Why is the President’s Iris #AmericanGrown?

The most recent state dinner with French President François Hollande was full of the standard White House traditions that serve to highlight the very best of our country’s culture and culinary.

American Grown (#CaGrown) purple iris was the focal flower featured at the recent White House state dinner with French president Hollande. [Photo Credit Eddie Kohan]

However, this state dinner was notably different.  Something special, subtle and important happened.

The Obama White House decided to ensure thatthe flowers presented at the center of the table for this state dinner would be as fresh, sustainable and as American as the food that would be served to their special guests.

How do we know that for sure?

USDA’s Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden told us.

In step with the White House tradition of revealing the American Grown ingredients of a state dinner menu and highlighting the American Grown wine selection, a blog post by Deputy Secretary Harden similarly featured the American Grown flower selection by their state and region.

The following is an excerpt from that post:

 The floral arrangements displayed at the dinner included:

  • Flowering quince branch – Mississippi
  • Weeping willow – South New Jersey
  • Scotch Broom – Virginia
  • Iris (blue and purple) – California
  • Alocasia – Apopka, FL and Zellwood, FL
  • Equisetum – East coast Florida, De Leon Springs
  • Nandina –  East coast Florida, De Leon Springs
  • Green Liriope –  East coast Florida, De Leon Springs

This was a proud moment not only for the American flower and greens farmers who realized that it may have been their fresh flowers or greens at the center of some important conversations that evening, but it was a very proud moment for all of America’s cut flower and greens farmers throughout the country.

This decision by the Obama administration to feature the American Grown origin of the flowers is a monumental moment for a group of American farmers who have continued to advocate for their place at the decision making table in this country, both figuratively and literally.

With approximately 80% of flowers sold in the United States now being imported from countries like Colombia and Ecuador, America’s flower farming families have worked incredibly hard to continue to compete with their beautiful blooms despite twenty years of unfavorable federal trade policy and government subsidy programs that were designed to incentivize a region of Andean nations to transition their cultivation of coca to flowers.

Times are changing though.

Today, Americans are increasingly pivoting their interest and attention towards a care and concern about where their food comes from.  This “farm to table” trend is a good one for America’s flower farmers.  With many examples of this care, concern and pride being exemplified on tables everywhere, the White House’s example to feature American Grown Flowers at the recent state dinner could not be more timely and be more appreciated by America’s flower farmers.

An example of the media coverage of the American Grown fare featured at the recent  White House state dinner. [People.com]

An example of the media coverage of the American Grown fare featured at the recent White House state dinner. [People.com]

Just look at the attention Deputy Secretary Harden’s blog post has received since the announcement.  The response has had to have set some sort of record for the USDA blog.  With over 140 comments coming from all over the country; farmers, flower lovers and consumers are thanking the Deputy and the White House for their leadership on making sure that the flowers on the table at a state dinner are American Grown too.

If you believe its important that the flowers in the White House should be American Grown too, I would encourage you to visit Deputy Secretary Harden’s blog and leave your own comment of appreciation and support.  I know she’s listening and your support for America’s flower farmers does make a difference.  Please click here to leave a comment.

I’d also appreciate hearing your thoughts on the White House’s decision to feature American Grown flowers and the growing momentum for homegrown flowers.  What other examples are you seeing in your own community of this important trend to go local when it comes to flowers?

Learn more about the White House’s feature of American Grown food and wine for state dinners:

http://youtu.be/wWOnrhj9qoc

A Day in the Life: Inside the State Dinner for France with the White House Chefs

Inside the White House

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