It’s American Grown Flowers Month!

We’re Celebrating All Month Long and So Can You!

For the third year in a row, Congress has designated July American Grown Flowers Month, recognizing the economic and cultural impact of America’s cut flower and greens farmers. It’s an amazing form of recognition right at the height of flower season! 

And there are so many ways you can participate in the celebration and help spread the word that origin matters! 

First place winner at King Soopers Store 112 in Bennett, CO. during our 2018 American Grown Flowers Month contest.

First, you can look for the amazing American Grown Flowers displays from retailers participating in the second annual American Grown Flowers Month Merchandising Contest. You’ll find special presentations and supporting collateral in many Safeway, Albertsons, Vons, Bristol Farms, Lazy Acres, Big Y, Whole Foods, Reasor’s, Grocery Outlet and Ovallarta Supermarket stores. 

Look for the Certified American Grown label when you reach for a bouquet at your local store, this month and every month.

Grab some American Grown Flowers and Greens when you see them and encourage your family and friends to do the same. With 7 stores participating, it’s easy! 

Florists, you can also look to DVFlora for its celebration of American Grown Flowers Month that includes downloadable marketing materials and eight weeks of specials on flowers and greens from Certified American Grown farms throughout July and August.

Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore is one designer that is committed to using American Grown Flowers and supporting the farms that grow them.  Photo provided by Petals by the Shore.

And florists who are committed to spreading the #originmatters message and designing with homegrown flowers can use DVFlora’s dedicated online directory to quickly and conveniently purchase Certified American Grown Flowers and Greens. 

Finally, you can have a conversation about homegrown flowers with all of your connections. That might be in person, in an email or by sharing about American Grown Flowers Month on social media. 

Now’s the time to spread the word about the bounty and beauty of American Grown Flowers and Greens that are at their peak in July! 

 

[Press Release] Alaska Peony Farmer Rita Jo Shoultz Appointed First Chair of Certified American Grown Council

Flower Farmer Rita Jo Shoultz of Alaska Perfect Peony has been appointed the first-ever volunteer chair of the Certified American Grown Council.

Rita Jo Shoultz of Alaska Perfect Peony has been a staunch advocate for American flower farms, taking the lead on vital issues in Washington, D.C., during the annual fly-ins. Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

Shoultz was previously the District 1 (Alaska) representative on the council.

The Certified American Grown brand is led by a council of American flower farmers and industry advisers. The members of the council are flower and greens farmers from throughout the United States who are committed to a unified promotional and advocacy effort that establishes an identifiable and iconic brand that communicates to the public the domestic origins as well as the high quality, freshness and consistency of American Grown Flowers.

Shoultz was a 2014 nominee for Champions of Change for the Future of Agriculture and was named a winner of the 2018 Small Business Championship by SCORE, a network of volunteer expert business mentors.

Photo Courtesy of The Homer News

She also worked to have Homer, Alaska, declared the “City of Peonies,” and started Main Street Homer, a task force working to revitalize downtown Homer through economic and cultural development, historic preservation and advancement of the arts.

In another change to the Certified American Grown Council, Diana Roy, business manager for Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers, has been appointed to represent District 2 (California). Roy was selected to replace Bruce Brady who recently left the floral industry to pursue other efforts.

Diana Roy of Resendiz Brothers Protea speaking to Congressman Jimmy Panetta (right) during a reception in Washington, D.C., has been a consistent voice for American flower farms. Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

Roy has combined her passion for flowers with her background in public relations to help make Resendiz Brothers one of California’s largest suppliers of South African and Australian flowers – not to mention an international leader in protea farming. She has worked tirelessly to increase consumer awareness and influence floral trends to drive sales of protea flowers and foliage.

Photo courtesy of Resendiz Brothers Protea Flowers

Roy is a past chair of the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC) and a frequent educator on protea growing worldwide.

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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.

Join Us in Supporting America’s Flower Farmers

Hardworking American flower farmers who grow some of the highest quality and most beautiful flowers and foliage need your support.  Pssst … helping takes just a few seconds!

 

The American Grown Act, a new act introduced in Congress, would require that all flowers and greens purchased by the federal government for events, memorials, displays at national cemeteries and day-to-day flowers at the White House come from American flower farms.

Makes sense, right?

That’s why we’re asking all floral designers, wholesalers and retailers (and taxpayers!) to add their names to our growing list of supporters of H.R. 3019 American Grown Act.

Alaska peony farmer and Certified American Grown Council member Rita Jo Shoultz with Congressman Don Young in Washington, D.C., last February.  Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

The act, introduced by Alaska Congressman Don Young, also a member of the Congressional Cut Flowers Caucus, enforces something we think the entire floral community can get behind – requiring the federal government buy American Grown Flowers for use in its facilities.

Bottom line: It’s the right thing to do.

If you agree, we’d appreciate you adding your name to our growing list of supporters.

Just sign on and start spreading the word to your colleagues and friends!

America’s flower and foliage farmers matter. Origin matters. Your voice matters.

Help us ensure that the flowers at the center of our government’s events are as American as the dollars that fund them. Photo by Susie & Becky Photography.

René van Rems Brings His Magic To The Flower Fields of Carlsbad

The Flower Fields of Carlsbad attract nearly 300,000 visitors a year who come to bask in the breathtaking beauty of rows and rows of blooming flowers. Visiting the fields is a 26-year agri-tourism tradition. But another tradition for flower lovers, the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour, celebrated its fifth year at The Flower Fields on April 18.

Guests toast to another evening to remember at the 2019 Carlsbad Field to Vase Dinner.  Photo by Carrie McCluskey Photography.

It was a sold-out event at the site where, since 1993, Mellano & Company, a Certified American Grown farm, has grown 800 million stems of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus.

René van Rems created a stunning dining room in the middle of The Flower Fields, complete with floral chandeliers.

Floral designer and educator René van Rems was this year’s feature designer. He also led a one-and-a-half day workshop April 17-18 where participants learned about tabletop vignettes, large display-style arrangements and floral chandeliers, and helped create the designs for the dinner’s tablescapes and other installations.

Mike A. Mellano shares both the history of Mellano & Company as well as the science behind growing beautiful flowers and greens.  Photo by Carrie McCluskey Photography.

Flower farmer Mike A. Mellano, Ph.D., CEO of Mellano & Company, provided guests with a tour of the farm and flower production prior to dinner and welcomed everyone who came to the event. Mellano acknowledged his team of growers, highlighting the team effort and hard work that it takes to keep a flower farm blooming in California.

Photo by Carrie McCluskey Photography.

Guests then dined on a multi-course artisan meal at tables overflowing with ranunculus, created wearable floral flair at the tour’s famous boutonnière bar, learned about the American tradition of flower farming and left with armfuls of homegrown blooms.

A gorgeous boutonniere bar invited our guests to the enjoyment of making their own.  Photo by Carrie McCluskey Photography.

One guest shared their experience saying, “There’s no way to truly share how incredible it was to sit between vibrant rows of orange ranunculus on both sides of the tables. The table was covered with orange, and the centerpieces were lined down the center of the tables in mass. Lights hung above us and the conversation was stimulating, meeting other flower lovers across the table. The location is stunning with the ocean as a backdrop.”

The American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour heads to Virginia next, stopping at Bloomia on June 1.

Don’t miss out on the 2019 tour!

Denali Peonies Earns Certified American Grown Status

Farm Thives in Alaska’s Peony-Friendly Environment

Steve and Dawn Brefczynski got an unexpected dividend from their son’s college education: the family’s own peony farm.

Brandon was attending the University of Alaska when he learned about the state’s burgeoning peony growing business through a roommate’s thesis on the topic. He suggested to his parents that they start growing peonies on the five acres where they live outside Fairbanks, Alaska.

“He said, ‘Hey, we should grow those,’” Steve said. “I said, ‘OK, we can put in a hundred or so.’ He said, ‘Oh no Dad, go big or go home.’”

They took their son’s advice in 2012 and went big. Or at least as big as two people can handle. They now have 3,000 peony plants around their home and on an adjacent five acres they recently bought. They started with about 1,000 plants and then added another 2,000 after clearing the property next door.

They call their Certified American Grown farm Denali Peonies. Their first harvest in 2016 yielded 1,250 stems, followed by 2,500 the next and 4,500 last year. This year, they’re expecting to harvest 8,000 stems.

The Brefczynski’s family peony farm began as a suggestion from son Brandon, while he was attending the University of Alaska. Photos courtesy of Denali Peonies.

 

It’s their first venture in commercial agriculture. Their only growing experience was the vegetable gardens they’ve tended in Alaska and in their home state of Wisconsin, from where they moved 25 years ago. They’ve also done it while working other jobs: Steve does carpentry and tile work and has a saw-sharpening business; Dawn is an ICU nurse at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

They’re now firmly a part of the burgeoning Alaskan peony business that their son’s roommate was writing about.

Here’s a thumbnail version: In the early 2000s, a pilot project by University of Alaska horticulturist Patricia Holloway found that the flowers thrived in the state’s long summer days. What made Alaska peonies a viable cash crop was that they are ready for harvest in July and August, a time when the rest of the world’s annual supply of peonies had been picked and sold.

It also coincided with the summer wedding season, which the big, showy blooms seem tailor-made for. And the flowers are relatively lightweight and perfect for export via air. Alaskan peonies have been an amazing success story: The state went from a handful of growers in 2004 to more than a hundred today.

The Brefczynskis learned how to grow peonies through classes offered by the Alaska Peony Growers Association. They attended the group’s conferences and took part in farm tours. They’ve also gotten help from Carolyn Chapin, the owner of Polar Peonies and one the state’s first peony growers, who has offered valuable advice.

Denali Peonies is a growing farm which began in 2012 and now includes 3,000 peony plants around their home and an adjacent five acres with an expected yield of 8,000 stems this year.

 

The other part of the Brefczynskis’ successful equation is hard work.

“You don’t realize how labor intensive it is to get started,” Steve said. “Every plant has to have hole drilled for it into the ground. And everything has to be mounded, so you have to figure out how you’re going to make these mounds that are a hundred feet long. And after the plants are in, you have to put in the irrigation.”

And then there’s selling the flowers.

“To be honest, the growing and the picking are the easy part,” Dawn said. “Marketing and the business end are the hardest part.”

They plan to step up their internet marketing this season and do more of their own shipping. They just launched a new website in April (denalipeoniesak.com).

But Denali Peonies isn’t all business. There’s a family component, too.

“We enjoy our peony farm as it has brought our family closer together to do activities,” the Brefczynskis say on their website. “Our three children, eight grandchildren and sisters have all helped with the peony farm, whether it’s weeding, picking or preparing the flowers for shipping.  It’s been a joy to have them all help to get our farm up and going.”

Certified American Grown is Leveraging Pinterest, Are You?

Certified American Grown has been working diligently to grow our presence on Pinterest, and we’ve seen a great return on our efforts, creating a monthly viewership of over 14,000 in just three months.

We’re finding this platform is a great way to share the #originmatters message, and of course the amazing photos of Certified American Grown Flowers and Greens. And we expect this number to continue to grow as we deliver new content to the platform, interact with users and leverage analytics to share more of the photos, products and stories users are interested in.

We’re posting great tips on floral topics like boutonniere bars, flower crowns, floral photo backdrops and tablescapes, to name a few.

The success we’re having on Pinterest prompted us to ask: Are you leveraging Pinterest for your business?

Social media pro K.C. Cornwell points out that Pinterest is often an overlooked social media platform, largely because many businesses aren’t quite sure how to use it. But there’s hope.

“Pinterest is relatively easy to use and it’s full of people ready to discover your business, try your idea, or buy your product,” Cornwell says. “It’s also one of the last platforms where your content can be seen without having to pay to get it in front of people, provided it’s good information with beautiful photos. In fact, Pinterest is the top web traffic source after Google for many North American influencers.”

If you’re taking the time to create blog posts, video or photo galleries, if you have a venue for rent or host events, or you sell products to consumers, consider signing up for a free business account on Pinterest or reinvigorate the account you already have, Cornwell advises. “It’s a useful tool to build traffic to key pages on your website and help new customers find you.”

Here are her additional tips for success on Pinterest:

  • Verify your website. Claiming your website on Pinterest gives you access to the analytics feature that allows you to see what content viewers save the most and which posts send the most traffic to your website. It also causes your profile picture to show up on any pins that come from your site, allowing consumers to find your account and your brand more easily.

 

  • Pin a mix of content. Pinterest is a virtual pinboard, a place for discovering and curating ideas, goods and goals. It’s considered “spammy” to pin predominately your own content and the site will stop showing your pins if they’re all from your own website. Instead, pin a mix of your blog posts or products along with other items your customers might be interested in: weddings, home design, travel to your area, decor, etc.

 

  • Create “optimized pins” for your content. Optimized pins are vertical images that incorporate descriptive text with attractive photos that relate to the webpage they are linked to. The optimized pins can be added to your website or uploaded directly to Pinterest and linked.

Diamond Ridge Peonies Earns Certified American Grown Status

From the Ocean to the Farm in Homer, Alaska

After 40 years of running a charter fishing business in Homer, Alaska, Gerri Martin and her husband, Sean, have embarked on a retirement plan that really isn’t very retiring.

They decided to start a completely different business.

Photos provided by Diamond Ridge Peonies.

They’re in their sixth year of growing peonies on their 15 acres of property that overlooks Kachemak Bay. Diamond Ridge Peonies, a Certified American Grown farm, is just starting to hit its stride as the Martins ease themselves out of their fishing business, North Country Halibut Charters.

It’s the culmination of a plan that began years ago as the couple looked at what lay ahead for them. The seed for Diamond Ridge Peonies was planted during a conversation Gerri Martin had with a friend.

Gerri Martin shows off an armful of the peonies that fill her life now.

 

 

“I was grousing about being kind of tired of the charter fishing business with one of my girlfriends here in town and she said, ‘Oh you should start growing peonies. It’s like waking up in the morning with your cup of coffee and walking down and watching your flowers grow.’

“I thought, wow, that’s sounds pretty fun.”

 

 

 

At that time, peonies had just taken off as a crop in Alaska. In the early 2000s, a government pilot project found that the flowers thrived in the state’s long summer days and were ready for harvest in July and August, a time when the rest of the world’s annual supply of peonies had been picked and sold. It also coincided with the summer wedding season, which the big, showy blooms seem tailor-made for. And the flowers were relatively lightweight and perfect for export via air. Alaska went from zero peony farmers in 2004 to more than 200 by 2014.

Diamond Ridge Peonies sits on 15 acres in view of Kachemak Bay, a perfect spot to grow gorgeous peonies.

 

The Martins got serious about growing peonies a couple years after Gerri’s conversation with her friend. They knew their 15 acres were an ideal spot for growing peonies. Their lack of farming experience did not faze them.

They attended the Alaska Peony Growers Association to learn more and got involved in that group’s new growers program. What the Martins found was a community of Alaskan peony growers who are eager to help newcomers.

“The environment up here is enthusiastically helpful about this new industry,” she said. “If you’re going to be growing peonies, everybody up here wants you to be growing the best dang peonies there are. Everybody is just super encouraging.”

Gerri Martin said getting a peony growing operation is more slow than difficult. Three years after planting, the Martins sold some flowers at a kiosk at their charter fishing business. But it wasn’t until year four that it was really a business.

“Our fourth year was big for us,” she said. “We were really happy to be able to sell all of our flowers. Our field just busted open and it was amazing.”

Last year, the Martins harvested 40,000 stems and they’re looking forward to another bountiful harvest this year.

To sell their flowers, the Martins have relied on a couple of big wholesalers. But they also sell via the internet and market through Instagram and Facebook.

“We all want to sell to the brides because that’s the top dollar,” she said. “But last year we had 40,000 stems and there’s not that many brides out there. So, we have to diversify. We have a pretty good balance.”

Getting Diamond Ridge Peonies off the ground has been a lot of hard work but has gone relatively smoothly. Martin credits that to the fact she and her husband have run their own business for 40 years.

“We know how to network with people because we’ve done it for years,” she said. “Yes, it’s another business, but it’s not entirely different.”

Looking to the future, the Martins expect one of their two sons to take over as their farm manager. Their other son is a fishing boat captain. For the time being, they are content with their operation.

“We think we are where we want to be,” she said. “I think our potential is sitting right there in that field as it matures.”

Are You Following Farmer Fridays?

Don’t Miss These Stories of American Flower Farmers!

Every Friday across our social media channels, we’re celebrating American flower farmers with Farmer Fridays!

 

These stories on Facebook and Instagram highlight Certified American Grown flower and greens farmers, the varieties they grow, the sustainable methods they use and why they love to grow fresh flowers and greens.

 

Click on the image above to see this post and more on our Instagram page.

 

It’s our way of sharing the bounty and diversity of homegrown flowers, and connecting followers to the age-old art and science of flower farming in America.

 

Are you following Farmer Fridays? Doing so will not only surprise and delight, it just might connect you to those special blooms grown right here in the U.S.

 

These are also great stories that you can share too. After all, we’re finding these posts are engaging audiences and spreading far and wide, so we certainly encourage you to share these stories on your social media platforms as well.

 

Click on this image to see the post about Kitayama Brothers and others like it on the American Grown Flowers Facebook page.

 

Highlighting your connection to the farm, our farmers and their flowers is a powerful connection for your customers to see. 

 

Find these stories and more at @AmericanGrownFlowers.

Sutton Ferneries Earns Certified American Grown Status

Farm Creates Its Own Niche in Fern-Rich Florida

The company that is now Sutton Ferneries got its start more than 30 years ago in the back of a Honda hatchback.

It was in that Honda that Michelle Sutton was going door to door to Miami’s florists selling ferns that her former husband’s family was growing on a farm in central Florida that they had recently bought. Sutton would receive the foliage via the U.S. mail and then put it in her home’s bathtub with ice to keep it fresh until she would make her rounds.

That was the humble beginnings of Sutton Ferneries, a Certified American Grown farm, that now employs 130 people at its farms in central Florida and its processing facility in Doral, Florida. It sells its ferns and foliage to retailers, wholesalers and mass-marketers in the United States and around the world.

All that hard work in going door to door amounted to an education in the floral business that formed the basis of Sutton Ferneries.

The team at Sutton Ferneries.  Photos supplied by Sutton Ferneries.

“They got me where I’m at,” said Sutton, the company’s president. “They taught me everything that I needed to know about running my business in the sense of understanding what the needs of a retail flower shop are and what was the demands of the consumers are.”

Sutton has flipped the usual model of being a grower that has expanded its sales.

“We weren’t farmers and then selling,” she said. “We were selling and then had to work our way back to figure out how we could get the product we needed because we weren’t getting it from the growers.”

One of the catalysts for the company’s growth was timing. In those early days, Sutton’s contacts with Miami florists eventually led to businesses that were just starting to make bouquets for supermarkets.

“Once we got in with them, we start started having problems with supply. We didn’t have enough supply,” she said.

While seeking new farms to buy from, Sutton discovered she couldn’t get the quality she needed. Buying ferns in bulk resulted in too much waste. Her customers weren’t traditional wholesale buyers. They were using every single stem.

“There were very rigid requirements,” she said. “The quality had to be excellent and all the stems had to be good and it was just very difficult.”

It was a challenge to get growers to understand that Sutton wasn’t just being picky or trying to cherry pick their crops. The company was just responding to the market.

“Retailers would tell you straight up, ‘I’m not buying from you again,’” she said. “And it was the same with the bouquet makers.”

That led to Sutton getting into the growing business. At first, they leased acreage from an existing grower before buying their own property and adding to it over the years. They now have about 100 acres.

Sutton Ferneries consists of 100 acres of ferns and foliage sold to retailers, wholesalers and mass-marketers in the United States and around the world.

“We learned the (growing) business, from getting cutters to crew leaders to packing and the whole operation,” she said.

Existing growers “were very traditional and that wasn’t really working for us. So, we had to basically get our own crews, train them on the exact specs that we wanted and have them go in our fields and cut to meet those requirements for us.”

By the mid-1990s, Sutton Ferneries had established itself. Since then, it has had to adapt as demand and tastes have changed. As the bouquet business shifted to South America in the mid-1990s, Sutton turned to creating new products, such as its Ready to Go Greens, which are premade arrangements of greens that require retailers to just add flowers.

 

Sutton has also embraced the supermarket sector as the business has shifted away from traditional flower shops. During her career, Sutton said she has seen retail florists in Miami dwindle from about 1,500 to less than 60.

Although florist shops make up a smaller part of her business, Sutton still sells to some of the same florists she started selling to from the trunk of her car. She appreciates the lessons they provided her when she was starting out.

Sutton is proud the company has continued to grow in the face of harsh blows delivered by Florida’s sometimes devilish weather. The company has survived the Storm of the Century in 1993 and multiple hurricanes, tornadoes and freezes. The risk is so great that business insurance isn’t available, Sutton said.

“We’ve been through multiple catastrophic losses over the years between freezes and hurricanes,” she said. “You name it, we’ve gone through it.

We’ve been able to stay on course, see beyond the problems and maintain a vision for the future,” she said. “I don’t give up.”

When a Flower Farmer Goes to Washington, D.C.

Working "The Hill" in a Farmer's Own Words by Quinton Tschetter

A very interesting and productive trip took place February 25-29 when a delegation of flower farmers went to Washington, D.C. I was among them.

Carolyn and Quinton Tschetter were an integral part of the 2019 DC Fly-In, bringing the concerns of flower farmers to Capitol Hill. Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

 

During our time at the nation’s capital, we met with various members of Congress or their representatives. I’m happy to report that, for the most part, our concerns were well-received. In fact, the response to the plights we shared often were: “I didn’t know that was the situation! What can we do to help?”

 

A very productive meeting was had with Cut Flower Caucus Co-Chair, Congresswoman Jamie Herrera-Beutler of Washington state. Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

 

From my personal perspective, the best, most productive meetings I was involved in were with Congresswoman Jamie Herrera-Beutler of Washington state, a co-chair of the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus; NASS, the statistics branch of the USDA; Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney; and representatives of the U.S. customs and border protection group.

 

Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney took time to meet with our farmers and showed great interest in their concerns. Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

 

McKinney was very receptive and knowledgeable and our discussion with customs and border protection representatives was very deep and interesting discussion. I have to say, our meeting with these folks started out with a strong defense of their position and abilities, but seemed to come around to an understanding that they were not accomplishing what they thought was their mission of protecting the integrity of “country of origin” labels.

 

Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

 

It was so satisfying to see the success of our group in presenting the core concerns of American flower farmers over the several days we were there. The unity within the group was refreshing and our concerns were well-received at least 90 percent of the time.

 

Quinton helped create boutonnières for the Wine & Flowers Reception hosting representatives and their staff and inviting them to join the Cut Flower Caucus.  Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

 

The one issue that’s yet to be realized, even though it was well-presented, is whether we will be successful in getting the White House to commit to exclusively using American Grown Flowers for their events. I look forward to hearing the outcome of that very important ask.

 

Quinton and Carolyn Tschetter after a meeting with Senator Joni Ernst’s office.

 

Bottom line: Our efforts to Make American Flowers Great Again seemed to be successful. I encourage other flower farmers to join the team next February for the annual fly-in.