Is BloomNation Really American Made?

I know I am about to walk a fine line here, but I encourage you to walk it with me.

Recently, it was brought to my attention that BloomNation was nominated to Martha Stewart’s American Made contest. BloomNation is a new, online network of “artisan florists” that supply “handcrafted bouquets” to local and regional markets. Martha Stewart’s American Made contest is an annual competition created by Stewart to “honor and support a growing population of those makers who create beautiful and useful products, pioneer new industries, and improve their local communities.”Bloom1

I do want to acknowledge Stewart for using her immense platform to feature American Made products. She doesn’t have to

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?

2013: “The Year of Local,” So Says NRA

If its true that floral follows the produce industry when it comes to consumer trends and demand, its welcome news to hear that the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) survey of more than 1,800 American Culinary Federation chefs in October and November for the seventh annual survey found that “local” produce to be the hot trend in 2013.

CA Grown Flowers should be the hot trend in 2013.

Hudson Riehle of the NRA said, “chefs are moving toward local sourcing because it has become top of mind for consumers.  Many consumers have higher trust for “community” businesses and restaurants are more respected and trusted if they use local sources for fresh produce and other commodities.”

Now read Riehle’s statement again, but insert “flowers.”

Riehle also had advice for growers.  I’ll paraphrase it for applicability for our industry (you can find the original quotes here: http://www.thepacker.com/fruit-vegetable-news/foodservice/Chef-survey-says-Local-produce-hot-in-2013-182364851.html):

“For flower farmers who want to maintain and increase their florists sales, they must partner with floral wholesalers to get messages to consumers.

Flower farmers need to work with florists directly to get the story behind the flowers to the consumer,” said Riehle, citing smart marketing, smart phone apps and quick response codes as three methods.

Real-time information about their flowers is of great interest to more and more consumers. Using the supply chain to help differentiate their operations from others is one way florists can tell their stories.”

I see this report from the NRA as just another example of the opportunity before California’s flower farmers.

I know that many of our farms are experiencing the benefits from this trend, but some are not.  Some continue to do business as usual and therefore are missing the opportunity for (their) California flowers to rise as the local choice when it comes to meeting this consumer demand for local.

The Commission will continue to promote California’s flowers as the local choice, but in 2013 we are counting on the farms to “sell” their flowers accordingly through to their supply chain partners.

So how can you make a difference in 2013?  Here are some simple suggestions to inspire you and your team:

  1. Label everything “CA Grown”
    1. Mass Market, Wholesale, Farmers Market, Florist Direct, Consumer Direct; label all of it before it leaves your door.
  2. Focus on being local, not a commodity
    • More sustainable, fresher, higher quality, quicker to market, etc.
  3. Communicate Directly, Sell More Indirectly
    • Start a blog
    • Have you and your sales team and employees engage on coordinated Social Media effort to spread the news on: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest
    • Join my Twitter team
  4. Get more involved with CCFC in 2013
    • Cooperate as a team, Coordinate the message, Drive Demand!
    • Join a committee (committee’s appointed this month)

Where do you see demand for locally grown flowers?

How do we help people better identify with where America’s flowers can be found?

3 Reasons Why Florists Should Beat Wal-Mart to Market

World's largest retailer plans investment in US-made goods over the next 10 years.

As a former Chamber of Commerce exec, I think I’ve pretty much heard all there is to say about Wal-Mart, the good, the bad and the ugly.  I’ve served in communities where there has been a Wal-Mart and where there has not, yet everyone seems to have an opinion on the global retailer.

Regardless of your feelings about Wal-Mart, last week’s announcement that the retail giant had pledged to increase its “Made in the USA” purchases by $50 billion over the next 10 years, certainly caught quite a few folks I know by surprise.

This announcement is certainly a noble goal that comes with serious consequences and challenges for any retailer in today’s “global marketplace,” let alone the largest.  I was recently looking to purchase an “Made in the USA” fleece vest and was told repeatedly, that I wouldn’t find one.   I still haven’t.  Maybe this noble decision will help bring fleece vest production back to the United States?

But was this a noble decision to bring those purchasing dollars back home, therefore increasing US manufacturing, or simply a PR play?

Why would an organization like Wal-Mart, the low price provider, feel compelled to commit to buying more local?

Because origin matters and American consumers are responding.  Here at the CCFC, we’ve seen evidence of this already, with the increase of bouquet’s labeled “CA Grown.”

So, if Wal-Mart is going local, how does this affect our flower industry?  Make no mistake, Wal-Mart is simply responding to capitalize on a growing trend among consumers.  I’m sure they’ve done their own market testing and their current scan data already supports their decision to make such a public announcement.  So, what about the flowers?

Time will tell if Wal-Mart’s “buy local” commitment translates to the flowers they purchase (the majority of which currently come from South America).  However, this news should inspire smaller floral companies, such as florists, event planners, floral designers and floral wholesalers, that have more flexibility in purchasing to beat the giant to market and promote their commitment to American Grown Flowers right away.

In a time when the floral market has remained flat, innovation has been stagnate and new marketing approaches are hard to come by, I would submit the following three reasons for you to beat Wal-Mart’s commitment to “Made in the U.S.A” in 2013:

  • Authenticity – People love farmers’ markets.  Why?  Because they are enjoying an authentic experience of buying directly from the farmer.  With the advent of social media, there is no reason why a florist, designer or retailer shouldn’t be recognized as an authentic source for bringing the “Farm to Table” relationship to their customers.  In fact, I’d argue that this kind of authenticity would provide you the kind of differentiation that would help drive sales.
  • Differentiation – If 80% of the flowers sold in the United States are imported, that means there is a huge amount of potential for florists, designers and retailers to be marketing against the status quo by selling something different, American Grown Flowers.  A local florist, selling locally grown flowers.  People would love to hear that and apparently they are willing to pay more for it.
  • “American Grown” is Effective Marketing – A study by the Boston Consulting Group recently found that “over 80% of Americans are willing to pay more for Made-in-USA products, 93% of whom say it’s because they want to keep jobs in the USA”

If you are a florist, floral designer or retailer and this is something that you’ve already committed to and are marketing your American Grown commitment, the California Cut Flower Commission would like to talk to you.  Please email me directly at kcronquist@ccfc.org.  If you are a flower lover or just a concerned citizen and this is something you’d like to learn more about and how one might go about sourcing American Grown Flowers, I’d be happy to provide some guidance.  Simply leave your question in the comments section below.

I would like to hear from you on this subject.  Please leave a comment below.

What challenges or consequences would you face by sourcing more American Grown flowers in 2013?

Are you seeing increasing demand for locally grown, Made in the USA, products in your community?

 

Want further sources of inspiration to make the commitment to American Grown?

“California Grown” Spray Roses Takes Best in Show!

Eufloria Flowers' "Fireworks" takes "Best in Show" award.

Locally grown California Flower Fans can take pride in this week’s first place finish by Eufloria Flowers of Nipomo, CA taking home the Society of American Florists (SAF) Outstanding Varieties Competition “Best in Show” award for its beautiful spray rose variety, “Fireworks.”

In addition to the “Best in Show,” win by Eufloria,  California Grown Flowers won three additional “Best in Class” awards, taking 4 out of the possible 9 awards for cut flowers.

Congratulations to Eufloria Flowers, Green Valley Floral and Mellano & Co. on their respective wins!  Thank you for making us proud!

Best in Class - Cut Bulb - Oriental Lily - "Rialto" - Green Valley Floral

 

Best in Class - Gerbera - "Pink Power" - Green Valley Floral

 

Best in Class - Decorative Foliage - Pittosporum - "Silver Queen Pitt" - Mellano & Co

 

The Development of a Brand for California Grown Flowers

The "CA Grown" label helps farmers and consumers.

Over the course of my 5 years at the California Cut Flower Commission I have had the privilege of working on behalf of a great group of hard working family farms.  I took the job at the Commission right at the time the economy was heading into this recession we still find ourselves in today.  Therefore, I believe that in many ways, its safe for me to say that these last five years have probably been the most difficult years for California’s flower farmers since the Commission’s inception in 1991.  In fact, you can see it in their numbers.

Despite some of the suggestion I heard from industry veterans, the cut flower industry is not recession proof.  Flowers are certainly affordable, even for the most modest of budgets, but when the economy tanked, so did things like corporate event budgets and wedding budgets, two important segments of business for flower farmers.

It would have certainly been easy to become fixated on this uncontrollable issue.  Button down the hatches, slash promotion budgets and hunker down.  Instead, after an initial S.W.O.T. (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of Commission’s assets, one very significant opportunity stood out among others; an old blue personalized California license plate that read, “CA Grown.”

An example of a "CA Grown" bouquet being displayed in the store.

With limited resources for marketing and advertising and even less resources looking to be available on the horizon, the Commission began working with its farms to encourage the adoption of this little blue license plate and leverage its established consumer and industry brand presence for California Grown Flowers.  Of course the Commission could have continued to promote California Grown Flowers without a recognizable brand image, we’d been focused on industry specific promotions for some time, but none of those promotions would be as meaningful if you didn’t have something that consumers could identify and therefore help motivate retailers.  And where developing a brand for a commodity like flowers would likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop and implement, the Buy California Marketing Agreement had already done the work and made this little license plate logo a big opportunity for those of its members who might choose to use it.

Over the next 5 years, the “CA Grown,” license plate became the focus of the Commission’s promotion efforts, often overshadowing or outright replacing any kind of Commission branding all together.  While there were some farms who had been licensed for some time, the CCFC also began purposefully encouraging its farms to become licensees of the “CA Grown” logo themselves and to use it on any consumer facing products.  During this same 5 year period, the cut flower industry became the largest group of licensees of “CA Grown” in the Buy California Marketing Agreement.

Flower farming is a family business. Ed VanWingerden (right) and his son Ivan work together at their farm, Everbloom, in Carpinteria, CA.

Today, you can find the “CA Grown” logo on the sleeves of California Grown Flower bouquets as far away as Washington DC.  Retailers who had previously showed reluctance to labeling sleeves of flowers, found that it improved sales.  Those same retailers have now begun encouraging its use with the farms they buy from.  One of our farms shared with me that a mass market customers of theirs told them that, “if you really want to start moving units [aka flowers] through our store, you’d better get that label [read: CA Grown] on your sleeves.”  The next day, the farm called us to become a licensee.

There are a lot of reasons why I believe the “CA Grown” logo has been an effective brand for our farms and their flowers.  However, let me share with you just four reasons why the CA Grown logo continues to be an important tool for increasing the sales of California Grown Flowers:

  • Local Matters – Buy local, Locally Grown, Made in the USA, all represent the increasing interest by consumers that look to support products grown or made in the U.S.A.  The CA Grown logo has served to educate and identify with this growing group of patriotic consumers who seek to support locally the local economy by shopping and buying things that keep more of the dollars here in the United States.
  • Its Simple –  Its simple to use and easy to identify.  Our farms have always marked their sleeves, so including CA Grown was an easy way for our farms to work together to brand their flowers, “CA Grown.”  This mark has then made a simple way for consumers to quickly identify the “local” product and make their selection.
  • Its Recognized – The CA Grown label and brand has been a consumer facing brand for over 10 years.  During the Schwarzenegger years, it enjoyed celebrity endorsement.  While California’s cut flower farms maybe be the largest group of licensees, many other commodities use it on their products, such as grapes, strawberries, tomatoes and blueberries.
  • Its Needed – Flowers are not required to provide “country of origin” labeling.  Therefore, consumers are not provided with an easy way to know where their flowers are coming from.  The CA Grown label serves as a voluntary program for our farms to label their flowers by origin, thereby giving consumers the information they need to make an educated purchase.

I could go on, but I think these four reasons will continue to drive the future success of the “CA Grown” brand for floral and continue to help our farms sell more flowers while educating people on why California Grown Flowers are America’s Flowers.

Where are you seeing the “CA Grown” logo being used effectively for floral? 

Honor & Responsibility

20120616-091313.jpg

Yesterday we hosted the VIP Preview Tour and Media Day at California Floral Greens in Monterey. This event Was a preview of what the community can expect to see during today’s main event, the 3rd Annual Monterey Bay Greenhouse Growers Open House.

The event included a panel discussion of local leaders and stakeholders to talk about the value of agriculture, greenhouse farming in the Monterey region and the purpose of the event. The panel included Congressman Sam Farr, Monterey Visitor and Convention Bureau CEO Tammy Blount, PG&E’s Rob Morse and Succulent Gardens head farmer Robin Stockwell. A fantastic group to hear discuss the virtues of local greenhouses.

I was personally struck by Robin Stockwell’s comments yesterday. Robin is not a cut flower farmer, but has been involved with the Monterey Bay Greenhouse Open House event since its inception. He took his opportunity and time as a panelist to explain exactly why he is involved with this event and his support for its future success.

Robin explained that he understands that he takes seriously the responsibility he’s been given as a farmer of his 3 acres. As a surfer, he recognizes the importance of local water quality. As a participant in today’s Open House, he wants to provide an opportunity for his neighbors and the community to see this responsibility in action at his farm.

Of course, you’ll find what he grows to be beautiful and of amazing quality, but more importantly today’s event is an opportunity to get to know these farmers, their farms and learn about their efforts to be stewards of the land. A responsibly that Robin considers to be an honor.

Today’s event starts a 10am and goes to 4pm. You can download a map for today’s event at www.montereybayfarmtours.org.

Related news articles:

http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_20869458/opening-doors-beauty-monterey-bay-growers-provide-rare?refresh=no

http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_20869458/opening-doors-beauty-monterey-bay-growers-provide-rare

http://www.register-pajaronian.com/v2_news_articles.php?heading=0&story_id=12637&page=72

1200 Tour Carpinteria’s Greenhouses Farms

Approximately 1200 attendees enjoyed the beautiful bounty they found at the 4th Annual Carpinteria Greenhouse & Nursery Tour.

This week we announced that an estimated 1200 guests toured through Carpinteria’s cut flower farms during the 4th Annual Carpinteria Greenhouse & Nursery Tour.

The annual tour welcomes the community to come see what’s growing inside these local greenhouses and learn about the sustainable growing practices employed by our flower

The local community took time to "stop and smell the roses" at this year's Carpinteria Greenhouse and Nursery Tour

farms.  With a purposeful outreach effort and beautiful weather on Saturday, this year’s attendance over doubled the previous year’s attendance, helping to further educate people on why California’s Flowers are America’s Flowers!  Of the 468 surveys we collected 100% told us that they would be ASKING for CA Grown Flowers the next time they are buying flowers.

Missed the Carpinteria Flower Farm Tour?  Join us in Monterey!  See related blog post: 

Why do we need a Farm Guide? Printed?

The newly designed cover for the 2012 California Flower Farm Guide

I think a few years ago I was asking the same question. We had just recently completed a beautiful redesign of the CCFC’s website and I was extremely pleased with what functionality and opportunity there was for customers, florists, wholesalers, retailers and consumers could find about California’s flower farmers.

It wasn’t too much longer into the job that I realized something important to know about the floral industry; Print is not Dead.

Nope. I can recall a conversation with a florist asking when we were going to put out another flower guide because it really helped her with design ideas when ordering. I remember another florist telling me that she still has one of the Commission’s past print pieces on her desk as reference.

So, when in 2010 the promotion committee started discussing how to drive cost-efficient marketing opportunities for our flower farms, the California Flower Farm Guide was born.

Focus your dollars on a publication that lasts all year long!

There are no secrets here, this is an age old co-op strategy by which farms that compete work together to get more exposure than they would alone. Case in point, the cost to sponsor a full page in the 2012 Farm Guide is approximately the same price as a full page ad in any of the monthly floral magazine’s in our industry.

What made this publication different is that we focused on our farmers and not just their flowers. Flower farmers are not known for wanting to draw attention to themselves. That’s generally a rule for most farmers I’ve ever met. They like to farm, not PR and marketing. However, we have had to work hard to explain to them that people not only care about the quality of the flowers they grow, but they want to know their farmer! So, you’ll noticed that we’ve made a deliberate effort in this publication to make it a Farm Guide, focused on the family farms producing these flowers, as much as we want people to see and appreciate what they are growing.

Bottom-line, the response to the first edition of the Farm Guide in 2011 was a hit. Florists, Designers, Universities, Wholesalers, Mass Market retailers – they all called for more copies. We saw great distribution and received reports of new business coming to our farms. Great, great results.

So, yesterday I put together a short video that highlights the benefits I see from this Commission publication, which are:

  • The Distribution
  • The Value
  • The Vision
  • The Results