Meet Red Twig Farms

Varieties, events are ever-expanding on this flower farm

At Red Twig Farms in New Albany, Ohio, old-fashioned farming has met the Instagram age.

But it didn’t start out that way at this Certified American Grown flower farm. In 2010, the McCullough family opened the farm as a place to grow willow and dogwood branches for the family’s landscaping business. But that was a one-season crop and there was unused acreage.

Josh andLindsey McCullough have grown Red Twig Farms using the modern tools of social media. Photo by Bob Stefko.

The next year, the family added peonies, which were a hot commodity at that time. When the peonies were mature in 2014, the family sold to florists and wholesalers as well as at local farmers markets. But the peonies didn’t fare well at farmers markets where the warm temperatures caused them to open up and rendered any leftover inventory unsellable.

That’s when the family decided to create a farm store on its property and try to get people to come to the peonies rather than taking peonies to the people. That way, the flowers could be kept in a controlled environment at optimal temperatures.

The missing part of the equation was how to get people to the farm. That’s where social media came in. And it was the second generation of the McCullough family running the farm – son Josh and his wife Lindsey – who spearheaded the push. Lindsey handles the farm’s marketing while Josh attends to the growing operation.

The farm kicked off the opening of its farm store in 2016 with an event to mark the opening of peony season. Lindsey, who has a degree in marketing and e-commerce, took to Facebook to promote the event. That first year, 168 people came out.

“We just kept marketing it through social media,” Lindsey said. “Josh did a couple articles locally and Midwest Living (magazine) found us through Instagram and they wanted to be a part of it. In 2017, that season opener we had more than 1,400 adults come through. And it all came through social media.”

The event has continued to grow. More than 2,000 people attended in 2018.

“We’ve started advertising for what we’re calling Peony Fest 2019 for the opening day and we’re nearing 14,000 people interested,” she said. “We’re obviously going to have to make it a couple-day event.”

The season opener was just the first of the farm’s successes that got an assist through social media.

In March, the farm started a subscription service where people could sign up for weekly deliveries of peonies during the season for two to five weeks. The goal, Lindsey said, was to get flowers to customers in nearby Columbus who had expressed via Facebook messages that they wanted peonies but didn’t have time to get to the farm. The service started with a goal of 50 customers; the farm had to stop taking new customers after 94 people signed up.

The farm’s VIP Peony Harvest Experience has also been a hit. The event, limited to 40 people, takes participants into the fields that are usually closed to the public, and Josh explains the ins and outs of growing peonies. Those on the tour are then allowed to harvest two dozen peonies themselves. The first year the event sold out in two hours.

“They do everything we do and they have a blast doing it,” Lindsey said.

Social media also has played in recruiting workers. When the farm needed staff for its farm store, the word when out via Facebook. It was customers who responded and were ultimately hired. For Lindsey, who better to sell the farm’s product than happy customers.

As much as modern marketing methods have played a role in its success, one of the farm’s goals is to remind people of the natural rhythms of agricultural life.

Red Twig Farm posted a great example of their pride in the program on their Instagram page.

“We just want to keep educating everybody and bring back some farming that people might have forgotten or are just so busy doing social media that you forget what it’s like to be out there,” Lindsey said. “We want to show people the other side of cut flowers. Yes, it’s the pretty pictures on Instagram but there’s also a lot of hard work that goes into it and long hours. There’s trial and error in everything you do. Just because it works this year doesn’t mean it’s going to grow next year. We want to showcase that, the real side to it.”

The farm, which has grown from harvesting 8,000 peonies in 2015 to 30,000 in 2018, aims to continue expanding its offerings. The goal is to build up the subscription service with new flowers, which would allow the service to operate in March and April in addition to the peony season in June. Daffodils, tulips and ranunculus are among the possibilities. Flowers will be planted this fall for early spring harvest.

“There’s a whole list of flowers that we’re looking at and saying to ourselves, ‘Can we do this?’” she said.

Of course they will! We can’t wait to see what Red Twig Farm will do next.

 

Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers Earns Prestigious Marketer of the Year Award

Certified farm Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers received this year’s “Marketer of the Year” award from the Society of American Florists’ Floral Management magazine.

Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers, a Certified American Grown Farm, has earned the 2018 Marketer of the Year Award from the Society of American Florists’ (SAF) Floral Management magazine for its successful efforts to bring protea to the national stage.

Flower farmer Mel Resendiz and Diana Roy, business manager for Resendiz Brothers and a past chair of the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC), accepted the award Sept. 14 at the SAF Annual Convention in Palm Springs, California.

The Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers team with Dwight Larimer of Design Master, the sponsor of the $5,000 prize money.

The prestigious award recognizes a unique, innovative and successful marketing effort that increased the overall sales volume of cut flowers. The award includes a $5,000 cash prize.

In presenting the award, Floral Management’s Editor in Chief Mary Westbrook noted that Resendiz Brothers’ myriad marketing efforts put protea on the national scene, creating real, growing demand for a product that was previously virtually unknown in the U.S.

Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers will be featured on the front cover of Floral Management magazine.

How?

Resendiz and Roy took advantage of every marketing opportunity they could find, including hosting an American Grown Field to Vase Dinner on their Fallbrook, California farm, participating in SAF’s Petal It Forward campaign, bringing protea to the floral designs at the annual First Lady’s Luncheon and donating protea to Rose Parade Floats.

They also used their passion, flower knowledge and thousands of incredible photos to share protea with wholesalers, designers and consumers garnering media coverage with an estimated value of $1.7 million.

 

Every effort, big and small, was designed to increase consumer awareness, influence floral trends and drive sales of the previously anonymous protea.

In accepting the award, Roy thanked Resendiz Brothers customers who have made protea part of their daily inventory as well as floral designers who are incorporating protea into their arrangements. She also announced that Resendiz Brothers is collaborating with farmers from around the world to bring new protea varieties to the U.S. market.

Mel Resendiz welcomes guests to his farm during the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner in April.  Photo by Carrie McCluskey Photography.

“So many of our marketing efforts are about the education process and making sure that people know these flowers are grown right here in California. We’re proud that many of our marketing tactics were tied to supporting the homegrown flowers message,” Roy said. “I see winning this award as a boost for California flower farmers and for floral designers who are meeting the requests of consumers who are now seeking out protea.”

Mel Resendiz with Harry VanWingerden of Myriad Flowers on the Miracle Gro float during the 2016 Rose Parade.

As the Marketer of the Year Award winner, Resendiz Brothers’ efforts to promote protea will be the cover story for the October 2018 issue of Floral Management.

Previous winners of the award, now in its 25th year, include the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner, an app that drives customer loyalty and engagement, a re-imagined florist’s business in Pennsylvania and a campaign by Lane DeVries of Sun Valley Floral Farms to engage and encourage the floral industry to celebrate Women’s Day.

WF&FSA Institute Attendees Visit Certified American Grown Farms

Participants in the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association’s (WF&FSA) Management Institute recently made stops at two Certified American Grown flower farms – Kendall Farms in Fallbrook, California and Mellano & Company’s farm at San Luis Rey. The stops were part of the institute’s third annual “road trip.”

At the San Luis Rey farm, institute participants (aka young and aspiring wholesale executives) were given a 90-minute walking tour by farmer Mike A. Mellano.

Photo by Carrie McCluskey Photography.

At Kendall Farms, guests were treated to a bus tour of the farm and a walking tour of the warehouse with farmer Jason Kendall. Conversations continued during a networking happy hour and a farm dinner served on wood tables and chairs made on-site in the Kendall Farms workshop. Each attendee left with a complimentary Kendall Farm grocery tote and farm poster.

“We love to build relationships with the industry the old-school way – sitting down and breaking bread,” shares Kendall Farms sales director Cathy McClintock.

Photo courtesy of Kendall Farms

WF&FSA board member Alan Tanouye, general manager of Americas at Floralife and a past president of WF&FSA, says that those who participate in the institute benefit greatly from seeing how others in the floral industry run their businesses. “It gets people jazzed to see how varied the floral industry is, how hard people work and how much passion they have,” Tanouye shared.

He noted that participants were impressed by the scale of the Mellano farm, the quality of the flowers and what they’re doing with water issues. “The Mellano team speaks so well about what they are doing and experiencing,” Tanouye says.

And he called Kendall Farms one of the most beautiful places in the world! “Everyone said we should be paying more for Kendall’s product. When you see how hard they work on those slopes to plant and harvest and care for the products, it’s really impressive – you can just see the passion there.”

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.

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!

 

 

American Flower Farmers, Designer Head to China on Trade Mission

Christy Hulsey of the Colonial House of Flowers will join Certified American Grown for a trade mission in China.

 

A delegation of American flower farmers, accompanied by Certified American Grown Administrator Kasey Cronquist and renowned floral designer Christy Hulsey of Colonial House of Flowers, is headed to China on a trade mission focused on market development activities.

 

 

During the trip, the group will meet with targeted importers, wholesalers and retailers in Beijing, Shanghai and Kunming to establish contacts and present business information. They will also tour the largest Chinese cut flower growing region in Yunnan Province to gain an understanding of production, its market structure and distribution network.

Last year, a delegation from Certified American Grown met with industry representatives in China.

 

The delegation headed to China this year includes:

  • Kasey Cronquist, Certified American Grown
  • Lane DeVries, Sun Valley Floral Group
  • Christy Hulsey, Colonial House of Flowers
  • Robert Kitayama, Kitayama Brothers
  • Cathy McClintock, Kendall Farms
  • Jim Omoto, Kendall Farms
  • Mel Resendiz, Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers
  • Diana Roy, Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers
  • FJ Trzuskowski, Continental Floral Greens

The trip is a result of months of work by Certified American Grown to secure federal grant funds through the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) to develop export markets for American Grown Flowers.

In 2017, Certified American Grown conducted a comprehensive assessment in China to determine the Chinese market potential for increased sales of American Grown Flowers and greens. A five-member team of U.S.-based experts traveled to China to assess the market. As a result, several U.S. flower farmers began shipping to China.

Standing in front of the floral American flag she designed, Christy Hulsey declares her pride in American Grown Flowers.

As part of this trip, designer Hulsey, a longtime friend of Certified American Grown and last year’s Mayesh Design Star. Hulsey was responsible for creating the beautiful all-American Grown American flag installation at WFFSA in 2016 and served as a lead designer for Certified American Grown at the First Lady’s Luncheon in 2017. She will be bringing her design prowess to events being held with flower buyers in Beijing and Shanghai.

As a lead designer for the event, Christy Hulsey brought her talents and love of American Grown Flowers to the First Lady’s Luncheon in 2017.

 

Certified American Grown Flower Farm Named ‘American Small Business Champion’

Alaska Perfect Peony Recognized For Its Dedication to Community, Entrepreneurship

Flower farmer Rita Jo Shoultz of Alaska Perfect Peony has been recognized before for her efforts to improve her industry and community.

In 2014, she was a nominee for Champions of Change for the Future of Agriculture, earning her a trip to the White House. But she was still surprised by the most recent honor her Certified American Grown farm earned – being named a winner of the 2018 Small Business Championship.

Rita Jo has also been a powerful force at our annual Washington DC Fly-In, advocating on behalf of America’s Flower Farmers. Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

Shoultz, a member of the Certified American Grown Council, competed with a pool of more than 1,100 applicants and was selected as a champion through a combination of online voting and judging by a panel of small-business experts. The application asked each entrepreneur to describe the unique aspects of their small business that have contributed to their success, their positive impact on the community and their plans to use the prizes to grow their business operations or revenue.

Rita Jo Shoultz in one of her favorite places

“We were really surprised and very honored,” Shoultz says of the win. “Cut flowers don’t always get a lot of recognition.”

That recognition is well-deserved. After all, in addition to running the farm, Shoultz has worked to have the Homer 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.

The “champion” designation nets Shoultz an all-expense-paid trip to a training and networking event and the chance to win one of three $15,000 grand prizes. Should she win, Shoultz says she’d use the funding for marketing efforts and to look into selling her peonies in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Championship is hosted by SCORE, a network of volunteer expert business mentors, and is supported by Sam’s Club.

 

CamFlor Expanding Its Acreage, Flower Varieties

“It’s like holiday shipping all year round for us.” – Carlos Cardoza, sales manager, CamFlor

Carlos Cardoza has an enviable problem. He can hardly keep up with demand for the novelty flowers grown at CamFlor in Watsonville where he’s the sales manager.

A beautiful field of eucomus at CamFlor in Watsonville, CA.

 

Since 2012, CamFlor has been growing at a steady rate of 10 to 12 percent a year. Some months it’s closer to 30 percent.

Something had to give.

In addition to recently renewing a 50-acre lease for flower-growing land, CamFlor is adding another 60 acres. And it’s purchasing excess equipment and plants from nearby farms.

“It’s been a good move. Our sales are up 30 to 40 percent each month since November,” Cardoza shares.

 

 

The new 60 acres will be planted with Queen Anne’s lace, hybrid delphinium, rice flower, narcissus, belladonna and godetia – flowers that are popular with wholesalers, event planners and consumers craving something different.

While some varieties are all new to CamFlor, others are specialty flowers that were previously popular and are seeing a comeback; take Killian daisies, for example.

“Few do what we do, which is add five to eight new product varieties every year,” Cardoza says. “The seed people know that CamFlor has land near the ocean, middle inland and inland – that’s three different climates. They know that if they give us something, we’ll find the place to grow it.”

In his experience, the novelty flower market is in full growth mode as multiple audiences are on the lookout for something different.

CamFlor meets that need not only by continually adding novelty options, it also ships boxed assortments in addition to boxes packed with single flower varieties.

Yellow Yarrow growing tall and bright in the fields of CamFlor.

“The demand for American Grown Flowers has grown and the new generation of florists, designers and wedding companies are looking for different types of product every year.”

Cardoza’s happy to meet the need and to throw in a few surprises!

6 New Farms Earn American Grown Certification

Farms Large and Small See Value, Benefits to Certification

Six new flower farms have recently officially become Certified American Grown, joining a cadre of 45 certified farms nationwide. These farms vary in size and in the varieties of flowers they grow, from small urban flower farm to a large greenhouse farm that propagates 90 percent of the nation’s gerberas.

The newly certified farms are:

Earning recognition as Certified American Grown helps retailers, wholesalers and florists connect their customers with flowers grown right here in the United States and tells customers that the flowers they’re bringing home or giving as gifts were grown, bouqued or bunched by American flower farmers.

Flower farmer Felicia Alvarez of Menagerie Farm & Flower grows garden roses and specialty flowers, including tulips and dahlias. She sought out certification because she believes it’s important for people to know where their flowers are coming from and how they’re grown.

 

Alvarez finds today’s consumers are in tune with the origin-matters message and are telling floral designers they prefer local, seasonal flowers. And in her experience, they appreciate knowing there’s an American farmer behind the blooms.

She’s also a fan of the advocacy that Certified American Grown provides around trade, taxes and agriculture in general.

“These all affect me, so I benefit from the advocacy work and I appreciate that my involvement, even as a small farm, can help push the needle.”

Novelty flower grower Carlos Cardoza of CamFlor sought out certification at the urging of some of his top clients who felt it would be a complement to his California Grown status.

“As soon as I got the logo and artwork and was able to share with my customers that we are Certified American Grown they were very congratulatory and pleased to know they had a supplier that had earned the certification,” Cardoza says.

He notes that many of his clients’ customers are asking for domestically grown flowers, as well as unique flowers not typically provided by importers.

“It’s a good time to be an American flower farmer. There’s a trend toward more novelty flowers and the use of more American Grown product,” Cardoza says.

Farmer florist Kelly Wood of Grace Gardens, the only certified farm in Alabama, says becoming Certified American Grown is helping her introduce the locavore flower movement to new farmers and floral designers in her state.

After becoming certified, Wood made a personal commitment to help new small farmers and create a market for them to sell their flowers. She also shares the importance of buying American Grown Flowers with florists in the hope of creating a network of growers and sales outlets.

“The benefit of American Grown Certification is that it lends credibility to what I’m trying to accomplish,” Wood explains.

Ocean Breeze Farms co-owner June Van Wingerden saw the Certified American Grown branded flower sleeves, store displays and truck wraps and knew she wanted to be part of the movement.

“The program and the splash that comes with it make a positive statement and is consumer friendly,” Van Wingerden explains. “And wholesalers are looking for it to distinguish one product from another.”

Six new certified farms, dozens of reasons to get on board.

Certified American Grown is growing and looking for more farms to join the Certified family. Today the brand represents the largest consumer facing brand featuring the origin of flowers in the U.S. floral industry. It is a powerful statement of pride and beauty that has proven to connect with consumers everywhere.

Have you considered joining the Certified American Grown movement?