Farm to Fork Dinner Goes Floral

Designer Debi Lilly is ‘Floral Chef’ at Iconic Event

Debi Lilly served as this year’s Floral Chef for the Farm to Fork Dinner event on the bridge in Sacramento. Photo by Glenn Younger

The annual Tower Bridge Dinner is the grand finale for Sacramento, California’s annual Farm-to-Fork Celebration. This year the event took on a floral focus with the addition of an American Grown Flowers tablescape created by Debi Lilly A Perfect Event.

Lilly, an event planner, floral designer and two-time American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour designer, served as the “floral chef” for the popular event where 800 diners gather for a multi-course meal at table that covers the length of the Tower Bridge.

Debi Lilly with Crystal Hedgpeth, Floral Manager for NorCal Safeway.  Photo by Glenn Younger.

She used hundreds of flowers of plants from farmers throughout California to create a multi-level tablescape that emanated fall sunshine and happiness. Think 440 vases of sunflowers. 440 vases of gerbera. 990 feet of bay leaf garland. 440 jack ‘o little pumpkins, 440 loose sunflower blooms, 440 succulents.

American Grown Flowers took center table during this year’s Farm to Fork event in Sacramento.  Photo by Glenn Younger.

And in a nod to a popular feature at all American Grown Field to Vase Dinners, the event also include two boutonniere bars where guests crafted bouts and posy bouquets using California Grown Flowers.

“Everyone loved it and the bar was a dozen people deep the entire cocktail hour,” Lilly shared.

Throughout the Farm-to-Fork weekend, Lilly also hosted demonstrations on flower design trends and designed two trend tables that were fully dressed with linen, crystal, dishes, dozens of vases of American Grown Flowers and, of course, the Certified American Grown Debi Lilly bouquet.

Photo by Glenn Younger.

She also recognized the farms that had contributed flowers to the event, gave a shout out to the flower farmers in attendance and discussed the importance of origin when it comes to selecting fresh blooms.

“Where flowers come from is as important as where food comes from. The origin of our food has been a focus for years, and now it’s the big story for florals, too. A lot of consumers aren’t aware that many blooms are grown thousands of miles away in other countries, so helping share the American Grown Flower movement and the stories of the farm families is an incredible opportunity,” Lilly explains.

“The Tower Bridge Dinner continues to highlight the best of the best, and we couldn’t think of a more fitting addition to the evening than Debi Lilly to ensure the beautifully designed California Grown Flowers were also showstoppers,” said Visit Sacramento President & CEO Mike Testa. “We’re thrilled that she could join us this year to create such a memorable experience for our guests.”

“For the last four years, we’ve been taking our American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour around the country to highlight that the homegrown movement isn’t just about food,” shares Kasey Cronquist, CEO and ambassador for Certified American Grown. It’s also about the flowers at the center of the table being as important as the food on your plate when it comes to sustainability, freshness and beauty. It was wonderful to see Safeway and Debi Lilly take that important floral message to this iconic food event in Sacrament, the nation’s Farm to Fork Capital.”

Winners of First-Ever American Grown Flowers Month Merchandising Contest Announced

National Contest Included 12 Divisions Representing Over 1200 Stores

Eighteen stores that wowed consumers with their displays and promotional efforts for Certified American Grown Flowers were selected as winners of the first-ever American Grown Flowers Month merchandising competition held throughout the month of July.

The winners represent first, second and third place honorees from among four large grocery retailers nationwide. Twelve mass market divisions representing over 1200 stores participated in the competition – an amazing number for a first-time event, and one that will propel the competition into the future.

First place winners were: Big Y store #103 in Norwell, Massachusetts; Dave’s Marketplace store #08 in North Kingstown, Rhode Island; Safeway NorCal store #3031 in Daly City, California; King Soopers store #112 in Bennett, Colorado; Fry’s Store #64 in Gilbert, Arizona; and Whole Foods Market store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

First Place Winner Safeway NorCal store #3031 in Daly City, California

Second place winners are: Big Y store #86 in Wilbraham, Massachusetts; Dave’s Marketplace store #04 in Warwick, Rhode Island; Safeway NorCal store #1648 in Lodi, California; King Sooper store #98 in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Fry’s Store #675 in Buckeye, Arizona; and Whole Foods Market store in Cincinnati, Ohio.

First Place Winner Whole Foods Market store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Third place winners are: Big Y store #90 in Shelton, Connecticut; Dave’s Marketplace store #01 in Warwick, Rhode Island; Safeway NorCal store #691 in Berkeley, California; King Sooper store #102 in Longmont, Colorado; Fry’s store # 60 in Glendale, Arizona; and Whole Foods Market store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

First Place Winner Big Y store #103 in Norwell, Massachusetts

Participating retailers were judged on the quality and beauty of their in-store displays promoting American Grown Flowers Month, their ability to increase flower sales in July and their efforts to promote the celebratory month overall, as well as promoting the Certified American Grown brand.

First Place Winner Dave’s Marketplace store #08 in North Kingstown, Rhode Island

Participating retailers were judged on the quality and beauty of their in-store displays promoting American Grown Flowers Month, their ability to increase flower sales in July and their efforts to promote the celebratory month overall, as well as promoting the Certified American Grown brand.

First place winner at Fry’s store #64 in Gilbert, AZ.

The average sales increase for the top five stores from each company was more than 17.5 percent. Overall, participating stores reported an average increase in sales of 6.7 percent throughout the month of July.

First place winner at King Soopers Store 112 in Bennett, CO.

All we can say is “wow.”

The contest was launched after Congress declared July American Grown Flowers Month, which happens to be a high-production month for flowers but a traditionally slow time for retail flower sales. Until now.

Store campaigns were judged by Travis Rigby, publisher of Super Floral magazine and Florists’ Review; Keith White, AIFD, creative director for American Floral Trends Forecast and AANDK Productions; and Tom Bowling, AIFD, PFCI, education director for Syndicate Sales.

Participating stores that earned the highest marks had large attractive displays that were saturated with American Grown messaging. In fact, the more ways stores communicated the message visually and with verbal support from staff, the higher their sales.

And retailers got very creative in their efforts to attract attention to American Grown Flowers, using balloons, buttons worn by employees, the American Grown logo on signage and even red, white and blue pinwheel hats!

Look for information about next year’s contest starting in June 2019. With sales increases like we saw in the inaugural year of the contest, we’re expecting more retailers to get on board.

After all, consumers appreciate knowing the origin of their flowers, and as nearly 1,200 retailers found out this summer, make buying decisions based on that knowledge.

Rey Rodriguez Wins 50th Annual Sylvia Cup Competition

Certified American Grown is a Proud Sponsor

Rey Rodriguez, AAF, AIFD, TMFA, of The Gypsy Florist in Austin, Texas, was named the winner of the Society of American Florists’ 50th Annual Sylvia Cup Design Competition held during SAF Palm Springs 2018.

The win earned Rodriguez the coveted Sylvia Cup trophy and a $3,000 prize.

Lee Burcher, AIFD, CCF, PFCI, of Fleur de Lys in San Pedro, California, received second runner-up honors and $250. Burcher won Sylvia Cup top honors in 2004.

Certified American Grown sponsored all of the cut flowers and greens for the live competition.

The Sylvia Cup is the country’s longest running live floral design competition. It began in 1967 and is named for Sylvia Valencia, a prominent designer and long-time SAF supporter.

Rey Rodriguez’s winning designs.

This year’s competition — the contest’s 50th anniversary — paid homage to “The Wizard of Oz.” The event was sponsored by Certified American Grown and Smither-Oasis and coordinated by Professional Floral Communicators-International.

Among the 19 floral designers competing were 12 members of the American Institute of Floral Designers, eight past Sylvia Cup contestants and three contestants sponsored by state floral associations.

Certified American Grown Leadership Invited to White House Economic Summit

Certified American Grown Administrator Kasey Cronquist with CAG Council member Andrea Gagnon of LynnVale Studios.

Certified American Grown (CAG) was recently invited to participate in the White House Economic Summit on September 26. CAG was represented by Certified American Grown Administrator Kasey Cronquist, Council members Andrea Gagnon of LynnVale Studios, Ko Klaver of Botanical Trading Co. and Jumana Misleh, CCFC’s federal affairs representative.

“This was a great opportunity for our program to participate in the president’s presentation on the policies driving the current economy and his forecast for things yet to come,” explained Cronquist. “Since the inauguration, we’ve continued to work hard to make sure American Grown Flowers is on the radar of this administration.”

While Senate Judiciary Committee proceedings prevented President Trump from attending, the summit was emceed by Larry Kudlow, White House economic adviser and director of the National Economic Council. The summit included presentations from U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, White House Senior Advisor Ivanka Trump and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney. Small Business Administration administrator Linda McMahon also participated as a panelist.

Certified American Grown Council member Ko Klaver at the White House Economic Summit.

Highlights presented included the significant rise in consumer confidence and the rate of economic growth since President Trump took office. Kudlow highlighted his recent remarks at the Economic Club of New York, saying, “So I would say this: the single biggest story of this year, 2018 … the single biggest news story – not fictionalized versions of what goes on in the White House and all the rest of it – the single biggest story is an economic boom that virtually everybody thought impossible. That is the story … We’re crushing it.”

Senior White House Advisor Ivanka Trump speaks about the Administration’s workforce development efforts.

A copy of the handout provided by the White House for the Economic Summit can be found here: http://bit.ly/2018_WH_EconSummit

 

 

American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour Stops At SAF!

400 Experience the Award-Winning Dinner Tour

Over 400 Society of American Florists convention attendees got to experience an American Grown Field to Vase Dinner firsthand during SAF Palm Springs 2018 last month.

A beautiful evening in Palm Springs for the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner at this year’s SAF Convention.

SAF and Certified American Grown worked together closely to replicate the experience of the dinner series, which normally takes place on an American flower farm.

SAF’s design team lead by Brian Vetter (center) did an outstanding job designing an all American Grown tablescape for the dinner during the convention.

Despite the unique location and the large number of dinner guests, the tour’s signature touches were on full display, including tables adorned with American Grown Flowers, the opportunity to meet with farmers, a multi-course artisan meal, a DIY boutonniere bar and swag bags packed with flower-related goodies.

Over 400 guests attended the dinner on Friday evening in Palm Springs.

Thanks to an amazing turnout, dinner guests were able to chat with 20 farm ambassadors before, during and after the dinner, learning more about flowers, growing practices and issues related to sustainability — all info they were able to take home and share with customers and staff.

Bruce Brady of Mellano & Company welcomed guests and lead the invocation.

 

Syndicate Sales has been a national sponsor of the dinner tour since its inception four years ago, providing all of the vases used by the tour’s designers.

 

As a national sponsor, Ball Horticulture has helped the tour host thousands of people across the country during our pre-dinner receptions.

 

As a national sponsor, Smithers-Oasis has helped the Field to Vase Dinner Tour make the self-serve boutonnière bar one of the most popular experience of our events.

Star Valley Flowers Draws A Record-Breaking Crowd

Nashville is Last Stop on 2018 Tour!

 

 

Certified American Grown hosted a record-breaking crowd during the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner at Star Valley Flowers in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin on September 8.

A beautiful evening awaited guests at Star Valley Flowers in Wisconsin.

A beautiful tablescape designed by Erick New and Greg Campbell of the Garden District dazzled the 200 guests attending the dinner at Star Valley Flowers.

Originally set for 150, the table grew to 175 and then to 200, breaking the previous record of 183 in Detroit in 2015.

“It really isn’t about the number of people,” explained Kasey Cronquist, Certified American Grown Administrator and emcee of the award-winning national dinner tour. “We really focus on our guest experience and have always wanted to keep the experience intimate, but we had a lot of demand and a willing farmer embraced the idea of  ‘the more the merrier.’ So, it just kept growing and it all turned out beautifully.”

One guest commented, “even though there were 200 guests, it felt intimate. The setting could not have been lovelier and the weather was perfect.”

Of course, the floral-focused evening wouldn’t have been as magical without the incredible talent of Greg Campbell and Erick New of The Garden District. The dynamic duo created one of the most dramatic tablescapes we’ve ever seen, complete with beautiful pussy willow arches that covered the table and accented by the bittersweet berries that Star Valley Flowers is known for. Stunning fall-colored arrangements flowed down the entire length of the table.

Erick New (left) and Greg Campbell of the Garden District in Memphis, TN were responsible for the floral tablescape and install for the evening.

The team at Driftless Cafe, lead by Chef Luke, did an outstanding job with the menu for the evening. And the response from attendees was outstanding, with praise for every single course. The main course was organic beef tenderloin provided by Organic Valley, one of the evening’s sponsors, and headquartered just down the road from Star Valley Flowers. The menu was paired beautifully with the wine provided by Geyser Peak.

Chef Luke from the Driftless Cafe.

It was a beautiful evening on the farm. The weather held and the sunset was picturesque. Diners were able to meet an American flower farmer, hear from the floral designers about their aesthetic and what makes designing with homegrown flowers special and converse with other flower lovers throughout a multiple-course meal.

Flower farmer John Zeher speaks to dinner guests prior to giving an hour long farm tour.

Guest Laura M. shared, “The evening was so beautiful. I loved the chance to walk around the farm and hear some comments from John and Phil. We were so glad John allowed a few more people into the dinner. The lovely women I sat across from gave me a hug at the end of our evening. We sat down with strangers and left as friends.”

Guests left happy, arms full of flowers and enjoying the ever popular Field to Vase Dinner swag bag. It was a perfect early fall evening where 200 strangers became friends and the love of flowers sealed the deal.

A beautiful long table was set for a record breaking 200 people.

Planning for 2019’s tour is underway. If you’d like to have your farm considered for the 2019 tour, please fill out the online application found here: http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07efnf3qeqjle3mv0a/start

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.”

Star Valley Flowers Draws A Record-Breaking Crowd

200 Guests Enjoyed An Enchanting Evening On The Flower Farm

Photo by Kelleghan Productions Inc.

 

The table was set for 200. That’s quite a table!

Certified American Grown hosted a record-breaking crowd during this weekend’s American Grown Field to Vase Dinner at Star Valley Flowers in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin.

Originally set for 150, the table grew to 175 and then to 200, breaking the previous record of 183 in Detroit in 2015.

“It really isn’t about the number of people,” explained Kasey Cronquist, Certified American Grown Administrator and emcee of the award-winning national dinner tour. “We really focus on our guest experience and have always wanted to keep the experience intimate, but we had a lot of demand and a willing farmer embraced the idea of  ‘the more the merrier.’ So, it just kept growing and it all turned out beautifully.”

One guest commented, “even though there were 200 guests, it felt intimate. The setting could not have been lovelier and the weather was perfect.”

Another first for the tour was bench seating. The beautiful wooden farm tables were accompanied by matching wooden benches. The benches complimented the family-style dining experience and tradition of the tour, and made for some beautiful photography.

Erick New (left) and Greg Campbell of the Garden District in Memphis were responsible for the floral tablescape and install for the evening. Authors of Florists to the Field, Erick and Greg signed books for guests during the reception.  Photo by Kelleghan Productions Inc.

Of course, the floral-focused evening wouldn’t have been as magical without the incredible talent of Greg Campbell and Erick New of The Garden District. The dynamic duo created one of the most dramatic tablescapes we’ve ever seen, complete with beautiful pussy willow arches that covered the table and accented by the bittersweet berries that Star Valley Flowers is known for. Stunning fall-colored arrangements flowed down the entire length of the table.

“The decorations, including the flowers, were over the top; kudos to the floral designers who came in from Tennessee.” ~ Sharon C.

The team at Driftless Cafe, lead by Chef Luke, did an outstanding job with the menu for the evening. And the response from attendees was outstanding, with praise for every single course. The main course was organic beef tenderloin provided by Organic Valley, one of the evening’s sponsors, and headquartered just down the road from Star Valley Flowers.  The menu was paired beautifully with the wine provided by Geyser Peak.

Chef Luke from the Driftless Cafe.  Photo by Kelleghan Productions Inc.

It was a beautiful evening on the farm. The weather held and the sunset was picturesque. Diners were able to meet an American flower farmer, hear from the floral designers about their aesthetic and what makes designing with homegrown flowers special and converse with other flower lovers throughout a multiple-course meal.

Guest Laura M. shared, “The evening was so beautiful. I loved the chance to walk around the farm and hear some comments from John and Phil. We were so glad John allowed a few more people into the dinner. The lovely women I sat across from gave me a hug at the end of our evening. We sat down with strangers and left as friends.”

Guests left happy, arms full of flowers and enjoying the ever popular Field to Vase Dinner swag bag. It was a perfect early fall evening where 200 strangers became friends and the love of flowers sealed the deal.

Put Your Farm On The Map in 2019!

We're Looking For New Places To Take the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour

Click to apply!

It’s hard to believe that the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner is turning 5.

Launched in 2015, the national dinner tour concept was developed by the Certified American Grown program to help spread the news and shine a spotlight on the value and beauty America’s flower and foliage farmers bring to the economy, the floral industry and their communities.

The tour has exceeded all expectations.

Recognized by the Society of American Florists as an award-winning promotion and marketing effort, the dinner’s reputation as a cause-based agri-tourism experience now sells itself, with dinners selling out on flower farms all over the country.

Millions of impressions from great media coverage, social media posts by guests, blog posts and digital influencer support have combined to help us translate consumer fascination for the farm-to-fork movement to floral, and it keeps getting better.

So, now what?

We keep going.

There are so many more places for this tour to go, so many beautiful farms to share and stories to tell. More importantly, there are so many people that still don’t know where the flowers they buy come from, and for that reason, we’re really just getting started.

So where will we go in 2019 as we look to celebrate the fifth anniversary of this incredible flower-filled tour?

That’s what we’re working on now. We certainly have a list of farms that have raised their hand and volunteered to have the tour come by. We’ll certainly be considering those farms as possibilities, but we’re always looking for more locations, unique and special places and for farms in regions of the country that the tour hasn’t yet been to.

If you or someone you know would like their farm considered for the 2019 season, please consider filling out our farm application.

Farm Application