CCFC’s Support Impacts College-Level Floral Design Course

This guest post by Professor Paul Thomas, a floriculture professor at the University of Georgia. The Commission and its farms have been engaged in supporting the successful launch of the floriculture program at the University.


By Paul Thomas
Floriculture professor, University of Georgia

For the last three years, freshly harvested cut flowers from members of the California Cut Flower Commission have been flown to Atlanta for a series of special events. However, they did not wind up at local floral shops or in arrangements for a local wedding or banquet. From Atlanta, they were shipped to Athens, Georgia, home of the University of Georgia Bulldawgs. Those flowers were used weekly in the new college-level floral design class offered at UGA.

A full class of eager UGA students learning about floral quality using California cut flowers.

From the first offering, the class has had capacity attendance. The class was so popular, it is now offered every semester, including the summer term. Class evaluations are sky high and there is a waiting list to enroll every semester. As wonderful as this success may seem, none of this would have happened if it had not been for the significant support given by the CCFC.

“We had no funds other than the small student fee when we first offered the course,” said Frank Flanders, the UGA Floral Design professor. Budgets are tight and had it not been for the donation of flowers these first years to get us on our feet, this class would not have happened, much less become the success it is now.

Co-instructor Paul Thomas, a professor of Floriculture at UGA, expanded upon the importance the CCFC donations. “Using U.S-grown California cut flower material was important enough for us to work up the courage to ask for assistance: professional packing and shipping and unparalleled freshness. I grew up in California and I have had the honor to work with several of the floral producers in California for a few years now. I knew where the best flowers were and thus we approached Kasey Cronquist and the CCFC Board for assistance in helping us get started with the best materials possible. I can still remember the morning I opened up an email from Kasey and saw our request had been approved! This was what we needed to have the best materials to be successful and to be true to the intent of the curriculum.”
What makes this class different from any other in the U.S. is that a significant component of the course syllabus centers on teaching students to recognize floral quality. “If you have poor quality, or poorly shipped flowers, the learning experience is not very good, nor are the designs.  Learning how to select and evaluate flowers is essential,” said Thomas.

Both Professors feel the results have gone far beyond their initial vision for the course. “From incredibly beautiful protea’s from Resendiz Brothers Protea, to near-perfect tulips and iris from the Sun Valley Group, we were provided some of the best material any designer or design teacher could hope for. I had the opportunity to tour Mellano’s production site two years ago and was amazed at the variety and depth of the inventory. Mike Mellano did not spare anything as we received many (new to us) materials not commonly found in the Georgia floral market these last three years.” said Thomas.

Flanders added: “For example, Kangaroo Paws are mainstream on the West Coast. We rarely ever see them used here in Georgia. Our students were both amazed and challenged by having to integrate new materials into their designs. I believe we received material from every member of the commission and when you look across the product lines, there is an incredible selection of cuts to pick from.”

UGA students on a field trip to dry-goods distributor Burton and Burton Inc., learning more about the industry.

In addition to the design basics and floral quality training, the class also takes the time to familiarize students with the supply and distribution pathways. “We take students on field trips to our local floral distributor, Flowers Inc., where the students see how flowers are handled and stored in a large scale operation. We also take them to the dry-goods distributors such a Burton and Burton Inc., where all of the support materials for a good design can be purchased. This summer we also took a few students to the Produce Marketing Association conference where they toured APHIS inspection sites at Miami airport, local floral product suppliers and re-wholesalers, distributors and visited the trade show. All of these activities broaden the students awareness of what supports the industry and how it all happens.

The effect this type of program has on students was highlighted recently when Flanders visited a regional wholesaler and was greeted by one of his former students. She said that after taking the floral design class she knew what she wanted to do for a living. She is currently seeking an internship to enhance her ability to have a career in the industry.

UGA Floral Design class and the future of the floral industry.

“I can barely put into words how grateful we are to CCFC for its help” said Flanders. “By providing support in the form of fresh flowers the first three years, the members of CCFC gave us the chance to establish a classroom hard-goods supply base (vases, ribbons, etc). It also gave us time to establish a realistic budget. Student fee increases are difficult to get approval for unless you have the proposed economics based on actual need. Getting a program like this started is next to impossible in the U.S. without some external industry support. In return, we make sure the students know about the CCFC, what they do for the floral industry and what they have done for us though the donations of these flowers. Over 200 students have completed the course and now those students know where the best cut flowers come from. As they find their way into the industry, the design shops and classrooms at the high school level, they will bring this awareness with them.”

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