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.

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