From California’s Flower Farmers: Thank You Ram Truck

Detroit gets it.

Farmers are the hot new thing.

After a full two-minute ad by Ram Trucks during the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl (great game, darn Niners), I couldn’t help but feel an extreme sense of satisfaction that a company like Ram Trucks saw to it that their two minutes would be a tribute dedicated to the hard working American farmer.

Click on the image to view the commercial.

Of course, my satisfaction isn’t because I’m a farmer (I’m not), but rather that a company with their massive marketing budget, a company with their opportunity to advertise during the Super Bowl, a company that could have said anything they wanted to with their two minutes, chose to align their brand with the American farmer.

Apparently somebody at the top of their organization thought this approach would sell more trucks.

I think it would also sell more flowers.

And I think we’ve been saying that…

Now for our industry, Teleflora’s annual Super Bowl ad was suspiciously absent from this year’s Super Bowl commercial lineup.  However, consider for a moment if Teleflora were to take this approach in their marketing efforts?  Rather than “Save the Florists,” how about “Save the Farmer?”  The American Flower Farmer.

Not likely.

In fact, any effort like this by Teleflora would look more like Whole Foods’ effort with their Whole Trade Flowers. We can see how that is working for Whole Foods by reading their customers’ comments found on their own blog post promoting their Whole Trade Roses for Valentine’s Day:  http://wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/share-your-love-whole-trade-flowers

My point here is; why doesn’t our floral industry see the opportunity of association with the American farmer that Ram Trucks identified?

Origin Matters.  American Grown.  Buy Local.  Made in the U.S.A.  California Grown.

These statements can (and should) all be true and marketable statements when it comes to the flowers Americans really want.

If the California Cut Flower Commission had the ability to spend $4m on a thirty-second, sixty-second or two-minute Super Bowl commercial, I’m confident that we’d focus the entire time – and the entire budget – on driving home the connection between our farms, our farmers and our flowers.  It would have been a commercial featuring that same authentic, “American Grown,” value driven message that you saw by Ram Trucks and Jeep during this year’s Super Bowl.

However, I would submit to you that we don’t need a Super Bowl budget to make this message work for our industry, we just need retail champions to start working the message.

It’s true, when it comes to the field of competition, South America has the America flower farmers pinned back at the 20 yard line.  We currently represent less than 20% of all flowers sold in the United States, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Due to federal trade policy, America's flower farmers have lost their home-field advantage to the South American flower industry.

People do care where their flowers come from, they do support local and they will buy American Grown flowers if given the choice.

So, this week, I have to admit, I’ve gone to work each day feeling a bit more empowered and encouraged about the position of our nation’s flower farmers.

And for some reason…I want to buy a new Ram Truck.

The Ram brand has declared 2013 “The Year of the Farmer.”  I couldn’t agree more.

You can meet our flower farmers here: http://www.ccfc.org/flower-lovers/meet-a-farmer

How do you see the momentum for American Grown, Made in the U.S.A., products impacting the floral industry?  Do you see an opportunity for a resurgence in American flower farms driven by this consumer demand for local?

Related Blog Posts:

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 to Buy More #AmericanGrown Flowers in 2013

As the CEO/Ambassador of the California Cut Flower Commission, I speak to a lot of florists from throughout the country who tell me that they love California Grown Flowers, but they just don’t have the access they would need to make a greater offering to their customers.  I use the term “access” to describe a variety of reasons that can be mentioned by a florist that range from transportation costs, their wholesalers don’t often offer enough California Grown, price or specific varieties of flowers that California may no longer grow in great quantities (like carnations).  However, the demand for “American Grown” products is on the rise, especially when it comes to food.  So, with more and more people making “buy local” decisions with their stomach, buying locally grown flowers is a natural connection that more and more people are making.

We see the acknowledgement of this trend from Whole Foods President and COO A.C. Gallo when he was recently quoted, stating:

“Ten or 15 years ago, the organic label was more important to our customers,” Gallo told The Huffington Post. “But we started to feel, over the last five to seven years, that our customers were more interested in buying produce that’s local.”

So, to help encourage you to “turn the petal” and make 2013 the year that you offer and promote your homegrown flowers to your customers, I offer you these three reasons to consider:

1.  Encourage People to “Buy Local,” Because You Are Buying Local

Are you asking your customers and members of your community to “buy local” and shop at your store, but offering foreign flowers?  Mind this detail!  I’m not saying that every nut and bolt in your store has to be “Made in America” or every flower, but if you’re a local florist, complement and build your brand on offering and promoting locally grown flowers.  Connect those dots and let your customers know that you’re taking care of these important details for them and thank them for buying local.  They’ll thank you.

2.  Because its Trending: Origin Matters

I get a lot of questions on what the new flower trends are, what new varieties are coming out, etc.  That’s what our industry talks about.  However, consumers don’t ask these questions.  They look at price, appearance (not to be confused with quality) and now they want to know where it comes from.  Increasingly, “origin matters.”  So, why not get ahead of this curve and help your customers identify with where your flowers are coming from; feature the farmer.  There are not so many farms in the United States that you can’t be on a first name basis with the farmers that you or your wholesaler are buying from.

Consider this statement from the author of the “50 Mile BouquetDebra Prinzing when she says, “Flower farmers are the new rock stars.”  Associate your store’s local relevancy with these farmers in the field and sell the authenticity of your local store by selling locally grown flowers.

3.  Because it Makes a Difference

This year, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be of service to someone else throughout the year.  Not just one time, but pick a person and help them with whatever they might need all year long.  I want to make a difference in someone’s life in 2013.  What kind of resolutions did you make for 2013?  Are you focused on make a difference this year?  Did you know that simply buying locally grown flowers could make that difference?  In this economy, that one decision could make a big difference in the life of our farms here in California and throughout the United States.  According to a recent Economic Impact Report that we commissioned, it found that $.92 of every dollar our farms earn goes right back into our economy.  Now that is the kind of return on investment that this country needs right now!

You Can Do It!

Going local certainly needs to be a conscientious decision.  It needs to be done with purposeful intent.  It needs to be done to tie who you are and what you want your shop to represent and be known for in your local community.  With foreign flowers representing 80% of all flowers sold in the United States, you’ll certainly differentiate yourself.  When you focus on buying local, you’ll be able to standout with offering and promoting flowers that are unique, fresh and environmentally friendly.  However, depending on where or who you buy your flowers, you’re going to have to ask for locally grown flowers.  Make it known to supplier that you want to go local in 2013 and insist that they source locally grown.  Depending on who you are buying from today, you’re request for change will likely get some push back, but don’t be discouraged.  They can do it and you can do it!

So, make this year the year that you buy local, because you know that origin matters and that with each locally grown flower you buy and sell, you’re making a difference in 2013.

Is buying more locally grown flowers your goal in 2013?  What opportunities are you seeing?  What challenges will you face?

Do you promote on Twitter?

Consider using the following hashtags when you’re promoting local:

  • #AmericanGrown
  • #CaGrown
  • #LocallyGrown
  • #CaliforniaGrown

 

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?

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!

CCFC’s 2012: Pictures of Progress

2012’s Pictures of Progress

Before we launch into our New Year’s resolutions for 2013, its important to take a moment and look back on what was in 2012.  Here are just some of the great images that I believe captured the efforts and accomplishments of the CCFC in 2012.  I am going to try my best to keep it to one per month.

January

Rose Parade Ambassadors
Our 2012 team of Flower Farmer Ambassadors in Pasadena for the first ever “CA Grown” Rose Parade Float Certification. Left to Right: Mike Mellano Sr., Diana Roy, Lane DeVries, Rene Van Wingereden, Mel Resendiz, June Van Wingerden and Mike A. Mellano.

February

LA Flower Market
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez stands with members of the American Floral Exchange Board of Directors in recognition for 90 years of the LA Flower Market. Pictured left to right: Johnny Mellano, John Williams, Speaker John Pérez, Mike A. Mellano, Christine Duke and Jim Mellano.

March

A delegation of California’s Flower farmers participating in SAF’s Congressional Action Days and meeting with Congresswoman Lois Capps. Left to Right: John Donati, Lane DeVries, Congresswoman Capps, Anthony Vollering and myself.

April

2012 Fly-in
California’s flower farmers rally in Washington DC for the CCFC 2012 Fly-in.
Rene Van Wingerden and Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal share a moment during the Carpinteria Greenhouse Open House VIP Tour.
Guest panelists for the 2012 Carpinteria Greenhouse Open House VIP Tour & Media Day. Santa Barbara Supervisor Salud Carbajal emceed the event and panelists included (left to right) Congresswoman Lois Capps, Southern California Gas Company’s Gwen Marelli, Santa Barbara County Ag Commissioner Cathy Fisher and CCFC District 3 Commissioner June Van Wingerden.

May

Feinstein Chamber
Fred Van Wingerden and I follow up with Senator Dianne Feinstein during a Santa Barbara Chamber luncheon.

June

Participants and special guests join Congressman Sam Farr and CCFC District 2 Commissioner Jennifer Everett in cutting the ceremonial ribbon during the Monterey Bay Greenhouse Open House VIP & Media Day event at California Floral Greens.

 

Little Monterey Girl
A little girl poses with her gerbera daisy and CA Grown sticker during the 2012 Monterey Bay Greenhouse Open House Tour.

July

July Farm Tours
Farm Tours in July. Right to left, top to bottom: Molly O’Brien from Senator Feinstein’s office with Joe Ortiz Sr. and Fred Van Wingerden. Secretary Karen Ross with Rene Van Wingerden. Mike A. Mellano with Assemblywoman Toni Atkins and APC delegation. Adaline Maushardt with Congressman Issa’s office with Jason Kendall and Diana Roy and Mel Resendiz.
Janice's Graduation
CCFC’s Program Business Manager Janice Wills Curtis graduates from the US Chamber Institute of Organization Management program and receives her “IOM.”

August

Building award winning floats takes months and months of planning. Here the CalPoly Universities’ Rose Float team tours Pyramid Flowers in Oxnard. Pictured is Marco Van Wingerden, a CalPoly alum.

 

September

CCFC’s Sylvia Cup sponsorship where America’s best flowers are paired with America’s best designers.

October

PMA & WFFSA
Above: Remarks during WF&FSA’s Breakfast meeting in Miami.
Below: Photo with CCFC Chair Lane DeVries in the Sun Valley booth at PMA.

November

Farr and Janet
Congressman Sam Farr with Janet Louie and her mom, Tomi Matsuno, during November’s meeting with the Congressman at Green Valley Floral.

 

December

Lane and Press
CCFC Chair Lane DeVries of Sun Valley speaks with NBC LA reporter Ted Chen regarding the Commission’s work to bring CA Grown flowers back to the Rose Parade.
CalPolyTeam
The California Flower Farmer Ambassadors and CalPoly Deco Chairs join CDFA Secretary Karen Ross in recognizing the student’s of CalPoly Universities and their efforts to have a “CA Grown” certified float for the 2013 Rose Parade.

 

Building Award Winning Floats “CA Grown” Style

Only two of this year’s forty-two floats in this year’s Rose Parade can claim the honor of being certified “CA Grown” and they happen to both be award winning!  The Commission was proud to be a part of the certification of the South Pasadena and Cal Poly Universities’ Rose Parade floats, honoring their commitment to bring locally grown flowers back to the historic parade.

Along with the their commitment to California Grown Flowers, each team received trophies for their efforts, with Cal Poly receiving the Bob Hope Humor Trophy and South Pasadena receiving the Founders’ Award respectively.

Building these award winning floats to also be certified “CA Grown,” was not only a commitment to bringing California Grown Flowers back to the Tournament of Roses Parade, but took advance planning and coordination with our California flower farmers.

Cal Poly students from both the Pomona and San Luis Obispo campuses tour Pyramid Flowers in Oxnard in August.

Julie Smith of South Pasadena meets with flower farmer Rene VanWingerden at OceanBreeze Farms in Carpinteria during the middle of the summer to talk colors and varieties for this year's South Pasadena Rose Parade float.

Both teams worked with the Commission to better understand the diversity and availability of California Grown Flowers during the weeks before the parade.  Despite the fact that roses farms throughout the United States have all but become extinct due to imports from Ecuador and Colombia, fortunately you can still find American Grown roses right here in California (You can read more about the loss of the American Grown Roses in a previous blog post:  Where do your roses come from? Probably further than you think.).  Fortunately, the Rose Parade is not only about the roses and fortunately California grows an amazing diversity of beautiful flowers to offer float teams who want to become certified “CA Grown.”

We hope to work with more and more teams over the next several years to help bring tradition of using flowers and products grown in California to adorn these amazing floats.  However, first we’re going to relish in the accomplishments of this year’s parade and the two award winning floats who committed to California first when designing their floats.

Thank you to CalPoly Universities and South Pasadena for your commitment to California Grown!  It makes a difference!

How important is it to you to see California Grown Flowers return to the Rose Parade?

Take a look at some of these great behind the scenes images of building these two “CA Grown” floats:

The Halo Effect

"CA Grown" Floor Graphic.

Cut flower farmers of California should take great pride in the effort that has been made in establishing the “CA Grown” brand with consumers.

Recently, I learned that the cost to develop just the “CA Grown” logo that everyone uses today was $300k.  And that was in 2001.  Since then, millions of dollars have been spent in promotion of the brand by the Buy California Marketing Agreement.  When you leverage those promotion dollars against the promotion efforts of individual commissions and farms, you’ve really made a mark, literally.

Cart Signage at select mass markets.

While our flower farms continue to lead the way with deploying the use of the brand, past, current and future campaigns by BCMA make a difference.  Seeing the brand on tomatoes helps our flower farms.  Seeing the brand on blueberries helps our flower farms. Onions, t-shirts, commercials, billboards…

BCMA is just concluding a $450k grant that helped promote the brand in select stores, videos, radio commercials through a specialty crop block grant.  These additional promotional efforts make a difference and creates a “halo effect” for our farms and the retailers that take advantage of this brand for flowers at the retail level.

Ultimately, it helps consumers get more of what they really want, locally grown, California Grown Flowers.

So enjoy that “halo effect!”  It makes a difference!

What other benefits do you identify with, when you think of labeling California Grown Flowers, “CA Grown?”

To learn more about the recent “CA Grown” campaign, visit http://www.californiagrown.org/

California Grown Flowers are America's Flowers!

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? 

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