Food & Wine…& Flowers?

Chef Brandon Hughes of the Wine Cask In Santa Barbara is committed to not only serving locally grown food, but also featuring locally grown flowers at his restaurant.

Over the past several months, I’ve had the privilege to work with a great team of professionals on a campaign geared at highlighting California agriculture, specifically specialty crops and the farmers that grow them. Starting in April, it has been very rewarding to see the “California, Always In Season” campaign come together in the pages of Food & Wine Magazine. In fact, I just picked up the June issue at the airport while traveling through Atlanta and this latest issue features California grown avocados. I do love those CA Grown avocados.

The campaign’s first issue in April featured a “foodie walk” with Chef Brandon Hughes of Santa Barbara’s Wine Cask Restaurant. Chef Hughes is known for his weekly ritual of taking a group of customers to the local farmers’ market on Thursdays and letting them pick out the fresh ingredients that he will then use to make their meal that evening.

The April issue of Food & Wine represented the launch of the new CA Grown campaign, “Always In Season,” which was announced at Ag Day in Sacramento in March.

I had a chance to join that “foodie stroll” while the Food & Wine team was in town to shoot a short video for the campaign. For me, watching Chef Hughes taking his clients through the farmers’ market really exemplified the growing momentum and demand by consumers for this “farm-to-fork” relationship people desire to have with the food they eat.

But what about the flowers?

Of course, I did take the opportunity encourage the F&W team to consider changing the magazine’s name to “Food, Wine & Flowers.”

No go.

I had to try. Flowers always seem to be missing from the conversation when it comes to what ingredients make it to the table at home, at weddings or at special events. Is it because we don’t use a fork or spoon to enjoy them? Many of the reasons for choosing locally grown and sustainably grown food are the same for flowers, but the awareness and value for locally grown flowers seems to lag behind that of food and wine.

The good news? The focus and appreciation for local, sustainable, American Grown flowers is catching on and quickly.

For instance, just consider the recent features in the Wall Street Journal highlighting the local “Field to Vase” movement and the New York Times article on the White House’s decision to feature American Grown flowers. Or how about TheKnot.com’s commitment to American Grown for their Dream Wedding in April. Or maybe you saw the debut of the blog Field to Vase or the recent launch of SlowFlowers.com by “Slow Flowers” author Debra Prinzing? All of these stories, events and resources featuring American Grown flowers have been published and produced in just the last three months.

California flower farmers Harry Van Wingerden and his son Erik of Myriad flowers in Carpinteria provides the locally grown flowers each week to the Wine Cask of Santa Barbara.

Now for the record, Chef Hughes didn’t forget the flowers when it came to sourcing local, fresh and sustainable. The flowers that adorn every table at the Wine Cask were all sourced from the same farmers’ market where he selects ingredients for his menu. In fact, our own Erik and Harry Van Wingerden of Myriad Flowers in Carpinteria were featured in the April issue of Food & Wine and were included in the video that now resides online at foodandwine.com/California.

I believe that we are seeing just the beginning of this shift towards locally grown flowers. In fact, we’ve been working with a coalition of flower farmers from across the United States that are committed to helping people better identify and access their American Grown blooms. To add to all of this great momentum for locally grown, a big announcement about this collaborative effort is being planned for June.  So stay tuned!

We many not be able to get Food & Wine to change their name today, but today may just be the best time in recent history to be an American flower farmer.

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