efforts.

Secondly…I feel that we have a responsibility to each other as individual operators to share our personal vision, concerns and potential solutions to problems that we are faced with as an industry.  We each need to be part of the solution and not part of the problem and the only way to do that is to volunteer and participate.  We may not always agree but the only way we will achieve a collective vision is if we take the time to share.

Lastly…..I believe in doing rather than waiting.  The easy path is to wait for things to happen but I just can’t do that.  I believe in trying to make things happen, to push people out of their comfort zone and cause them to think beyond the immediate!

The Commission has four main focus areas as it represents its farms, Governmental Affairs, Promotions, Grower Research and Economic Development, and Transportation, what progress are you seeing in these areas on behalf of California’s flower farms?

CCFC District 4 Commissioner Michael A. Mellano, PhD. with Assemblywoman Toni Atkins.

Obviously there are always differing opinions about where to focus our energies as an organization but there is no doubt that we have a balanced approach. Each of our four areas are contributing to our future success.  The DC trips are eye-opening and anybody out there – grower or not – that has never gone owes it to themselves to get back there and see first hand how our government operates….and make a difference.  It is a stimulating experience to say the least.

The GRED committee has really come up with some very novel efforts to improve our growers position.  The FRAME initiative, currently focused on Gerberas & Lilies, is for the first time giving growers of those commodities real time information that they can use to benchmark their effectiveness.  We are looking forward to expanding this to other crops as time and funding allows.

In addition we have taken on the major effort of the Sustainability initiative focused on differentiating our position in the global discussion and ultimately allowing us to proceed upon a focused improvement on behalf of the entire industry.

The Commission recently completed a strategic planning process. One of the conclusions was that the Commission needs to commit to an annual trip to Washington DC.  Why do you feel its important for the Commission to organize an annual trip for its farmers to fly out to Washington DC?

See above…..

The “CA Grown” program has been a successful effort for branding California’s flowers with customers and consumers.  The CCFC is taking that success a step further now with its new messaging. What opportunities do you see ahead for marketing “California Flowers as America’s Flowers?”

I think that there is no doubt that the CA Grown label has resonated with consumers in CA and has seen significant success and I think that there is more to be had if we can get higher buy in and cooperation from our retail partners.  Overall though, the label needs to be supported by consistency and quality to maintain the following and make it grow.  There are a lot of people in CA and if we just get them to change buying patterns and opt for CA flowers…combined with an increase in consumption then we probably don’t have enough flowers to go around!  Overall though, we need to extend that appreciation to a wider audience throughout the US so they need to know that we ARE America’s flowers!

Meet CCFC Commissioner: Tom Lemus, District 3

A series of short interviews with the Commission’s elected members of the board.

District 3 Commissioner Tom Lemus

 

Name:  Tom Lemus, District 3 Commissioner

Farm & Location:  Farmers’ West, Carpinteria

Position:  Project Manager

Flower farming is a highly intensive, competitive and busy business, what compels you to volunteer your time as a Commissioner for the California Cut Flower Commission?

This is the era for volunteerism, and most importantly, the future viability of the California cut flower & greens farmer is at stake now more than ever before.  While it’s true that farming is highly competitive and a very time consuming & demanding industry, one must take time out to focus on the big picture too.  California farmers need representation all on fronts and I am happy to serve the Commission and more specifically, District 3.

The Commission has four main focus areas as it represents its farms, Governmental Affairs, Promotions, Grower Research and Economic Development, and Transportation, what progress are you seeing in these areas on behalf of California’s flower farms?

While each of these areas of focus have their challenges, the Commission has made great strides in maintaining current programs and in setting new goals directed at making major progress for these four important topics.  There is no doubt that promoting California product, reducing overall operating costs and gaining Governmental support on a local, state and federal level are three keys to the success of the California cut flower & greens industry.  In my short time on the Commission, I have seen measurable progress in certain areas and I have also seen a few challenges and roadblocks in other areas.  Nevertheless, this current Commission is determined to overcome the challenges and dedicated to make strategic progress going forward.

The Commission recently completed a strategic planning process.  One of the conclusions was the need to establish a California Cut Flower Farmer Cooperative.  What value do see a cooperative bringing to California’s flower farmers?

CCFC Commissioner Tom Lemus during CCFC’s USC Transportation Study Press Conference.

While California product represents 80% of domestically produced/consumed floral product, conversely, domestically produced floral product only represents 20% of what American consumers purchase nationally.  The other 80% of consumption is now imported into the States.  In short, California producers (or domestic) are easily in the minority.  In order to regain market share and outright survive, the California cut flower growers must join together.  The possible formation of a California cut flower cooperative is the means to accomplish this.  The benefit of cooperating together will assist in accomplishing the goals above; reduce costs, increase market share and create a united voice and team effort for strong representation.

The Commission recently completed a strategic planning process, one of the conclusions was that the Commission needs to commit to an annual trip to Washington DC.  Why do you feel its important for the Commission to organize an annual trip for its farmers to fly out to Washington DC? 

California Cut Flower Commissioner Tom Lemus (front right) with fellow flower farmers in Washington DC this past spring.

I was able to participate in the most recent fly-in to DC.  The trip we took in April was the 3rd Annual.  Even being a first year participant, it was easy to see that without the prior trips to DC, our presence, our voice and our agenda would fall by the wayside.  An organized, consistent and continued presence on the national level must be maintained.  Not only are we now ‘heard’, we also have a secure place at the ‘table’ of many of our lawmakers.  This has only been possible because of the groundwork that has been laid by previous trips to DC.  Our lawmakers in DC are most impressed when the California farmers themselves make the effort to travel to DC.  This carries much more weight than when lobbyists go knocking on their doors weekly.

The “CA Grown” program has been a successful effort for branding California’s flowers with customers and consumers.  The CCFC is taking that success a step further now with its new messaging. What opportunities do you see ahead for marketing “California Flowers as America’s Flowers?” 

The "CA Grown" label helps consumers identify "America's Flowers."

With California being the major domestic producer, making the statement that “California Flowers are America’s Flowers” is a logical step in the promotional process.  Further, the CA Grown program has been extremely smart and successful and it’s bringing timely recognition and notice to the California’s floral industry.  We’ve seen some of our competitors brand their country; why shouldn’t we brand our nation.  It makes great business sense.