Culinary Artist Will Wow at Alaskan Dinner Tour Stop

When you visit Alaska Coastal Catering’s website, the photos are both mouthwatering and breathtaking, making it easy to see why the chefs there refer to themselves as “culinary artists.”

Now for the big news: Guests at the Aug. 3 American Grown Field to Vase Dinner at Joslyn Peonies in Homer, Alaska, will get to experience multiple courses of Alaska Coastal Catering’s artistic creations. 

And the menu will feature the best Alaska has to offer. Think salmon, stripe shrimp, homegrown carrots, local oysters and sauces from Alaska blueberries. And the bounty of seafood to be served is being sponsored by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), ensuring incredible quality and freshness. 

Chef Susie Von Willer Linford has an impressive Alaska-inspired menu prepared for guests of the Homer Field to Vase Dinner.  Photo Courtesy of Alaska Coastal Catering, LLC.

Alaska Coastal Catering’s Corporate Chef and Managing Member Susie Von Willer Linford’s wealth of experience includes catering for the executive chefs of Disney Corporation, Warner Brothers, Prudential Commercial and Safeco in Southern California. Since coming to Alaska in 1993, she’s continued her culinary adventure by creating memorable events featuring the best seafood, meat, fruits and vegetables Alaska has to offer! 

Photo Courtesy of Alaska Coastal Catering, LLC.

It’s that approach that has earned her Best of Alaska recognition from Alaska Business Monthly Magazine from 2016-2018. And Linford was also a 2018 nominee for the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef” in the Northwest. 

And per Field to Vase Dinner tradition, Linford’s multi-course artisan meal will be paired with local wines and craft beers, and a floral-themed cocktail.

You can enjoy this delightful Alaskan meal while surrounded by gorgeous peonies and flower-loving friends when you reserve your seat at the table today. Photo by Joshua Veldstra Photography

Guests will also enjoy an oyster bar, and will leave with armfuls of flowers and a swag bag packed with floral-themed treats.

With food and goodies like this, seats are going fast. Save your seat today and taste all Alaska has to offer! 

 

[Press Release] Kasey Cronquist Stepping Down as Administrator of Certified American Grown

Kasey Cronquist is stepping down as administrator of Certified American Grown. His last day will be July 12.

Kasey Cronquist, Administrator of Certified American Grown, led the program to become the largest consumer-facing brand promoting origin in the industry. Photo by Ashley Noelle Edwards.

The Certified American Grown Council will be working closely with the board of the California Cut Flower Commission to help with the transition of the program’s leadership. It’s expected that an interim leader will be appointed to handle day-to-day operations as it begins a search for a new executive.

“Thanks to Kasey’s dedication, vision and enthusiasm, Certified American Grown is now the largest consumer-facing brand promoting the origin of flowers in the floral industry. America’s flower-farming families will miss Kasey and want him to know how grateful we all are for the many accomplishments our program has achieved as a result of his leadership which he so selflessly gave to us. We wish him and his family the very best,” said Rita Jo Shoultz, owner of Alaska Perfect Peonies and a member of the Certified American Grown Council.

“It has been an honor to have been a part of establishing the Certified American Grown campaign for America’s flower and greens farmers,” Cronquist said. “Now representing over half of all domestic cut flower and greens production, the program is positioned for tremendous growth and opportunity to encourage consumer preference and win back market share for our domestic flower farmers.”

Cronquist has been named president of the North American Blueberry Council (NABC) and U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC). In his new role, starting July 29, he’ll serve all blueberry industry members by providing oversight and insight on the USHBC’s robust national promotion, health research and education programs.

 

About Certified American Grown Flowers

Launched on July 1, 2014, Certified American Grown Flowers represents a unified and diverse coalition of U.S. flower farms, including small and large entities in multiple states across the country. Certified American grown flower farms participate in an independent, third-party supply-chain audit to verify both origin and assembly of the flowers they grow. When it appears on bouquets, bunches and other packaging or store signage, the Certified American Grown Flowers logo gives consumers confidence in the source of their flowers and assures them that the flowers they purchase come from a domestic American flower farm. For more information about Certified American Grown Flowers, visit www.americangrownflowers.com.

 

American Grown Act Would Require Homegrown Flowers, Greens In U.S. Government Facilities

It’s so obvious, and such a great idea, that it’s surprising it’s not already common practice.

Under the American Grown Act, flowers purchased by the federal government would be required to be American Grown.

If the federal government is going to buy and showcase cut flowers and greens at events, memorials, to be displayed at national cemeteries or even for the day-to-day arrangements featured in the White House, shouldn’t they be grown in the U.S.?

Alaska Congressman Don Young, a member of the Congressional Cut Flowers Caucus, recently introduced legislation that would require the U.S. federal government to purchase cut flowers and greens grown in the U.S. for use in its facilities. The legislation is deemed the American Grown Act.

Congressman Don Young reviews production and market share information on American Grown cut flowers and cut greens.

Consumer research commissioned by the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC) found that 74% of consumers have no idea where flowers come from. Therefore, the average taxpayer likely assumes the flowers they see displayed at national cemeteries, federal buildings and government events would naturally be grown in the U.S. However, the fact is that imports, primarily from South America, now make up approximately 80% of the flowers sold in the U.S.

Without this mandate, imports are likely making up the bulk of the flowers purchased by the federal government.

In proposing the legislation, Young said requiring the federal government to use American Grown Flowers and Greens to decorate its facilities shows support for American flower and greens farmers and raises awareness of the beauty they grow.

“It seems like a no-brainer that the United States should be putting American farmers first by choosing not to import cut flowers,” Young said. “Unfortunately for the federal government, this is not the case. American farmers are hugely disadvantaged by the foreign growers that are subject to fewer environmental regulations and labor standards, and it is time Congress does something to help our country’s farmers compete. Putting our farmers first starts at the top, and I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation. I encourage my friends on both sides of the aisle to do right by the flower and greens farmers in their districts and sign on to this important effort.”

Alaskan Flower Farmer Rita Jo Shoultz with Congressman Don Young.

“Once again, Congressman Young’s support and leadership to raise awareness and advocate for our Alaskan flower farmers is greatly appreciated,” said Alaskan peony farmer Rita Jo Shoultz of Homer, Alaska, and a member of the Certified American Grown Council. “The American Grown Act is something that makes sense and is a wonderful way to acknowledge and support our hardworking flower-farming families across America.”

Benno Dobbe, a flower farmer in Washington state and California advocates on behalf of America’s flower farming families in Washington, D.C. each year.

“This is great news for U.S. cut flower farmers because the bill will bring special attention to the beautiful flowers and greens we grow,” said Benno Dobbe, a flower farmer with farms in Washington State and California. “It will definitely highlight our products and is an outstanding PR opportunity for flower farmers.”

We couldn’t agree more!

The bill has received support and endorsements on the Hill and around the country. Each of the six co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Cut Flower Caucus, including Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Rep. Salud Carbjal (D-CA), Rep. Ducan Hunter (R-CA), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Rep. Chillie Pingree (D-ME) and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) are original co-sponsors of the bill. Additionally, the legislation has received quick organizational endorsements from Certified American Grown, the Alaskan Peonies Growers Association, AmericanHort, California Farm Bureau Federation, California State Floral Association and the CCFC.

More information on the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus can be found at carbajal.house.gov/district/congressional-cut-flower-caucus.htm

More information about the American Grown Act can be at bit.ly/HR3019

A Dining Experience Bursting with Color

A Saturday dinner on the town is always fun but rarely a work of art. Meals that satisfy more than just your hunger simply aren’t a routine experience for most Americans.

But on Saturday, June 1, diners have a chance to make memories rather than mark time over a plate when the 2019 American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour makes a stop at Bloomia USA in King George, Virginia.

Guests of the King George Field to Vase Dinner on June 1 will be amazed by the beautiful table and the incredible menu that awaits them.  Photo provided by Petals by the Shore.

 

The twists begin with hors d’oeuvres that include crazy carrot, Occasions Caterers’ take on traditional Mexican street corn, but with whole sumac roasted baby carrots drizzled with mayonnaise and dusted with a cotija and queso fresco blend. Or delight in golden beets rolled around carrot matchsticks and house-smoked goat cheese mousse and served over crumbled maple pistachio pralines. There’s also crispy wonton cones with lemon chicken and red endive with citrus-cured salmon to anticipate.

Executive Chef Sina Molavi of Occasions Catering will delight guests with the lavish menu he will prepare.

 

 

So it’s no wonder your taste buds are swooning for the main course, served family style among the stunning tulips in this unusual greenhouse setting.

 

 

 

 

 

Bring a healthy appetite because you want to enjoy every bite of char-grilled strip loin rubbed with a spring herb and green mustard mix; grilled branzino medallions served on a bed of fennel and tomato drizzled with lemon-infused olive oil; and carrot barlotto, toasted barley prepared risotto style after simmering with white wine and rich chicken stock and topped with butter, shredded parmesan cheese and fried carrot ribbons.

Save room, too, for the cauliflower salad with opal basal vinaigrette, roasted beet salad and lemon-black salt grissini breadsticks.

The menu for the evening is designed to compliment the rainbow of colors displayed in the tablescape, including this violet cauliflower in the salad.

 

It’s a flavor medley that won’t surrender to the ordinary. And that’s even before they serve the strawberry couronne with milk snow and basil cream along with a French press coffee service for dessert. When the final act involves chocolate mousse, strawberry streusel crunch and almond frangipane finished with red velvet chocolate, milk snow and basil cream, you know you’ve skipped over the rainbow.

Save your seat now for this dreamy evening at Bloomia USA, where the food and flowers will have you in awe.

 

But just in case you lose your way, the dinner’s renowned wedding floral designer, Kelly Shore, plans to create a cornucopia of color using the fresh tulips from the Bloomia farm across the table and serving each dish from the section of the table with its matching flowers.

Kelly Shore of Petals by Design is creating the colorful tablescape that has inspired this unique and delightful menu.

 

The experience begins at 5 p.m. This dinner will be a breath of fresh air in your dining life with a bounty of beauty and color for all your senses.

Tickets for the King George dinner are limited, so reserve your seat today!

American Grown Flowers Star at 107th First Lady’s Luncheon

America’s flower farmers proudly contributed their blooms to the 107th Congressional Club’s First Lady’s Luncheon.  Photos by Kirsten Smith Photography.

Twelve hundred boutonnières. One hundred, forty-four table arrangements. Eighteen VIP room arrangements. Six cascading head table designs. Two enormous floral photo walls. And a 107 year tradition.

All created using American Grown Flowers and Greens and taking center stage at the 107th First Lady’s Luncheon hosted by the Congressional Club on May 14 in Washington, D.C.

Co-lead by Mary Kate Kinnane of The Local Bouquet and Christi Lopez of Bergerons Flowers, this was the fourth year that Certified American Grown provided the flowers for this bipartisan tradition.

American Grown Flowers and Greens were elegantly displayed on each of the one hundred, forty-four tables welcoming guests of the First Lady.

America’s flower famers proudly sent over 21,000 stems of flowers from farms across the country to the event. A team of 20 designers, backed by a 10-person support team, worked for three days to transform the Washington Hilton Ballroom into an amazing display of the beauty that is represented in our homegrown flowers.

The amazing design and support teams were made up of designers and farmers from all across the nation, giving their time and talent to this worthy and memorable cause.

Christi Lopez (left) and Mary Kate Kinnane (right) co-led the team that masterfully designed the floral arrangements and installations for the First Lady’s Luncheon.

“This has truly become a wonderful opportunity for our organization to be a part of this bipartisan tradition of honoring our country’s First Lady, while showcasing what our American flower and greens farms can do,” shared Certified American Grown Administrator Kasey Cronquist. “From the flowers sent by our farms, the transportation provided by DVFlora, the vases from Accent Decor, the hardgoods and flower food from Smithers-Oasis, the amazing volunteer design team – everyone came together to make this happen.”

A sincere thanks goes out to this year’s lead designers Mary Kate Kinnane and Christi Lopez for their hard work, leadership and amazing design vision!

Thank you to the following flower farms for contributing flowers and greens to this year’s luncheon:

California

  • Camflor
  • Dramm & Echter
  • Eufloria
  • Gallup and Stribling
  • Green Valley
  • Kitayama Brothers
  • Mellano & Co
  • Menagerie Farm & Flower
  • Myriad
  • Ocean Breeze Farms
  • Ocean View Flowers
  • Pajarosa
  • Pyramid Flowers
  • Resendiz Brothers
  • Westland Orchids

Florida

  • FernTrust

Virginia

  • Bloomia
  • Harmony Harvest

Washington

  • Continental Floral Greens
  • Holland America Flowers

A big thank you to the following design team members:

  • Jessica Allder
  • Stephanie Auville
  • Maggie Bailey
  • Mickey Bailey
  • Jennifer Baker
  • Brittany Brady
  • Laura Cavanaugh
  • Julie Christina
  • Jennifer Figge
  • Pia Geraghty
  • Quan Gorbachevski
  • Hosanna Guttierez
  • Pamela Hale
  • Jessica Hall
  • Crystal Hedgpeth
  • Tonya Jones
  • Betty Joslyn
  • Franceska McCaughen
  • Sue McKenzie Tendall
  • Jennifer Michel
  • Courtney Rosenbalm
  • Tina Rosenbalm
  • Les Saltzman
  • Melissa Saltzman
  • Julia Marie Schmitt
  • Kelly Shore
  • Carrie Wilcox
  • Nancy Zimmerman
  • Wayne Zimmerman

Florists, How Will You Celebrate American Grown Flowers Month?

Certified American Grown Wholesaler DVFlora Can Help!

 

Last year, DVFlora surprised and delighted many of its customers with its DV Crush program during American Grown Flowers Month – a hand-curated box of American Grown Flowers that designers used to create a magical arrangement, share on social media and then be entered to win a credit for flower purchases.

 

This July, DVFlora is taking it to the next level!

In addition to the crush boxes, DVFlora is offering a downloadable marketing kit to help florists promote American Grown Flowers month to their customers and drive business to their stores in July, a traditionally slow time for flower sales.

 

 

The materials in the kit, including social media graphics, email headers and pre-designed flyer, will be available for download from DV’s website in early May, says John Burk, e-commerce project manager for DVFlora. The collateral can also be used to inspire American Grown Flowers displays in their stores.

Last year, designers all over the country posted their unique designs created with the American Grown Flowers received in their DV Crush package.

 

 

But that’s not all. DVFlora will also offer eight weeks of specials on flowers and greens from Certified American Grown farms in July and August as part of its summer celebration program. Watch for aggressive discounts and the opportunity to win a trip to California to visit several Certified American Grown farms, Burk says.

There will also be giveaways of Certified American Grown Swag, a contest to win a trip the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Sept. 7 at Ocean View Flowers and floral design demo videos using all American Grown Flowers!

Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore, submitted this breathtaking image taken of her DV Crush flowers.

And florists who are committed to spreading the #originmatters message and designing with homegrown flowers can now use DVFlora’s dedicated online directory to quickly and conveniently purchase Certified American Grown Flowers and Greens. Just one more way DVFlora, the nation’s first Certified American Grown Flowers distributor, is meeting floral industry and consumer demand for homegrown flowers!

Andrea Gagnon of LynnVale Studios shared her excitement about celebrating American Grown Flowers month with flowers from her DV Crush box.

 

Ideas like these make it easy for florists to fight the summer flower sales slump and give customers the American Grown Flowers they crave!

Fox Hollow Peonies Becomes a Certified American Grown Farm

Beauty Replaces Ashes at This Alaskan Farm

 

Fox Hollow Peonies, a Certified American Grown farm, has its roots in near total disaster.

In 2008, a forest fire threatened to destroy the home of Milt and Wanda Haken in Nenana, Alaska, a town of about 400 people in the interior of the state, 54 miles from Fairbanks.

Although the fire burned thousands of acres, the Hakens, along with neighbors and firefighters, were able to save their house. But they were left with a completely charred landscape.

The Hakens slowly cleared the burned property, and used the wood to heat their home. But what they were left with, Wanda says, was “a large, open field in need of a mission.”

What once was acreage burned by fire, is now fertile soil for 5,000 peony plants grown by Fox Hollow Peonies. Photos provided by Fox Hollow Peonies.

The Hakens discovered that mission in a roundabout way. Wanda, a school counselor, attended a class at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, on connecting students to the food they eat by bringing agriculture into the classroom. During the class, the head of state’s agriculture division was a guest speaker who gave an overview of state’s industry.

“She said, ‘If I had any land right now, I’d be putting in peonies,’” Wanda said. “She said, ‘Peonies are going to be Alaska’s next gold rush.’”

The class later went on a tour of North Pole Peonies, one of only three peony growers in the state’s interior at the time. It was there that Wanda learned about Alaska’s niche in the global peony business: The flowers bloomed in July and August, a time when no one else in the world had peonies for sale.

“I went home that day and told my husband, ‘I know what we’re putting in that field we cleared.’

“Of course, he’s mister macho man – he’s a retired police officer, a Teamster – and he says, ‘We’re putting in flowers – you’ve got to be kidding me.’”

The next weekend the university put on a seminar for people interested in growing peonies that was led by Patricia Holloway, the horticulturist who discovered that peonies could grow in Alaska. Wanda wasn’t able to attend, so she sent Milt.

“He came home and said, ‘Yep, that’s what we’re going to do,’” she said. “So, we ordered our first roots that fall.”

That was in 2010. Since then the Hakens have gradually expanded their operation, and they now have 5,000 peony plants and 21 varieties.

Growing peonies wasn’t a complete stretch for the couple. Both come from generations of farmers in the Midwest and they spent time on relatives’ farms growing up. Wanda has always had a garden and a greenhouse and had dabbled in selling some produce locally, such as tomatoes.

Still, getting Fox Hollow Peonies off the ground took some trial and error. Their first set of plants had a hard time breaking through the heavy soil. Before planting their next group of roots, they reached out to other growers who showed them how to amend the soil to create a better growing environment.

“We had real good success with them coming up the second year,” she said.

For the business side, the Hakens teamed up with other growers in the area to form a co-op – Arctic Alaska Peonies. The Hakens were a founding member of the co-op that now numbers 20 farms. They share marketing efforts, chillers for their flowers and negotiate for the best deals on shipping and supplies.

Wanda is a member of the co-op’s marketing committee and makes it a point to spread the word about Alaska peonies wherever she goes.

“Whenever I travel, I spend a day or two doing nothing but marketing,” she said. “I pack materials and go visit all the florists, all the garden centers and wholesalers wherever I am. There are still a lot of people out there who haven’t heard that Alaska has peonies in July, August and September.”

Wanda and her husband Milt have found an unexpected calling as peony growers.

Wanda has spent her career in education but in Fox Hollow Peonies she may have found her true calling. She recalls taking a career interest survey as senior in high school and it came back showing that she should explore the floral industry. So focused was she on becoming a teacher that she thought that idea was “ridiculous” and “crazy.”

Looking back now, she says the survey probably picked up on her affinity for gardening, her creative streak and the desire to work outside.

“I just enjoy working with plants,” she said. “I’ve started making bouquets for the farmer’s market here and I think that’s my favorite part of the whole thing.”

Wondering What a Field to Vase Dinner is Like?

These Photos Capture the Magic!

If you’ve always wanted to attend an American Grown Field to Vase Dinner but haven’t yet, or if you’re a past guest who’d like to relive the magical experience, check out these incredible photos from the first stop on this year’s dinner tour!

Guests were awed by the rainbow of colors surrounding this beautifully designed table and the Pacific Ocean within view.  Photo by Carrie McCluskey Photography.

 

Mike A. Mellano of Mellano and Company, was the host for the evening and led guests on a farm tour sharing both the history and the science behind farming at The Flower Fields. Photo by Carrie McCluskey Photography.

 

Smithers Oasis and FloraLife sponsored the boutonniere bar where guests had a fun opportunity to make their own.  Photo by Carrie McCluskey Photography.

 

Wine and hors d’oeuvres were enjoyed before the dinner began.  Photo by Carrie McCluskey Photography.

 

Our inaugural 2019 dinner was held last week in Carlsbad, California, at The Flower Fields and was hosted by Mellano & Company. Guests dined in fields of ranunculus at tables bursting with homegrown flowers, thanks to floral designer René van Rems, who added an extra splash with fresh flower chandeliers overhead!

Featured designer, René van Rems, created these amazing floral chandeliers that graced the ceiling of the table.  Photo by Carrie McCluskey Photography.

 

Photo by Carrie McCluskey Photography.

 

Take a look that the photos. Then take a deep breath and imagine yourself at one of these dinners!

Every guest went home with an armful of flowers and swag!  Photo by Carrie McCluskey Photography.

We’ve got five more stops on this year’s tour and seats are going fast!

 

Christi Lopez Announced as Floral Designer For Alaska’s American Grown Field to Vase Dinner

Lush, Audacious Tablescapes to Star at Alaska's Field to Vase Dinner

Floral designer Christi Lopez of Bergerons Flowers in Springfield, Virginia, will be the featured designer at the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner at Joslyn Peonies in Homer, Alaska, Aug. 3.

Christi Lopez will be the featured designer at Joslyn Peonies in Homer, Alaska for the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner in August.  Photo by Joshua Veldstra

Guests can count on Lopez to bring her contemporary garden style to the tablescapes and other arrangements at the event, along with a love for peonies and a respect for the American flower farmers that grow them.

“I’m excited to return to Alaska where just last year I was able to experience the amazing peonies and meet the farmers as part of a field trip with other designers,” Lopez shares. “I fell in love with the peony farmers and with Alaska.”

Tours through the Alaskan peony fields will be a highlight of the weekend with Christi Lopez and Betty Joslyn.  Photo by Joshua Veldstra

And although she doesn’t know yet what peony colors she’ll be working with, she’s heard that a big harvest is expected this year – and that’s great news for dinner guests who can’t get enough of these glorious blooms!

Christi will be responsible for designing the tablescape for our guests to enjoy. Photo by Joshua Veldstra

“They’re big, fat, audacious blooms and they make it easy to create a garden-style look that’s a pleasing and popular part of today’s floral design trends,” Lopez says.

Save your seat to this experience of a lifetime in Alaska. Photo by Joshua Veldstra

Expect multiple vessels overflowing with just-picked peonies and natural elements from the environment to give an Alaskan feel, Lopez describes.

“It’s the colors and the heavy petal essence of the bloom that enamors people,” Lopez says.  “And the best part is that I’ll be designing with these blooms at a time of year when no one else around the world grows them. Having access to that is amazing!”

The popularity of peonies and Lopez’s design aesthetic means that the remaining 20 seats for this dinner will go fast!

Make sure you have a spot at the table in Alaska!

 

Make Mom’s Floral Dreams Come True!

Field to Vase Dinner Tour is the Ticket

Mother’s Day (May 12) is fast approaching, but there’s no need to fret about what to get Mom this year!

Make her floral dreams come true with tickets to an upcoming American Grown Field to Vase Dinner. Two tour stops provide just the right timing!

The American Grown Field to Vase Dinner is a great mother and daughter opportunity.

 

Choose the June 1 dinner at Bloomia USA in King George, Virginia, and mom can dine among thousands of blooming tulips. Bloomia also grows hyacinth, peonies and muscari, but the rows and rows of tulips will steal the show at this stop.

Or, if you’re on the West Coast, choose the June 12 tour stop in Sacramento, California. Here, Mom will dine on the lawn of the state Capitol at tables adorned with the hundreds of flower varieties grown throughout the Golden State. She’ll experience and entire state’s worth of blooms at one event!

Consider making a memory with mom that she’ll never forget.

 

Both dinners include a multi-course artisan meal, wine and craft beer, a create-your-own wearable floral flair station and a swag bag full of flower-related goodies.

Choose your location to make Mom’s floral dreams come true! Seats are selling fast at both locations, so reserve now!

King George, Virginia

Sacramento, California

Bring mom to the flower farm!

 

Mom will love you for it!