Congressman Salud Carbajal and Congressman Ted Yoho To Co-Chair Cut Flower Caucus

New co-chairs expand bipartisan leadership of important caucus

Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA 24th District) and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL, 3rd District) have become co-chairs of the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus.

The Congressional Cut Flower Caucus was launched by a bipartisan effort of Congresswoman Lois Capps and Congressman Duncan Hunter in 2014. Since its inception, the caucus has grown to include a total of six co-chairs and over 25 members of Congress.

The caucus is open to all members of Congress and is dedicated to promoting the domestic cut flower industry, including educating members of Congress and staff on the economic and cultural importance of America’s cut flower and greens farmers as well as the challenges the industry faces. The caucus also sponsors events to provide a greater understanding of the issues and opportunities facing America’s flower farmers, their families and their flowers.

Rep. Salud Carbajal meeting with California flower farmers during the Certified American Grown DC Fly-In in February 2019.  Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

Carbajal’s district includes the largest flower-growing region in the United States by volume. For the last two years, he has authored a resolution announcing July as American Grown Flowers Month in the house.

Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

“It’s an honor to serve as co-chair on behalf of our cut flower farmers, who not only bring beauty into our homes, but provide tens of thousands of jobs across the country and billions in economic activity each year,” said Rep. Carbajal. “Representing the Central Coast, the highest-producing flower region in a state that produces three-quarters of all cut flowers grown in the United States, I know intimately the value of this industry as an economic engine. In this new role, I look forward to continuing to highlight the economic and cultural value of American’s cut flower industry, as well as raise awareness about the challenges our farmers and small businesses face in an increasingly globalized economy.”

Yoho’s district includes the largest greens-growing district in the U.S. For the past several years, he’s worked to have American Grown Flowers featured in the White House, including penning a letter to President Donald Trump to suggest the policy.

Rep. Ted Yoho also met with flower farmers from the DC Fly-In delegation last month. Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

“I’m honored to be a part of the leadership for the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus,” stated Congressman Ted Yoho. “It’s vital that America’s flower farmers have a voice at the table in this very competitive market and it’s our job as members of Congress to ensure that our farmers are able to continue to do the great job they do growing flowers and greens here in the United States of America.”

Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

The Congressional Cut Flower caucus continues to grow in size and influence.

“Our farms are fortunate to have these two great champions in Congress,” shared Certified American Grown Administrator Kasey Cronquist. “Rep. Carbajal and Rep. Yoho know our issues, understand the value our farms bring to their communities and why time is of the essence to address the challenges they face. We look forward to working with them in their new leadership positions on the caucus.”

 

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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.

When Flower Farmers Go to Washington, D.C.

Progress Made on Many Fronts!

Last week, a delegation of flower farmers headed to Washington, D.C., to present the issues and concerns of American flower farmers to U.S. policymakers. These farmers left their farms, committed to the common cause, worked together, and shared their voices and insights on key topics, from immigration reform to ensuring the NASS floriculture report continues to requesting that the Trump administration feature American Grown Flowers in the White House.

Great accomplishments are made when farms come together for our D.C. Fly-In.  Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

 

This kind of trip isn’t possible without having a myriad of voices sharing their perspectives and passions in every meeting held. These flower farmers, along with floral designer Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore, brought their A-games!

“I feel we made great progress in Washington, D.C., this year,” explained Benno Dobbe of Holland America Flowers, a Certified American Grown Council member and chair of the California Cut Flower Commission’s Governmental Affairs Committee. “This was the very best trip we’ve put together. Very productive.”

Dianne Feinstein took time to meet with our delegation and hear the issues that mattered to our farms. Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

Flower Farmers also went to the White House to discuss a key request: to have American Grown Flowers and Greens exclusively featured within the White House. This very special meeting went especially well, as the delegation explained why it was important that, like the wine and food served in the White House, President Donald Trump should take an “America First” approach to the flowers that are displayed in White House floral arrangements.

This year, farmers had a landmark opportunity to meet with White House staff.

“I’m very encouraged by the year-over-year progress we make in Washington, D.C.,” shared Rita Jo Shoultz of Alaska Perfect Peony and a Certified American Grown Council member. “This trip and these meetings have really helped elevate the value of our farm in the minds of our elected officials, their staff and members of this administration.”

Members of the delegation met with Senator Murkowski of Alaska.

All in all, it was the group’s general consensus that this year’s trip was our most successful D.C. fly-in on record! Voices were heard. We met with the right people and made new connections. We grew the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus. And we came back with a sense that we made good progress on key topics.

The delegation heads to the White House to lobby for American Grown Flowers and Greens.

Our thanks goes out to the following farmers, as well as Kelly Shore and federal affairs representative Jumana Misleh who did an outstanding job putting the schedule together and setting up meetings for our delegation:

  • California

    • Fred VanWingerden – Pyramid Flowers, Oxnard
    • Edith VanWingerden – Pyramid Flowers, Oxnard
    • Ivor VanWingerden – Ocean Breeze Flowers, Nipomo
    • Brooks VanWingerden – Ocean Breeze Flowers, Nipomo
    • Bruce Brady – Mellano & Company, San Luis Rey
  • Washington

    • Benno Dobbe, Holland America Flowers, Woodland
  • Maryland

    • Ko Klaver, Botanical Trading Co, Beltsville
    • Kelly Shore, Petals By The Shore,
  • Virginia

    • Werner Jansen – Bloomia, King George
  • Florida

    • David Register – FernTrust, Seville
  • Iowa

    • Quinton Tschetter – Tschetter Flowers, Oskaloosa
    • Carolyn Tschetter – Tschetter Flowers, Oskaloosa
  • Alaska

    • Rita Jo Shoultz – Alaska Perfect Peony, Homer
    • Betty Joslyn – Josyln Peonies, Homer

If you would like to be part of next year’s delegation, experience the process of advocating for your farm and being part of a team effort that makes a difference, email Andrea Philpot at Andrea@AmericanGrownFlowers.org to sign up. The trip will be held February 25-28, 2020.

Members of congressional hill staff showing their pride for American Grown Flowers and Greens during the annual flower and wine reception on Capitol Hill.

Certified American Grown Council member and chair of the California Cut Flower Commission’s Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Benno Dobbe of Holland America Flowers tips his new hat before heading to Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

 

Certified American Grown Council member Rita Jo Shoultz of Alaska Perfect Peony pins a Certified American Grown boutonnière on Congressman Don Young of Alaska.

 

Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24) with California Cut Flower Commission CEO and Ambassador and Certified American Grown Administrator Kasey Cronquist.

Wild Lark Farm: First Oklahoma Farm Certified American Grown

For Terri Barr, making the leap from civil engineering technician to flower grower was a natural move. She had farming in her blood, a lifelong love for gardening and a desire to work outdoors.

The result is Wild Lark Farm in Claremore, Oklahoma, which she started in 2018 and is building from the ground up. She’s growing specialty and heirloom flowers – mums, old-school lilacs and sunflowers among them – on about an acre of the 40-acre spread where she lives with her husband and their three children. It’s a former cattle pasture with clay-like soil that she’s slowly transforming into an organic, sustainable growing operation.

But her path to becoming a flower farmer, and earning Certified American Grown status, is decidedly indirect.

She grew up on a farm in Kansas where her family grew corn, wheat, milo and soybeans. She went to college in Oklahoma and graduated with a degree in interior design. But instead of designing rooms, she went to work as a technician in a civil engineering firm. She put her drafting skills to work in designing infrastructure – water lines, sewer lines, parking lots.

But despite working for a company she liked and with “fantastic” colleagues, she knew she wanted to be outdoors. The turning point came in 2017 when she attended a floral workshop in the Mount Vernon area of Washington. It was there that she found what she was looking for. She was with flower people from all over the United States and enjoyed hearing their stories. Everything about it was a good fit.

Photos provided by Wild Lark Farm.

“This is what I want to feel. This is perfect,” she recalls thinking at the time. “There was really nothing like that in Oklahoma. So when I came back here I just decided to give a go.”

As a daughter of farmers, she knew what she was getting into.

 

 

“I didn’t go and start this farm with the idea that this is going to be amazing and I’ll be dancing in flowers every day,” she said. “I knew it was going to be hard work. It’s hot and humid and when it rains, it rains too much or it doesn’t rain enough. So, I knew going in that this is hard.”

But it’s where she’s found fulfillment.

“Last year was the first year I really increased what I was growing and really put myself out there. I just wanted to gauge how much interest people had, if they were receptive or if they thought it was just the craziest idea that they’d ever heard. But people have loved it. That’s been really positive.”

 

She got her first customer by walking into a new florist shop in Claremore with some of her flowers in a bucket.

“I said, ‘These flowers are just for you to use. If you like them, great.’ And I gave them my card. They loved them and they posted them on Instagram.”

The response was almost immediate. Three florists in Tulsa who saw the Instagram post reached out to her to ask if she sold to other people. Her response: “Yeah, sure.”

 

 

Those florists have given her a foot in the door and something to build on. In the meantime, she’s building an organic, sustainable operation.

Although she could draw on her farming background, she knew she couldn’t farm like her parents. Practices had evolved and she was adamant about it being organic.

“For one, I have kids and I don’t want all the chemicals and the pesticides out there. I want people to be able to walk out there and be able to touch and can smell everything. So they know what they’re getting is the real deal.

“And since I’ve worked so hard to get my soil in good condition, I want to make sure that it’s sustainable.”

In addition, she feels an obligation to Oklahoma tradition to leave the land better than she found it.

 

“One of the slogans in Oklahoma is ‘Keep the land grand,’” she said. “People are really conscious that we humans aren’t here forever. You want to keep the land nice, you want to keep it sustainable for people who come after you. A lot of people here have that mindset of make it better than you found it. So, that’s what I try to do.”

Three to five years down the road, she would like to have a farm she can share with the public.

“What I would really love to do once I get things established is to open it up and make it accessible to people. Not necessarily a you-pick thing, but just so people can come out and physically enjoy it, to see how it works and see where flowers come from.”

She follows other farms on Facebook and Instagram and sees that many of them keep their operations closed to the public.

“I get that it’s hard to do what you have to do and have people around. At the same, I want to be able to share as much as I can. I don’t want my farm to be closed off. There’s so much out there, there’s so much beauty, that I just want to share as much as I can.”

 

 

New Newsletter, New Name!

If you’re reading this, you likely already agree that origin matters. Where the flowers and greens consumers’ purchase come from and how they were grown matters.

Homegrown flowers matter. And the origin of flowers has become an important call to action in the floral industry.

It’s that thinking that led us to change the name (and format) of our newsletter from Field Notes to Origin Matters, starting now. And the new publication will also arrive in your inbox weekly, instead of monthly. Because we’ve got so much news, so frequently, that it can’t wait 30 days!

You need to read about what’s happening related to the origin of flowers more often and in a more accessible format. So that’s what we’ll be providing every week!

After all, Field Notes was originally created to share news specific to California, but with the growing success of Certified American Grown and BloomCheck, and the demand for homegrown blooms increasing, a weekly Origin Matters newsletter will let us capture all of those news-making items that help people find what they’re really looking for in the floral industry today.

#OriginMatters makes for a great hashtag on social media.

 

It will open the door to more storytelling. More thought-provoking ideas. More timely news.

Because origin really does matter, and we can’t wait to share how many ways and places that’s being proven!