Star Valley Flowers Draws A Record-Breaking Crowd

200 Guests Enjoyed An Enchanting Evening On The Flower Farm

Photo by Kelleghan Productions Inc.

 

The table was set for 200. That’s quite a table!

Certified American Grown hosted a record-breaking crowd during this weekend’s American Grown Field to Vase Dinner at Star Valley Flowers in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin.

Originally set for 150, the table grew to 175 and then to 200, breaking the previous record of 183 in Detroit in 2015.

“It really isn’t about the number of people,” explained Kasey Cronquist, Certified American Grown Administrator and emcee of the award-winning national dinner tour. “We really focus on our guest experience and have always wanted to keep the experience intimate, but we had a lot of demand and a willing farmer embraced the idea of  ‘the more the merrier.’ So, it just kept growing and it all turned out beautifully.”

One guest commented, “even though there were 200 guests, it felt intimate. The setting could not have been lovelier and the weather was perfect.”

Another first for the tour was bench seating. The beautiful wooden farm tables were accompanied by matching wooden benches. The benches complimented the family-style dining experience and tradition of the tour, and made for some beautiful photography.

Erick New (left) and Greg Campbell of the Garden District in Memphis were responsible for the floral tablescape and install for the evening. Authors of Florists to the Field, Erick and Greg signed books for guests during the reception.  Photo by Kelleghan Productions Inc.

Of course, the floral-focused evening wouldn’t have been as magical without the incredible talent of Greg Campbell and Erick New of The Garden District. The dynamic duo created one of the most dramatic tablescapes we’ve ever seen, complete with beautiful pussy willow arches that covered the table and accented by the bittersweet berries that Star Valley Flowers is known for. Stunning fall-colored arrangements flowed down the entire length of the table.

“The decorations, including the flowers, were over the top; kudos to the floral designers who came in from Tennessee.” ~ Sharon C.

The team at Driftless Cafe, lead by Chef Luke, did an outstanding job with the menu for the evening. And the response from attendees was outstanding, with praise for every single course. The main course was organic beef tenderloin provided by Organic Valley, one of the evening’s sponsors, and headquartered just down the road from Star Valley Flowers.  The menu was paired beautifully with the wine provided by Geyser Peak.

Chef Luke from the Driftless Cafe.  Photo by Kelleghan Productions Inc.

It was a beautiful evening on the farm. The weather held and the sunset was picturesque. Diners were able to meet an American flower farmer, hear from the floral designers about their aesthetic and what makes designing with homegrown flowers special and converse with other flower lovers throughout a multiple-course meal.

Guest Laura M. shared, “The evening was so beautiful. I loved the chance to walk around the farm and hear some comments from John and Phil. We were so glad John allowed a few more people into the dinner. The lovely women I sat across from gave me a hug at the end of our evening. We sat down with strangers and left as friends.”

Guests left happy, arms full of flowers and enjoying the ever popular Field to Vase Dinner swag bag. It was a perfect early fall evening where 200 strangers became friends and the love of flowers sealed the deal.

Certified American Grown Leader to Serve on PMA’s Floral Council

Cronquist will serve on PMA’s Floral Council.

Certified American Grown Administrator Kasey Cronquist has been selected to serve on the Produce Marketing Association’s 2018-19 Floral Council.

Kasey Cronquist, Administrator of Certified American Grown and CEO and Ambassador of the California Cut Flower Commission.

Floral Council representatives provide input and guidance to help deliver year-round value to members of the association and to retain and recruit membership.

In addition to his new role with PMA, Cronquist was a speaker at the association’s 2017 Fresh Summit held last fall.

In his role as administrator of Certified American Grown, Cronquist has worked closely with floral mass marketers on the award-winning American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour and recently helped to drive mass market sales through the American Grown Flowers Month Merchandising contest in July.

Cronquist’s term on the council begins in September.

 

Celebrity Chef Deb Paquette Collaborates with Chef Richard Jones During Nashville Field to Vase Dinner

Move over, Grand Ole Opry House and The Bluebird Cafe. These icons certainly draw in country music fans of all ages, but Deb Paquette of Etc. and Etch is the reigning rock star of Nashville eats. She’s also the first woman in Tennessee to qualify as a certified executive chef  – which makes our announcement that she’ll be the chef at the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner in Nashville on October 5 even more exciting!

Known for her bold flavors, Paquette is now introducing a swanky vibe into her 30-year culinary career in the country music capital.

“They’re right! I grew up in a creative family and was encouraged to express myself,” she told local reviewers. “I was allowed to paint the walls in my room how I wanted and to paint a scene in our bathroom of a kid flying a kite and a big tree. When you’re a creative person, you have to give yourself the opportunity to express yourself.”

Which is why everything that comes from Paquette’s kitchen – from tacos and burgers to banana soup, filet mignon with horseradish celery creamed potatoes and peach upside-down cake – is an exciting and playful experience.

Chef Richard Jones of Green Door Gourmet will collaborate with Chef Deb Paquette on the menu for our October 5 American Grown Field to Vase Dinner event in Nashville, TN.

Chef Paquette will be collaborating with Green Door Gourmet’s own Chef Richard Jones. Chef Jones joined the team at Green Door Gourmet in 2012 to help educate consumers on the value of community supported agriculture (CSA’s). Prior to Green Door, Chef Jones served as a personal chef for musical artists including Sugarland, the Zac Brown Band, U2 and Keith Urban. You can learn more about Chef Jones and his efforts to “change the face of true farm-to-fork dining,” here.

Together, the talented duo will be developing the multi-course menu for our guests to enjoy on the farm.

 

Imagine enjoying a beautiful and delicious menu surrounded by the vibrant beauty of American Grown Flowers.  Our Nashville dinner brings together the best of both at Green Door Gourmet.

This is a combination of culinary talent you do not want to miss. Few tickets remain, so be sure to book your seats for this special tour stop.

 

Safeway Launches Certified American Grown Debi Lilly Bouquet

Bouquet Debuts in Stores During American Grown Flowers Month

They say timing is everything! That’s absolutely the case when it comes to the recently released Certified American Grown Debi Lilly bouquet, now available at Safeway’s Northern California stores.

After all, the bouquet began arriving in stores in July, which Congress has declared American Grown Flowers Month. Perfect timing.

The design features lilies, gerberas and lisianthus and is available in a range of hues – pinks, yellows and oranges. All flowers in the bouquet are grown by Pyramid Flowers in Oxnard, California, a Certified American Grown flower farm and marketed by B-Fresh Floral.

“I love these beautiful bouquets and soft summer color palettes to help celebrate American Grown Flowers Month,” shares Lilly. “This Certified American Grown bouquet is a Debi Lilly dream come true. I’m so proud to share this design and support our American flower-farming families.”

Lilly first announced plans for the Certified bouquet at the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner held at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California, in April. From there, Crystal Hedgpeth, floral sales manager for Safeway’s Northern California Division, worked with Lilly and Albertson’s corporate team, to launch the program.

 

“This Certified American Grown Debi Lilly Bouquet is a wonderful addition to our flower program and quickly becoming a customer favorite,” explained Hedgpeth. “Since our pilot launch earlier this month, we’ve already sold over 5,000 bouquets which actually helped drive a positive sales lift in our bouquet category across all of our stores.”

To be labeled Certified American Grown, the bouquet is required to be 100 percent American Grown Flowers and assembled in the United States. The farm providing the flowers is also required to go through a third-party audit (administered by Where Food Comes From out of Castle Rock, Colorado) to ensure the flowers provided are American Grown.

“This is just the beginning,” said flower farmer Fred Van Wingerden of Pyramid Flowers. “We love working with Debi and Safeway and look forward to producing our farm-fresh flowers for customers everywhere.”

Declared in 2017 and again in 2018, July continues to be officially recognized by Congress as American Grown Flowers Month. The Debi Lilly bouquet will continue to be offered by Safeway throughout the year and going forward.

It’s Here! Our Most Important Publication of the Year!

Welcome To the 2018 American Grown Farm & Flower Guide

It feels like Christmas morning here at Certified American Grown!

Why? We just received the 2018 American Grown Farm & Flower Guide, perhaps our most important publication of the year.

Our largest and most beautiful edition yet! You’ll want to make sure to get a copy for yourself.

The guide features profiles of America’s flower farms, a floral arrangement gallery, an illustrated glossary of ALL American Grown Flowers and a national directory of hundreds of flower farms from throughout the United States. It’s chock-full of flower photos, examples, descriptions and stories from America’s flower-farming families.

This resource is a must-have for wholesalers, florists and flower-lovers everywhere – and it’s never been more vibrant and informative.

Subscribers to Florists Review and SuperFloral magazines will receive the guide with their September issue, but if you just can’t wait or would like one now, just let us know! (Special thanks to our friends at Florists Review for helping us produce this beautiful guide!)

Email our very own Andrea Philpot at andrea@americangrownflowers.org to get one headed your way!

Breathtaking doesn’t begin to describe it …

Flower Farmer Beth Van Sandt Discusses the Doors That Opened Post-Dinner Tour

 

Beth Van Sandt of Scenic Place Peonies in Homer, Alaska, was in on the ground floor of the Certified American Grown Flowers movement. As Van Sandt puts it, she saw the value of the certification early on and knew there would be benefits from American flower farmers coming together under a single brand.

Beth Van Sandt and her husband, Kurt Weichhand on their peony farm in Homer, Alaska.  Photo by Joshua Veldstra Photography.

In fact, Scenic Place was the first farm in Alaska to become Certified American Grown.

Left to Right; Jerry Hagstrom of the Hagstrom Report, Tim Dewey of Delaware Valley Wholesale, first lady Melania Trump, Kasey Cronquist, administrator for Certified American Grown, Beth Van Sandt of Scenic Place Peonies and Kurt Weichhand of Scenic Place Peonies.

But that was just the starting point for Van Sandt who has since leveraged nearly every aspect of the brand, including attending the First Lady’s Luncheon in Washington, D.C., that features all American Grown Flowers and hosting an American Grown Field to Vase Dinner on her farm in 2017.

The tables were filled with flower-loving guests at the Scenic Place Peonies Field to Vase Dinner.  Photo by Joshua Veldstra Photography.

And oh the connections and opportunities that came from that dinner!

“The exposure the Field to Vase Dinner gave our farm made us recognizable and gave us a seat at the table industrywide. People know who we are now,” Van Sandt explains. “Wholesalers who may not have looked at us in the past see us as a reputable farm today.”

 

While volunteering for the the First Lady’s Luncheon in 2017, VanSandt met floral designer Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore. The two hit it off, and later Shore agreed to be the designer for Field to Vase Dinner at Scenic Place Peonies. “Sitting at the table and meeting the designers, that was a great opportunity and it helped us promote the dinner tour at the farm,” Van Sandt recalls.

(Photo: Beth Van Sandt and Kelly Shore, of Petals by the Shore, designing arrangements for the First Lady’s Luncheon)

 

And when the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour came to Homer, the real fun (and exposure) began!

Florists Review did a feature on the dinner and included lots of images from the farm.

While in Alaska, Shore did a photo shoot featuring Van Sandt’s peonies for the Slow Flowers section of Florists Review, helping to further the exposure of Alaskan peonies for the industry to see.

And, last but not least, thanks to an introduction to Cal Poly Pomona Plant Sciences Department Chair Valerie Mellano, wife of Mellano & Company’s Mike Mellano (both who attended the dinner at Scenic Place Peonies), Van Sandt was able to start an internship program with four Cal Poly students.

Cal Poly students are spending their summer interning at Scenic Place Peonies learning about flower farming as a result of the connections made during the Field to Vase Dinner at Beth’s farm.

But how does Van Sandt know hosting the dinner tour stop was worth it?

“My phone blows up continuously with requests and my email inbox is always full. That’s proof that it worked. And it correlates with more cuts and more shipments out the door,” Van Sandt says.

Since hosting the dinner last summer, Van Sandt has continued her efforts to raise the profile of her Certified American Grown peonies, including having her Certified American Grown-branded truck in the Homer Fourth of July parade, along with Cal Poly interns wearing flower crowns!

And she shares the unique benefits and opportunities that come from connection to the brand with all who will listen.

Organic Valley Just Took the Next Field to Vase Dinner Up a Notch!

We promise American Grown Field to Vase Dinner guests an artisanal meal in the blooming fields of an American flower farm. It’s our brand standard. Thanks to our partners Organic Valley and Organic Prairie, that standard will be taken to a new level at our Sept. 8 dinner at John Zehrer’s Star Valley Flowers in Soldier’s Grove, Wisconsin.

In the ancient Driftless hills of southeastern Wisconsin, several local food and farming powerhouses will join their considerable talents to create a magical evening guaranteed to dazzle your senses.

 

We can’t wait to see what Driftless Café owners, chef Luke Zahm and wife, Ruthie, will do with the scrumptious organic ingredients provided by Organic Valley, Organic Prairie and more than 200 regional organic farmers as they craft the special menu for this dinner tour stop.

 

 

 

Organic Valley, a farmer-owned cooperative representing more than 2,000 organic farmers in 35 U.S. states, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, along with its Organic Prairie meat company, is providing a long list of organic foods, including its signature Grassmilk® cheeses and Organic Prairie beef tenderloins.

And we’re thrilled for Organic Valley’s support and look forward to supporting its founding mission of saving family farms through organic farming – and its regional model of producing, bottling and distributing milk where it’s farmed to ensure fewer miles from farm to table and to support our local economies.

Sounds a lot like our goals at Certified American Grown!

Oh, and in addition to enjoying an organic menu, guests will also find an additional treat from Organic Valley in their Field to Vase Dinner swag bags!

In the meantime, get to know Organic Valley by following @OrganicValley on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Then save your seat for this once-in-a-lifetime dinner!

During American Grown Flowers Month, You Can’t Miss Alaskan Peonies

There’s nothing like a field of peonies to positively impact your mood.  Even their names can brighten your day: Sequestered Sunshine, Blaze, Festiva Maxima.

Photo: Alaska Peony Cooperative

The peony’s beauty is certainly at the root of its popularity status with flower fans and brides. Available in every color but blue, the flower is popular in bridal bouquets (they are seen as a symbol of good luck) and are the superstars in summer arrangements and in bunches to bring home.

Photo: Jacqueline Patton Photo

Alaskan peonies just happen to be in all their glory in July – which is also American Grown Flowers Month! So we’re celebrating these gems, along with the thousands of other varieties grown right here in the U.S.

Photo: Arctic Alaska Peony

Here’s what you need to know about American-Grown peonies:

Alaska’s warm summers and perpetual daylight are the fuel peonies need to grow larger, bloom more vibrantly and enjoy a growing season that’s three weeks longer than in other locations. But it’s the state’s famous cold winters that are the secret ingredient: herbaceous peonies need a minimum of 400 hours of temperatures below 40 degrees and tree peonies need between 100 and 300 hours in that colder ground in order to flower.

Photo: Alaska Perfect Peony

The Alaska Peony Cooperative, formed in 2015 to help support the state’s burgeoning flower industry, has grown from a handful of farms with fewer than 1,000 stems to nearly a dozen growers expecting to sell a total of 40,000 stems this year.

“The secret is out: Our peonies are fantastic,” explains farmer Martha Lojewski.

Scenic Place Peonies’ delivery truck sports a new truck wrap showcasing the beauty of these stunning blooms, while proudly waving the flag for Certified American Grown.

Certified American Grown peony farms include Alaska Peony Cooperative, Alaska Perfect Peony, Arctic Alaska Peonies Co-op, Boreal Peonies, Cool Cache Farms, Giggly Roots Gardens, Joslyn Peonies, Scenic Place Peonies and Slimtree Farm.

Look for Certified American Grown peonies throughout American Grown Flowers Month in July and into August. You’ll be glad you did!

 

 

The East Coast’s Largest Flower Farm Becomes Certified American Grown

Bloomia, the largest cut flower farm on the East Coast, has become the latest Certified American Grown Farm.

With a mission of spreading happiness via sustainably grown flowers, Bloomia is committed to providing consumers with top-quality flowers at affordable prices that are grown in conscious ways. Bloomia even has a Sustainably Manifesto to back its commitment.

Bloomia grows nearly 100 million flowers a year, including tulips (year-round), hyacinths, muscari and peonies (seasonally) in 46 acres of temperature-controlled greenhouses. Most of the flowers are grown hydroponically in greenhouses equipped with biological control systems and incorporating precise techniques to avoid chemical use.

In addition to sustainability and energy-efficiency efforts, Bloomia believes in giving back. With initiatives like Blooms for Hope, the Field of Tulips and The Bloomia Market, Bloomia and its customers have donated thousands of dollars to help communities in need through amazing partners charities like DC Central Kitchen that aims to break the cycle of hunger and poverty.

If the Bloomia brand sounds familiar, that’s because the farm’s flowers can be found at Wegmans, Whole Foods, Kroger, Woolworths, Kroger, Harris Teeter and Trader Joe’s.

“Bloomia is a global company with operations in four continents, with each having the same commitment and focus at the local level. Our passion drives us to deliver the best possible floral experience to the end consumer,” says Evan Kerkhoven, sales and purchase manager at Bloomia. “Becoming Certified American Grown is an honor. American Grown embodies the same goal and passion for flowers we thrive on every day.”

Bloomia joins 56 other farms that have become Certified American Grown, giving consumers confidence in the source of their flowers and assuring them that the flowers they purchase come from a domestic American flower farm.

“This is very exciting,” shared Certified American Grown Administrator Kasey Cronquist, “Certified American Grown has become the most prolific origin-based brand in the floral industry. With Bloomia’s certification, the program now represents over half of all domestic production of cut flowers and greens.”

If you want to learn more about Bloomia, you can visit their website, blog or follow them on Instagram!

Why not join the #originmatters movement by becoming the next Certified American Grown farm? There’s no better time to get on board than during July – American Grown Flowers Month!

 

America Is In Season

By Bill Prescott of Sun Valley Floral Farms

“Flowers are the angels, whereby they write on the hills and fields mysterious truths.” 
 – Benjamin Franklin 

Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776; as of today, there are 56 Certified Flower Farms in the United States … coincidence? Yes!

Welcome to American Grown Flowers Month!

This is an opportunity for flower farmers large and small to step up their games and make July a record sales month! There’s no better time to shine the light on flowers grown in the United States.

It may surprise you to learn that there are 56 Certified American Grown farms in the U.S., and applications have been streaming in daily from flower farms across the nation. Know a flower farmer? Forward them this blog; now’s the perfect time to get certified and plug into this groundswell movement. (No Pun Intended!)

Flowers at Monticello

The resolution declaring July as American Grown Flowers month notes that the U.S. Senate recognizes: that purchasing flowers grown in the United States supports the farmers, small businesses, jobs and the U.S. economy; that growing flowers and greens in the United States is a vital part of the U.S. ag industry; and urges “all people of the United States to proactively showcase flowers and greens grown in the United States in order to show support for our flower farmers, processors and distributors as well as agriculture in the United States overall.”
This thinking is what led to the bipartisan resolution designating July “American Grown Flowers Month.” Yes, Democrats and Republicans actually agreed on something, which is in itself a cause for rejoicing!

Celebrating Independence Day with American Grown flowers on the table makes sense. The likes of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington always had American Grown flowers on their tables, right? It would have been weird to call them British Grown. Did this lead directly to the American Revolution?

Check out Jefferson’s epic Celosia and single-bloom Tuberose. Nice!

Books have been written about George Washington’s gardens at Mount Vernon, and if someone has made a vase in the image of your head, well, you must be a serious flower-lover.

A George Washington bust tulip vase!

Have a great flower-filled Fourth of July and American Grown Flowers Month!