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

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.

Certified American Grown Leader to Serve on PMA’s Floral Council

Cronquist will serve on PMA’s Floral Council.

Certified American Grown Administrator Kasey Cronquist has been selected to serve on the Produce Marketing Association’s 2018-19 Floral Council.

Kasey Cronquist, Administrator of Certified American Grown and CEO and Ambassador of the California Cut Flower Commission.

Floral Council representatives provide input and guidance to help deliver year-round value to members of the association and to retain and recruit membership.

In addition to his new role with PMA, Cronquist was a speaker at the association’s 2017 Fresh Summit held last fall.

In his role as administrator of Certified American Grown, Cronquist has worked closely with floral mass marketers on the award-winning American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour and recently helped to drive mass market sales through the American Grown Flowers Month Merchandising contest in July.

Cronquist’s term on the council begins in September.

 

Celebrity Chef Deb Paquette Collaborates with Chef Richard Jones During Nashville Field to Vase Dinner

Move over, Grand Ole Opry House and The Bluebird Cafe. These icons certainly draw in country music fans of all ages, but Deb Paquette of Etc. and Etch is the reigning rock star of Nashville eats. She’s also the first woman in Tennessee to qualify as a certified executive chef  – which makes our announcement that she’ll be the chef at the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner in Nashville on October 5 even more exciting!

Known for her bold flavors, Paquette is now introducing a swanky vibe into her 30-year culinary career in the country music capital.

“They’re right! I grew up in a creative family and was encouraged to express myself,” she told local reviewers. “I was allowed to paint the walls in my room how I wanted and to paint a scene in our bathroom of a kid flying a kite and a big tree. When you’re a creative person, you have to give yourself the opportunity to express yourself.”

Which is why everything that comes from Paquette’s kitchen – from tacos and burgers to banana soup, filet mignon with horseradish celery creamed potatoes and peach upside-down cake – is an exciting and playful experience.

Chef Richard Jones of Green Door Gourmet will collaborate with Chef Deb Paquette on the menu for our October 5 American Grown Field to Vase Dinner event in Nashville, TN.

Chef Paquette will be collaborating with Green Door Gourmet’s own Chef Richard Jones. Chef Jones joined the team at Green Door Gourmet in 2012 to help educate consumers on the value of community supported agriculture (CSA’s). Prior to Green Door, Chef Jones served as a personal chef for musical artists including Sugarland, the Zac Brown Band, U2 and Keith Urban. You can learn more about Chef Jones and his efforts to “change the face of true farm-to-fork dining,” here.

Together, the talented duo will be developing the multi-course menu for our guests to enjoy on the farm.

 

Imagine enjoying a beautiful and delicious menu surrounded by the vibrant beauty of American Grown Flowers.  Our Nashville dinner brings together the best of both at Green Door Gourmet.

This is a combination of culinary talent you do not want to miss. Few tickets remain, so be sure to book your seats for this special tour stop.

 

Safeway Launches Certified American Grown Debi Lilly Bouquet

Bouquet Debuts in Stores During American Grown Flowers Month

They say timing is everything! That’s absolutely the case when it comes to the recently released Certified American Grown Debi Lilly bouquet, now available at Safeway’s Northern California stores.

After all, the bouquet began arriving in stores in July, which Congress has declared American Grown Flowers Month. Perfect timing.

The design features lilies, gerberas and lisianthus and is available in a range of hues – pinks, yellows and oranges. All flowers in the bouquet are grown by Pyramid Flowers in Oxnard, California, a Certified American Grown flower farm and marketed by B-Fresh Floral.

“I love these beautiful bouquets and soft summer color palettes to help celebrate American Grown Flowers Month,” shares Lilly. “This Certified American Grown bouquet is a Debi Lilly dream come true. I’m so proud to share this design and support our American flower-farming families.”

Lilly first announced plans for the Certified bouquet at the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner held at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California, in April. From there, Crystal Hedgpeth, floral sales manager for Safeway’s Northern California Division, worked with Lilly and Albertson’s corporate team, to launch the program.

 

“This Certified American Grown Debi Lilly Bouquet is a wonderful addition to our flower program and quickly becoming a customer favorite,” explained Hedgpeth. “Since our pilot launch earlier this month, we’ve already sold over 5,000 bouquets which actually helped drive a positive sales lift in our bouquet category across all of our stores.”

To be labeled Certified American Grown, the bouquet is required to be 100 percent American Grown Flowers and assembled in the United States. The farm providing the flowers is also required to go through a third-party audit (administered by Where Food Comes From out of Castle Rock, Colorado) to ensure the flowers provided are American Grown.

“This is just the beginning,” said flower farmer Fred Van Wingerden of Pyramid Flowers. “We love working with Debi and Safeway and look forward to producing our farm-fresh flowers for customers everywhere.”

Declared in 2017 and again in 2018, July continues to be officially recognized by Congress as American Grown Flowers Month. The Debi Lilly bouquet will continue to be offered by Safeway throughout the year and going forward.

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 …