A California Response to Huffington Post Piece on Valentine’s Day Flowers

I just finished reading the Huffington Post article, “Eco Etiquette: What’s The Environmental Cost Of Cut Flowers?” by Ms. Jennifer Grayson who made her best effort to inform her audience on the “environmental truth” about purchasing flowers this Valentine’s day.

Buying sustainable or locally grown flowers for that special someone on Valentine’s Day is not as scary or difficult as she makes it sounds, you just need to know what to ASK for.

You can be Eco-sensitive while express your feelings with flowers, but ASK for California Grown Flowers, they are America’s Flowers.

I left this comment after the article, but I’ll re-post it here in the event that it gets moderated out…

While it is certainly true that most of the roses purchased this valentine’s day will have originated from Colombia or Ecuador, Ms. Grayson fails to identify the origin of those “magnificent” calla lilies which may have in fact been grown locally.  California is home to a handful of flower farms that grow calla’s for market, even the mass market.  Your roses to callas example is the ol’ produce analogy, “apple to oranges.”

I also understand and appreciate the effort to grab the attention of consumers during a major floral holiday like Valentine’s Day, but stories like these need to better consider the facts and avoid such faulty generalizations as the examples you’ve provided.

There is a flower farming community in California that is working hard to compete against the imports you describe, they employ good people, sustainably grow beautiful flowers (like Calla lilies) and currently bring $10.3 billion dollars to California’s economic table.

I don’t think your a Vday Grinch, just misinformed and not providing your readers with the reality of their options.  Ask for California Grown Flowers, look for the label when you shop, make sure you are getting America’s best source for high quality flowers for your special someone this Valentine’s Day.

…so enjoy those Callas, they could have been grown from the heart…in California!

To learn more about America’s Flower Farmers visit www.ccfc.org and become a fan of their flowers at www.facebook.com/californiagrownflowers

Secretary Ross Responds

There certainly was an understood response by those in California agriculture when Yahoo published their blog post, “College Majors That Are Useless,” and listing Agriculture as the #1 most useless degree.

Between the blogging, the Facebook comments and the local media coverage, I’d say the article’s author Terence Loose got more than he bargained for after he hit “publish.”  I doubt he thought that this would be something that would catch the attention of CDFA Ag Secretary Karen Ross, but when it did, I think we all appreciated her weighing in on reality of Agriculture and its opportunities out here in California.

Secretary Ross’ blog post is re-posted here with permission:

Future is bullish for Ag graduates

My email in-box lit up last week after Yahoo! published a story claiming that college degrees in agriculture are useless.  It certainly is a counterintuitive statement. Across our country, farming is hotter than ever. Agricultural exports broke records in 2011, and demand for local production of food made available through farmers’ markets and other venues is an exciting trend that I firmly believe is here to stay.

The view from here shows a dramatic increase in farming-related job opportunities, and that’s much more than young people on the farm. There are roughly 300 different kinds of careers in the food industry. It takes a lot of hands to grow, package, distribute and serve food to hungry consumers here and around the world. Many of the available jobs are unfilled because, as technology advances, there is a corresponding need for science and technical educational programs. The foundation to meet that demand must be built at the high school level and then extended into colleges and universities. Some of our best minds are working right now to address this issue. Agriculture needs young minds now more than ever.

In the meantime, as the Washington Post reported recently, Ag graduates are finding jobs. The Post referenced a study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce showing that Ag graduates were among the most employable coming out of college.

So that Ag degree is very useful, and graduates will be highly sought-after well
into the future. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.

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What is Sunset trying to say?

pg. 72 of the February Issue of Sunset Magazine. Article by Debra Prinzing.

February’s issue of Sunset Magazine includes a great article by Debra Prinzing titled, “The 5-Mile Bouquet.”  A writer based out of both Seattle and Los Angeles, I have enjoyed each of the opportunities I’ve had to get to know Debra during our discussions on California flowers and their farmers.  As a Master Gardener and a member of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, Debra has a personal passion for the garden, flowers and farming that makes her writing and coverage of our flower farms all the more meaningful and authentic.

Debra is also responsible for the December 31st Rose Parade article on the front page of the LA Times Home section titled, “Two floats bring California flowers back to Rose Parade.”  That may have been last year’s news, but we are still enjoying the impact that her article has had on those who have had the opportunity to read it.

Rose Parade 1895: In the begining, the flowers were all California Grown...

However, this more recent piece in Sunset Magazine addresses three things that I believe the California Cut Flower Commission is hoping to help educate consumers about when buying their flowers:

  1. “Know Your Food, Know Your Flowers.” 
    Debra rightly points out that there is currently a trend afoot when it comes to people sourcing their food, but where your flowers come from should matter to you too.  She goes onto describe the popularity and freshness of CSA boxes.  Yet for all the reasons people care about where their food is coming from, those same reasons should also be driving one’s flower purchasing.  Whether its for quality, variety, environmental or economic reasons, people should be looking for local when buying their flowers.
  2. Be aware of the “Transportation Footprint” of your flowers
    Debra talks about the idea of “minimizing your carbon footprint” when sourcing your flowers.  To help address her point, the Commission recently commissioned a study by SureHarvest on the sustainability of California’s flowers that found California’s flowers’ transportation footprint was 3-16 times less into the major cities throughout the US, when compared against product flown in from South America.  It’s also important to note that currently none of the consumer facing sustainability or organic certification labels on flowers account for this important fact.
  3. “California’s Flowers are America’s Flowers”
    While I do like her title, “The 5-Mile Bouquet,” the reality is that people will still want year-round access to flowers.  So, the Commission is working hard to help people know that they do have options.  California offer’s year-round access to “local” flowers for consumers nationwide.  When almost 80% of all flowers sold in the United States now come from South America, for all of the reasons Debra describes, California is that local choice. California Flowers are America’s Flowers!   

Did you know that almost 80% of all flowers sold in the U.S. were imported from South America?  Look for the “CA Grown” label when you buy your flowers.  If you don’t see it…ASK!

You can meet our California Flower Farmers on our YouTube Channel: The GrowTube


Two Rose Parade Floats are Certified “CA Grown”

The California Grown Rose Parade episode debuted today on uBloom.com.

As you know, there is always a story behind every great story.  This story isn’t any different.  The Rose Parade’s  story is that this local event has become a 123-year old tradition with millions and millions of people watching worldwide every single year.  I would have to guess that 50,000 of those tradition seekers actually sleep on the streets of Pasadena the night before, just to get a premium viewing spot along Colorado Boulevard.

However, the story behind the story is; while the Tournament of Roses began as a parade designed to reflect the bounty of California, that tradition and commitment to California Grown Flowers seems to have been lost along the way…until this year.

This year an effort was afoot by two Rose Parade float teams to bring “the California” back to the Rose Parade.  Both the Kit-Cat Clock Company and the Cal Poly University teams made it their mission to be a “CA Grown” Certified Float.  The California Cut Flower Commission worked with both of these teams to help them realize their goal and stand out from the pack of 40 other floats by representing the beauty of locally grown California Flowers as their floats cruised down Colorado Boulevard this year.

To help capture this “monumental” occasion, the Commission teamed up with J Schwanke and uBloom.com to record this historic event, as two of the 2012 Rose Parade Floats are certified “CA Grown” by CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and Buy California Marketing Agreement’s Executive Director Maile Shanahan Geis. 

Sit back and enjoy!

Rose Parade 2012: Certified CA Grown! from JMHSchwanke on Vimeo.

The largest floral design competition?

San Diego Flower Farmers Mel Resendiz and Diana Roy hand out “CA Grown” stickers to people who had come to see the CalPoly float.

The rose parade may in fact be the largest floral design competition in the world.  Granted, its not the traditional design competition that our industry is used to, but by sheer size and quantity of flowers used, it has to be the first, if not the second largest floral design competition in the world.

Thousands of people from all over the country made pilgrimage to Pasadena to see these amazing floats be built.  This was the first year that the CCFC coordinated a promotion team of volunteer flower farmers to talk directly with the folks touring the floats.  This provided a tremendous opportunity for direct consumer education, sharing with all those who cared to learn about where America’s best source of high quality flowers come from and why. Our farmers gave out “CA Grown” stickers and pins and had a great time gathering great feedback about people’s knowledge of the flowers they buy and their impressions of what they might buy going forward, now that they knew California is America’s flowers!

June VanWingerden prepares to "work the crowd" at the CalPoly decorating tent.


The CCFC's "CA Grown" Rose Parade Promotion Team; (left to right) Mike Mellano Sr., Diana Roy, CCFC Chair Lane DeVries, ReneVanWingerden, Mel Resendiz, June VanWingerden & Mike A. Mellano, PhD

It WAS More Than a Parade!

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross Certifies CalPoly's Rose Parade Float "CA Grown."

While the Tournament of Roses was celebrating its 123rd Rose Parade this weekend, with over half a million parade attendees and tens of millions watching on TV worldwide, a small delegation of California flower farmers descended on Pasadena to celebrate the “first-ever” certification of two “CA Grown” floats.  This “first time ever” event, included the participation of the Executive Director of the Buy California Marketing Agreement Maile Shanahan-Geis, CalPoly University President Jeff Armstrong and California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross [see her post on her experience: CDFA Blog – Planting Seeds].  For the first time, two Rose Parade floats would be being honored for decorating their float with 85% or more California Grown products.

Just two of the 44 float teams in this year’s parade made it their mission to become a certified “CA Grown.”  It had been quite some time in the parade’s 123-year history that the floats were primarily covered in California Grown Flowers.  Tournament of Roses officials and owners of the professional float building companies themselves were having a hard time recalling exactly when the flowers used on the parade floats had become mostly imported.

“It would have been decades ago.  The only decorating rule we have is that everything on the float has to be covered with something organic in its natural state.”
– Rick Jackson, president of the Tournament of Roses

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and California flower farmers thanked Kit-Cat CEO Woody Young for his commitment to having a "CA Grown" float for the Rose Parade.

However, it is safe to just point out what most people don’t know, which is that the flowers used in the Rose Parade of today is simply a reflection of the cut flower market consumers experience everyday.  With almost 80% of all flowers sold in the U.S. now being imported from South America, California’s flower farms have steadily lost market-share and their traditional presence in the Rose Parade.

…until this year.

When it came to the floats being built by CalPoly University and the Kit-Cat Clock Company, nothing less than California would do!

Calfiornia Flower Farmers Rene and June Van Wingerden look on in amazement as CalPoly students use their CA Grown Flowers to decorate their float.

These two organizations were recognized by the Secretary for their dedication to designing with “CA Grown” flowers and products, such as rice, potatoes, citrus, walnuts, strawberries, seed, etc.  Our delegation of flower farmers were on hand for both of the float “CA Grown” certification ceremonies to show their sincere appreciation for the dedication and effort of these two organization had made.

“Our float represents the best of american flowers.”
– Mr. Woody Young

The achievement of these two organizations was not lost in the general fanfare of this parade or to other news coverage.  Media made special note of the effort and many news

California Flower Farmer Mike Mellano Sr. (far right) waves from atop the Kit-Cat Clock Company Float during the Rose Parade.

organization’s covered the special effort that was being made to bring the “California” back to the Rose Parade.

To top it all off (and another first), a California Flower Farmer was asked to be a special guest and ride on a float where many of his flowers has been used to decorate.  The KitCat Clock Company offered one of eight seats on their float to Mike Mellano Sr. of Mellano & Company who could be seen waving from the Kit-Cat float coming down Colorado Blvd. on January 2nd.

Just Some of our Great coverage from the 2012 Rose Parade:

If you saw news articles on California Grown Flowers in the Rose Parade, please send copies or links to info@ccfc.org.  Thank you.

Meet the Families behind the Flowers

As the CEO/Ambassador of the California Cut Flower Commission, I often get asked, “how am I supposed to know if I am buying California Grown Flowers?”

Fair question.

There are only a few people that I know who can look at a flower and tell you where it was grown.  And even they say they can’t be 100% confident, although they are often right.  So for the average person, who doesn’t grow flowers or hasn’t been been in the floral industry for 20 years, a flower is a flower is a flower.

However, where flowers are grown matters.

The “California Grown” campaign has recently developed a series of videos that introduce the families behind the farms responsible for growing the amazing food and flowers that are grown here in the Golden State.  In our case its the “families behind the flowers” and we take great pride in what our farms being to the economy and culture of California.

Did you know:

  • The California Floral Industry and its farms represent $10.3 billion dollars in economic activity?
  • California is the #1 state in cut flower production, representing 80% of what is grown in the United States?
  • That $.92 of every dollar a flower farmer earns goes right back into our local economy?

Meet Janet Louie of Green Valley Floral!

Experiencing California at SAF’s Annual Convention

By Chad Nelson, Eufloria Flowers
Chairman, California Cut Flower Commission

Chad Nelson, CCFC Chairman

I really enjoyed this year’s SAF Convention in Palm Springs.

During last week’s convention, I had the chance to participate in a variety of interesting meetings and valuable activities.  However, what I ended up enjoying the most was the camaraderie with my fellow California flower farmers.  Typically we are all so busy working and selling our flowers, that not nearly enough time is made to catch up and hear how others are doing.  In addition, I was really proud to be a part of a team of California flower farmers that did a great job representing California while the convention was being held in California.

I must give credit to CCFC’s Promotion Committee Chair Rodi Groot and his committee for their forward thinking and thoughtful consideration on how to best represent the CA Grown brand while at Convention.  It was great to see the work and thought that the committee put into preparing for the convention come together for the benefit of us all.  I personally appreciated seeing all of the “CA Grown” buttons worn by all of us representing our California flower farms.  It was fun to see where those buttons ended up.  I noticed that some had made their way into the hands of retailers who were equally as proud to represent their support for CA Grown flowers.

The Promotion Committee also felt that it was important to welcome all of the convention’s attendees to California.  Recognizing it couldn’t be done with our flowers, someone suggested that a welcome card with a “CA Grown” bottle of wine would be a nice touch.  And it was.  I received many acknowledgements of thanks for this warm gesture from the Commission; something I believe people will remember.

I was also proud to see the Commission sponsoring this year’s Sylvia Cup.  The Sylvia Cup is a longstanding tradition in our industry and I believe that our “CA Grown” brand is well served by our affiliation and sponsorship of this event.  I don’t know where he got this, but I think our Ambassador Kasey says it best when he says that the Sylvia Cup is, “America’s best designers paired with America’s best flowers.”

In addition, I also want to congratulate my fellow “Best in Class” award winners from the Outstanding Varieties Competition.  Seeing five out of the eleven entries from California is not only notable, but also a reflection of the passion that I know goes into growing our flowers.  Congratulations to Green Valley Floral, Holland America Flowers and Resendiz Brothers.

The combination of all of these efforts really made me proud to be a part of the team here in California.  I really want to thank the commission’s Promotion Committee for putting all of these pieces together in such a way that you couldn’t help but feel proud of who we are and what we do for our industry from right here in California.

Minding the Details of FTAs: Ambassador Kirk Visits with California’s Ag Leaders

Ambassador Ron Kirk explains his support for the pending trade agreements with Agriculture leaders during a roundtable discussion in Sacramento.  Seated from left are CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, Blue Diamond President & CEO Mark Jansen, and USTR's Chief Agricultural Negotiator Dr. Isi Siddiqui.

Ambassador Ron Kirk explains his support for the pending trade agreements with Agriculture leaders during a roundtable discussion in Sacramento. Seated from left are CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, Blue Diamond President & CEO Mark Jansen, and USTR's Chief Agricultural Negotiator Dr. Isi Siddiqui.

On Thursday I had the opportunity to join a group of leaders within California’s Agriculture community at Blue Diamond Growers headquarters in Sacramento for a roundtable discussion with United State’s Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Ron Kirk.  The Ambassador was in town to discuss the importance and need for the U.S. to pass the pending Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama and Korea.

While the Ambassador recognized that FTAs are seen as a “four letter word” to many people throughout the country, responsible for the loss of jobs and industries here at home, Kirk reiterated the need to push past these negative impressions and focus on the benefits.

Kirk acknowledged those of us in attendance as being adept to the benefits of such agreements, “more so than most,” and that he knew if he had to “sell” California on the benefits, “we’re (USTR) in trouble,” he said.

The Commission has been sensitive to the majority of California’s agriculture groups’ desire to see these agreements passed and has continued to remain unopposed to their passing.  However, I did have the opportunity to share with Ambassador Kirk the concerns our farms continue to have with the United States’ trade policy when it comes to Colombia.  After twenty years of negative impact due to increased flower imports, we believe now is the time for Congress and the Administration to mind the details of these permanent trade agreements to ensure that they are “fair” for everyone involved.  I was fortunate to have been joined by Elly Fairclough with Congressman Mike Thompson‘s office who was there to voice the Congressman’s support for our farms.

Our California flower farmers have lived through the negative impact that South American imports have had on the U.S. flower farms and have continued to adjust to try and remain competitive.  Yet, rather than wave the white flag at the sound of a permanent trade agreement with Colombia, they have, once again, developed a

Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-1) affirms his support for California's cut flower farms during a recent visit to Sun Valley Floral Farms in Arcata, CA.

Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-1) affirms his support for California's cut flower farms during a recent visit to Sun Valley Floral Farms in Arcata, CA.

mitigating remedy that they believe would begin to level the playing field.  Two independent studies, commissioned by the CCFC, have shown improved competitiveness through the reduction of costs when farms work together to consolidate their flower freight.  The Commission continues to seek federal resources to help implement this cooperative transportation system through the establishment of a shipping center that would consolidate California’s flower shipments throughout the state and country.

The Ambassador acknowledged that he was aware of our unique position of California’s cut flower farms related to this pending agreement with Colombia and said that his team had been and will continue to look into what could be done to address our concerns. Therefore, I remain optimistic.

I certainly agreed with the Ambassador when he said that “American Made” still means something to people.  I believe more American’s would buy more American Grown Flowers if they knew where their flowers came from and were given a choice, but if steps are not taken to address the inequalities of this current and future trade relationship with Colombia, I’m afraid Americans will continue to unknowingly lose their ability to choose.

Congratulations to Joe Sr. and Lane

Joe Ortiz Sr. (far left) and Lane DeVries (red tie) meeting with Congressman Elton Gallegly in Washington DC.

Joe Ortiz Sr. (far left) and Lane DeVries (red tie) meeting with Congressman Elton Gallegly (center) in Washington DC.

At the recent Fun ‘N Sun Convention at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, CA, I had the opportunity to attend the Distinguished Service Award Breakfast on Friday morning.  This year’s award recipients are two California flower farmers that I have had a privilege of getting to know and work closely with this year and I can attest to their passion and commitment to their service to the California flower farming community.

Earlier this year, both Joe Sr. and Lane, along with a team of their peers gave of their time and resources to fly back to Washington DC (see March 1st blog post:california’s Flower Farmers Head to Washington DC to Discuss Colombia Free Trade Agreement Concerns) and meet with lawmakers about the state of California’s flower farmers.  They were excellent ambassadors and did a tremendous job of representing the interests and issues facing flower farmers in California.

I was lucky to get a photo with both of the 2011 Distinguished Award Winners; (from left to right) Lane DeVries, Joe Ortiz Sr. and me!

I was fortunate to get a photo with both of the 2011 Distinguished Award Winners; (from left to right) Lane DeVries, Joe Ortiz Sr. and me!

It is these types of extraordinary efforts that clearly qualify them for the acknowledgement that they received last week and I certainly thank them both for their “Distinguished Service” and congratulate them on the much deserved recognition.

For those of you who could not attend and missed their speeches, you are in luck, because I not only had a great seat at breakfast, but I also had my flip camera!

I highly recommend that you take a moment to watch both speeches, both represent great examples of who California flower farmers are and highlight why California’s flowers are truly America’s flowers.

The full speeches from both Joe Sr. and Lane can be found below:

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Joe Ortiz Sr. Speech

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Lane DeVries Speech