Certified American Grown is Leveraging Pinterest, Are You?

Certified American Grown has been working diligently to grow our presence on Pinterest, and we’ve seen a great return on our efforts, creating a monthly viewership of over 14,000 in just three months.

We’re finding this platform is a great way to share the #originmatters message, and of course the amazing photos of Certified American Grown Flowers and Greens. And we expect this number to continue to grow as we deliver new content to the platform, interact with users and leverage analytics to share more of the photos, products and stories users are interested in.

We’re posting great tips on floral topics like boutonniere bars, flower crowns, floral photo backdrops and tablescapes, to name a few.

The success we’re having on Pinterest prompted us to ask: Are you leveraging Pinterest for your business?

Social media pro K.C. Cornwell points out that Pinterest is often an overlooked social media platform, largely because many businesses aren’t quite sure how to use it. But there’s hope.

“Pinterest is relatively easy to use and it’s full of people ready to discover your business, try your idea, or buy your product,” Cornwell says. “It’s also one of the last platforms where your content can be seen without having to pay to get it in front of people, provided it’s good information with beautiful photos. In fact, Pinterest is the top web traffic source after Google for many North American influencers.”

If you’re taking the time to create blog posts, video or photo galleries, if you have a venue for rent or host events, or you sell products to consumers, consider signing up for a free business account on Pinterest or reinvigorate the account you already have, Cornwell advises. “It’s a useful tool to build traffic to key pages on your website and help new customers find you.”

Here are her additional tips for success on Pinterest:

  • Verify your website. Claiming your website on Pinterest gives you access to the analytics feature that allows you to see what content viewers save the most and which posts send the most traffic to your website. It also causes your profile picture to show up on any pins that come from your site, allowing consumers to find your account and your brand more easily.

 

  • Pin a mix of content. Pinterest is a virtual pinboard, a place for discovering and curating ideas, goods and goals. It’s considered “spammy” to pin predominately your own content and the site will stop showing your pins if they’re all from your own website. Instead, pin a mix of your blog posts or products along with other items your customers might be interested in: weddings, home design, travel to your area, decor, etc.

 

  • Create “optimized pins” for your content. Optimized pins are vertical images that incorporate descriptive text with attractive photos that relate to the webpage they are linked to. The optimized pins can be added to your website or uploaded directly to Pinterest and linked.

Diamond Ridge Peonies Earns Certified American Grown Status

From the Ocean to the Farm in Homer, Alaska

After 40 years of running a charter fishing business in Homer, Alaska, Gerri Martin and her husband, Sean, have embarked on a retirement plan that really isn’t very retiring.

They decided to start a completely different business.

Photos provided by Diamond Ridge Peonies.

They’re in their sixth year of growing peonies on their 15 acres of property that overlooks Kachemak Bay. Diamond Ridge Peonies, a Certified American Grown farm, is just starting to hit its stride as the Martins ease themselves out of their fishing business, North Country Halibut Charters.

It’s the culmination of a plan that began years ago as the couple looked at what lay ahead for them. The seed for Diamond Ridge Peonies was planted during a conversation Gerri Martin had with a friend.

Gerri Martin shows off an armful of the peonies that fill her life now.

 

 

“I was grousing about being kind of tired of the charter fishing business with one of my girlfriends here in town and she said, ‘Oh you should start growing peonies. It’s like waking up in the morning with your cup of coffee and walking down and watching your flowers grow.’

“I thought, wow, that’s sounds pretty fun.”

 

 

 

At that time, peonies had just taken off as a crop in Alaska. In the early 2000s, a government pilot project found that the flowers thrived in the state’s long summer days and were ready for harvest in July and August, a time when the rest of the world’s annual supply of peonies had been picked and sold. It also coincided with the summer wedding season, which the big, showy blooms seem tailor-made for. And the flowers were relatively lightweight and perfect for export via air. Alaska went from zero peony farmers in 2004 to more than 200 by 2014.

Diamond Ridge Peonies sits on 15 acres in view of Kachemak Bay, a perfect spot to grow gorgeous peonies.

 

The Martins got serious about growing peonies a couple years after Gerri’s conversation with her friend. They knew their 15 acres were an ideal spot for growing peonies. Their lack of farming experience did not faze them.

They attended the Alaska Peony Growers Association to learn more and got involved in that group’s new growers program. What the Martins found was a community of Alaskan peony growers who are eager to help newcomers.

“The environment up here is enthusiastically helpful about this new industry,” she said. “If you’re going to be growing peonies, everybody up here wants you to be growing the best dang peonies there are. Everybody is just super encouraging.”

Gerri Martin said getting a peony growing operation is more slow than difficult. Three years after planting, the Martins sold some flowers at a kiosk at their charter fishing business. But it wasn’t until year four that it was really a business.

“Our fourth year was big for us,” she said. “We were really happy to be able to sell all of our flowers. Our field just busted open and it was amazing.”

Last year, the Martins harvested 40,000 stems and they’re looking forward to another bountiful harvest this year.

To sell their flowers, the Martins have relied on a couple of big wholesalers. But they also sell via the internet and market through Instagram and Facebook.

“We all want to sell to the brides because that’s the top dollar,” she said. “But last year we had 40,000 stems and there’s not that many brides out there. So, we have to diversify. We have a pretty good balance.”

Getting Diamond Ridge Peonies off the ground has been a lot of hard work but has gone relatively smoothly. Martin credits that to the fact she and her husband have run their own business for 40 years.

“We know how to network with people because we’ve done it for years,” she said. “Yes, it’s another business, but it’s not entirely different.”

Looking to the future, the Martins expect one of their two sons to take over as their farm manager. Their other son is a fishing boat captain. For the time being, they are content with their operation.

“We think we are where we want to be,” she said. “I think our potential is sitting right there in that field as it matures.”

Are You Following Farmer Fridays?

Don’t Miss These Stories of American Flower Farmers!

Every Friday across our social media channels, we’re celebrating American flower farmers with Farmer Fridays!

 

These stories on Facebook and Instagram highlight Certified American Grown flower and greens farmers, the varieties they grow, the sustainable methods they use and why they love to grow fresh flowers and greens.

 

Click on the image above to see this post and more on our Instagram page.

 

It’s our way of sharing the bounty and diversity of homegrown flowers, and connecting followers to the age-old art and science of flower farming in America.

 

Are you following Farmer Fridays? Doing so will not only surprise and delight, it just might connect you to those special blooms grown right here in the U.S.

 

These are also great stories that you can share too. After all, we’re finding these posts are engaging audiences and spreading far and wide, so we certainly encourage you to share these stories on your social media platforms as well.

 

Click on this image to see the post about Kitayama Brothers and others like it on the American Grown Flowers Facebook page.

 

Highlighting your connection to the farm, our farmers and their flowers is a powerful connection for your customers to see. 

 

Find these stories and more at @AmericanGrownFlowers.

Sutton Ferneries Earns Certified American Grown Status

Farm Creates Its Own Niche in Fern-Rich Florida

The company that is now Sutton Ferneries got its start more than 30 years ago in the back of a Honda hatchback.

It was in that Honda that Michelle Sutton was going door to door to Miami’s florists selling ferns that her former husband’s family was growing on a farm in central Florida that they had recently bought. Sutton would receive the foliage via the U.S. mail and then put it in her home’s bathtub with ice to keep it fresh until she would make her rounds.

That was the humble beginnings of Sutton Ferneries, a Certified American Grown farm, that now employs 130 people at its farms in central Florida and its processing facility in Doral, Florida. It sells its ferns and foliage to retailers, wholesalers and mass-marketers in the United States and around the world.

All that hard work in going door to door amounted to an education in the floral business that formed the basis of Sutton Ferneries.

The team at Sutton Ferneries.  Photos supplied by Sutton Ferneries.

“They got me where I’m at,” said Sutton, the company’s president. “They taught me everything that I needed to know about running my business in the sense of understanding what the needs of a retail flower shop are and what was the demands of the consumers are.”

Sutton has flipped the usual model of being a grower that has expanded its sales.

“We weren’t farmers and then selling,” she said. “We were selling and then had to work our way back to figure out how we could get the product we needed because we weren’t getting it from the growers.”

One of the catalysts for the company’s growth was timing. In those early days, Sutton’s contacts with Miami florists eventually led to businesses that were just starting to make bouquets for supermarkets.

“Once we got in with them, we start started having problems with supply. We didn’t have enough supply,” she said.

While seeking new farms to buy from, Sutton discovered she couldn’t get the quality she needed. Buying ferns in bulk resulted in too much waste. Her customers weren’t traditional wholesale buyers. They were using every single stem.

“There were very rigid requirements,” she said. “The quality had to be excellent and all the stems had to be good and it was just very difficult.”

It was a challenge to get growers to understand that Sutton wasn’t just being picky or trying to cherry pick their crops. The company was just responding to the market.

“Retailers would tell you straight up, ‘I’m not buying from you again,’” she said. “And it was the same with the bouquet makers.”

That led to Sutton getting into the growing business. At first, they leased acreage from an existing grower before buying their own property and adding to it over the years. They now have about 100 acres.

Sutton Ferneries consists of 100 acres of ferns and foliage sold to retailers, wholesalers and mass-marketers in the United States and around the world.

“We learned the (growing) business, from getting cutters to crew leaders to packing and the whole operation,” she said.

Existing growers “were very traditional and that wasn’t really working for us. So, we had to basically get our own crews, train them on the exact specs that we wanted and have them go in our fields and cut to meet those requirements for us.”

By the mid-1990s, Sutton Ferneries had established itself. Since then, it has had to adapt as demand and tastes have changed. As the bouquet business shifted to South America in the mid-1990s, Sutton turned to creating new products, such as its Ready to Go Greens, which are premade arrangements of greens that require retailers to just add flowers.

 

Sutton has also embraced the supermarket sector as the business has shifted away from traditional flower shops. During her career, Sutton said she has seen retail florists in Miami dwindle from about 1,500 to less than 60.

Although florist shops make up a smaller part of her business, Sutton still sells to some of the same florists she started selling to from the trunk of her car. She appreciates the lessons they provided her when she was starting out.

Sutton is proud the company has continued to grow in the face of harsh blows delivered by Florida’s sometimes devilish weather. The company has survived the Storm of the Century in 1993 and multiple hurricanes, tornadoes and freezes. The risk is so great that business insurance isn’t available, Sutton said.

“We’ve been through multiple catastrophic losses over the years between freezes and hurricanes,” she said. “You name it, we’ve gone through it.

We’ve been able to stay on course, see beyond the problems and maintain a vision for the future,” she said. “I don’t give up.”

When a Flower Farmer Goes to Washington, D.C.

Working "The Hill" in a Farmer's Own Words by Quinton Tschetter

A very interesting and productive trip took place February 25-29 when a delegation of flower farmers went to Washington, D.C. I was among them.

Carolyn and Quinton Tschetter were an integral part of the 2019 DC Fly-In, bringing the concerns of flower farmers to Capitol Hill. Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

 

During our time at the nation’s capital, we met with various members of Congress or their representatives. I’m happy to report that, for the most part, our concerns were well-received. In fact, the response to the plights we shared often were: “I didn’t know that was the situation! What can we do to help?”

 

A very productive meeting was had with Cut Flower Caucus Co-Chair, Congresswoman Jamie Herrera-Beutler of Washington state. Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

 

From my personal perspective, the best, most productive meetings I was involved in were with Congresswoman Jamie Herrera-Beutler of Washington state, a co-chair of the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus; NASS, the statistics branch of the USDA; Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney; and representatives of the U.S. customs and border protection group.

 

Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney took time to meet with our farmers and showed great interest in their concerns. Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

 

McKinney was very receptive and knowledgeable and our discussion with customs and border protection representatives was very deep and interesting discussion. I have to say, our meeting with these folks started out with a strong defense of their position and abilities, but seemed to come around to an understanding that they were not accomplishing what they thought was their mission of protecting the integrity of “country of origin” labels.

 

Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

 

It was so satisfying to see the success of our group in presenting the core concerns of American flower farmers over the several days we were there. The unity within the group was refreshing and our concerns were well-received at least 90 percent of the time.

 

Quinton helped create boutonnières for the Wine & Flowers Reception hosting representatives and their staff and inviting them to join the Cut Flower Caucus.  Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography.

 

The one issue that’s yet to be realized, even though it was well-presented, is whether we will be successful in getting the White House to commit to exclusively using American Grown Flowers for their events. I look forward to hearing the outcome of that very important ask.

 

Quinton and Carolyn Tschetter after a meeting with Senator Joni Ernst’s office.

 

Bottom line: Our efforts to Make American Flowers Great Again seemed to be successful. I encourage other flower farmers to join the team next February for the annual fly-in.

 

Alaska’s Stone Circle Becomes Certified American Grown

Michelle Morton is an Alaskan peony grower by way of Los Angeles, Australia and Scotland.

 

She was born in Scotland, grew up in Australia and landed in Los Angeles as a young adult where she studied music, percussion specifically, at the Musicians Institute in

Hollywood. It was, she found, “a very strange place.”

“Somebody said ‘You should try Alaska,’ and I said ‘Alaska?’ And I ended up coming up with just a backpack and I loved it. It’s so extremely different from anything that I’d known.”

 

 

She put down roots in the state and eventually bought five acres in Homer, which would eventually become the home of her business, Stone Circle Peonies, a Certified American Grown flower farm. The property was filled with dead trees, the victims of a beetle infestation. After she cleared the trees, she was left with land she didn’t know what to do with.

 

It called out, however, to her lifelong love of gardening. She started with a small vegetable garden. That eventually led to enrolling in the USDA’s high tunnel program, where the government reimburses growers for building the enclosed structures that allow produce to be grown in a protected environment.

It’s a four-year program, “where they’re basically teaching you how to farm,” she said.

It was also a time when peonies were exploding in Alaska.

“There were workshops on growing peonies,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow, what’s a peony? I’ve never even heard of a peony.’”

Morton found herself a budding farmer in a suddenly fertile flower-growing environment.

“I’d grown vegetables for the farmers market. I just thought I’m going to grow peonies, they’re beautiful and there’s a demand for them, it’s a new industry and there’s a lot of hype about them.”

 

Peonies had taken off in Alaska after a government pilot project in the early 2000s found that the flowers thrived in the state’s long summer days and were ready for harvest in July and August, a time when the rest of the world’s annual supply of peonies had been picked, sold and used up. It also coincided with the peak of the wedding season, which the big, showy blooms seem tailor-made for. And the flowers were relatively light weight and perfect for export via air. Alaska went from zero peony farmers in 2004 to more than 200 by 2014.

 

Morton was part of that boom. She planted a quarter-acre in 2012, and nurtured her plot for the four years it takes to develop a commercially viable crop.

The learning curve, however, was steep. “Everest steep,” she said. She’s grateful for the kindness of Homer’s other peony growers.

“I have a lot of people who have taken me under their wings and have been teaching me,” she said. “And I’m not afraid to ask people for help. A lot of the old-timers in Alaska have been helping me with understanding the soil and what things need to be happy. People have been very kind in helping me understand the needs of the peonies.”

Three years ago, she harvested a thousand blooms. Last year it was 6,000; this year, she figures the number is 10,000, and she sold all of them.

 

She manages to keep the farm going with just the help of her two children, Fiona, 14 and Seamus, 12.

Fiona designed Stone Circle Peonies’ website and does much of the marketing via Instagram and other social media platforms. Both she and Seamus help out in the fields.

 

“We post photos that show the flowers in the Alaska setting” Morton said. “Our theme is ‘love Alaska, love peonies.’ We want to show people what a beautiful place Alaska is and how beautiful peonies are.”

Morton sells the flowers to florists, flower designers and directly to consumers in the lower 48 states, and has her eye on the international market.

 

“Growing flowers, what a great job,” she said. “We’re not destroying the earth, we’re working with Mother Nature and we’re trying to do it as naturally as we can. I do my own compost, I talk to my flowers. It’s a happy environment. I work from home and my kids can be a part of it.”

 

Florists Get Creative to Promote Women’s Day

How Will You Promote This Flower-Giving Holiday?

Women’s Day, coming Friday, March 8, is a day to honor and recognize women’s achievements, and to celebrate the women in our lives by expressing our respect, appreciation and love. With efforts internationally dating back as far as 1908, the observance of Women’s Day in the U.S. continues to grow, as does its status as a flower-giving holiday.

Efforts to market Women’s Day as a natural floral holiday in the U.S. began in earnest in 2010 with help from Lane DeVries at Sun Valley Floral Farms. Since launching the initiative, retailers, wholesalers and other companies have joined efforts to grow the holiday and raise awareness and consumer interest in celebrating it with flowers.

After all, Women’s Day is a natural fit for the flower industry, and its timing helps bridge the gap between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day – the two biggest flower-related holidays in the U.S.

At Whole Foods in Landover, Michigan, Women’s Day is a relatively busy holiday, according to Diana Westcott. To drive sales, they’ll be offering two, 10-stem bunches of Certified American Grown tulips for $10, as well as a Phalaenopsis orchid plant grown in New York for $12.99.

Liezet Arnold of Bloem Decor. Photo by Eye Photos by Eye Connoisseur Photography

At Bloem Decor in Sacramento, California, owner Liezet Arnold, a past designer for the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour, will be giving a free California Grown rose with every Women’s Day purchase.

Ashely Atelier of Atelier Ashley Flowers. Photo courtesy of Atelier Ashley Flowers.

Ashley Greer, owner of Atelier Ashley Flowers in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, will celebrate Women’s by designing floral centerpieces for the annual Dress for Success Congressional Suit Challenge and Power Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

Dress for Success is an international nonprofit that provides women professional attire and job skills to succeed in the workplace and life.  For the past 20 years, Dress for Success has supported women in 150 cities and 30 countries.

In addition to providing event florals, Greer is collecting business suits and work attire to donate at the event.

Ready to promote join these innovative florists and retailers in promoting Women’s Day? Check out this resource page with information and advice to help you promote this flower-giving holiday!

America’s Flower Farmers Appreciate President Trump’s Commitment to Ending Unfair Trade Practices

Certified American Grown and America’s flower farmers congratulate President Trump on his State of the Union speech. We continue to appreciate his commitment to American businesses and American workers and we welcome his bold declaration that the theft of American jobs and wealth is over.

America’s flower farmers respect President Trump’s goal to level the playing field in all future trade agreements such as the USMCA and in ongoing discussions with China.  We support President Trump’s “America First” trade policy.  We’re hopeful that this administration will finally end the unfair trade practices that have adversely affected American flower farms and have marginalized the value of the American jobs they produce.  America’s flower farmers have spent the past 30 years fighting to maintain their livelihood in the face of trade agreements such as the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) that sacrificed this iconic American sector of agriculture to reduce drug trafficking.  Sadly, drug production in these Andean countries remains at an all-time high.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, America’s flower farmers appreciate President Trump’s “America First,” mantra and reminding Americans about the importance of those four beautiful words—”MADE IN THE USA!”

Albertsons Companies Welcomes BloomCheck Certification

BloomCheck Provides Domestic Farms With Path Forward

Debi Lilly florals are found throughout Albertsons companies floral departments.

Albertsons recently added the BloomCheck certification program to its list of approved sustainability certification programs used to certify the plants, flowers and greens sold through their Debi Lilly line of floral products. BloomCheck provides retailers and their customers with a third-party certification that assures that farms are not only following the high standards involved with agriculture production in the United States, but are also committed to continuous improvements in best practices involved with growing flowers and plants.

“We’re pleased to provide Albertsons and Albertsons customers with a sustainability certification program for our domestic producers,” shared Kasey Cronquist, administrator for BloomCheck. “BloomCheck certification is a rigorous set of standards designed to help set our farms apart and accurately credit them on what it takes to produce flowers sustainability here in the United States.”

Farms that complete the BloomCheck certification have undergone a complete review of their production practices with an “on-farm” auditor from Protected Harvest. Protected Harvest is a third-party nonprofit organization responsible for accrediting BloomCheck’s standards and providing the third-party auditors involved with the verification of our farms’ practices.

 

Top 10 Ways To Leverage Your Certification in 2019

Let's Go Big In 2019!

 

Happy New Year!

 

Thanks to all of our Certified farms, 2019 represented our best year yet!

With so much grown and success, 2019 is shaping up to be even better!

Certified American Grown is only as successful as the farms that are engaged, leveraging and promoting their affiliation with the campaign.

So, we compiled a list of the Top 10 ways you can leverage your certification for growth and success in this new year.

#1 Label Your Flowers and Greens

Certified American Grown is not a happy talk program.

Designed to drive sales and win back marketshare, Certified American Grown is the only guarantee in the floral industry that promises a 3rd party guarantee for consumers and your customers that the flowers they are purchasing were grown and assembled here in the United States.

Make sure your flowers, bouquets, bunches, buckets, are going out the door labeled.  Looking for American Made sleeves?  As our preferred provider, Noam and his team at Temkin are ready to help all of out farms with their sleeving needs.  #CertificationMatters

 

# 2 Promote the Celebration of American Grown Flowers Month!

Proven to drive sales!  Encourage your customers to avoid the “summer sales slump” by celebrating and promoting Certified American Grown Flowers all month long.  Have mass market customers?  Have them sign up for this year’s merchandising contest.

# 3 Advocate for Your Farm in Washington, D.C.

Join your fellow farmers for two days in our nation’s capitol, helping us to raise the profile of America’s flower farmers. This dedicated effort has proven to be effective in driving awareness and increasing opportunities and resources for our farms.  This year we’re going to the White House!

# 4 Wrap Your Truck!

In 2018, we saw some BIG branding efforts with some sweet truck wraps!  We have plug-and-play design ready to go for you.  Contact Mark Smith and get a quote from Signature Graphics, 615-569-4115.

#5 Participate in our Facebook Forum

Want to stay engaged each day?  Our Facebook Forum attracts designers, mass marketers and farmers who care about Certified American Grown.  Consider joining the daily conversation.  Already a member?  That’s great!  Share your experience and best practices with the program and engage with comments!

 

#6 Volunteer for the Rose Parade

We are always looking for farms to support our efforts in Pasadena. Primarily a CA Grown promotion effort (it is December…), but we had a number of you ask about supporting and help. Heck, we may even have another opportunity to certify an entry American Grown! Join us in 2019! Contact Anna Kalins to volunteer at Anna@AmericanGrownFlowers.org.

#7 Host a Field to Vase Dinner in 2020

Photo by Liraz Photography.

We are about to launch the 2019 tour, but now is the time to get yourself on the list for this award-winning marketing program in 2020. Applying is made simple on our website. The Field to Vase Dinner Tour is the most successful consumer-facing national promotion program in the floral industry. Bring this spotlight to your farm in 2020.

#8 Donate Your Flowers (or time) to the First Lady’s Luncheon

For the fourth year in a row, Certified American Grown will have the honor and privilege to provide our flowers to the 106th First Lady’s Luncheon. This is such a high-profile event and opportunity. We have an amazing team of volunteer designers that will be led by Mary Kate Kinnane of the Local Bouquet. If you can’t send flowers, but you’d like to work with our team of designers, let us know that too. Contact Anna to donate flowers. Contact Andrea to volunteer your time.

#9 Consider Participating in a Trade Mission

Certified American Grown is proud to lead international trade missions and explore economic development opportunities for our domestic farms.  In 2019, we will be going to SE Asia and South Korea.  If you’d like to learn more about these trips, contact Andrea at Andrea@AmericanGrownFlowers.org.

 

#10 Add Your Unique CAG Logo to Your Email, Website, Biz Cards, Etc.

Many of you already wave the flag everyday with each email you send, on your website and every business card you hand out.  These types of branding efforts really do go a long way in helping highlight that your farm is part of the bigger effort to help consumers find the flowers they really want…