Make Your Floral Design Dreams Come True with Shawna Yamamoto

Order by April 16 to Get Your Floral Box from Mellano & Company!

The Field to Vase Experience on April 24 is not only your chance to be whisked away virtually to experience the 50-acre ranunculus farm at the iconic Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, it also includes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try hand at floral design!

Photography @thekomans

During the virtual event, renowned floral and event designer Shawna Yamamoto of Shawna Yamamoto Event Design will lead a demonstration using flowers and foliage from Mellano & Company. To participate, simply choose the Full Floral Experience or Floral Delivery option when you reserve your ticket. You’ll receive a farm fresh floral box featuring The Flower Fields beloved ranunculus, along with other blooms and foliage and a materials checklist, so you can design along with Yamamoto.

 

Nervous but enticed? Don’t worry, Yamamoto will be using common household items in her designs (think water glasses and vases), but is sure to get creative, bringing her mixed media vibe by turning blenders, cupcake pans, tea pots and other kitchen items into floral vessels! You’ll design along with her using clever finds from your home.

Photography @aliciaminkphoto

The result? Hand-created arrangements that look like you spent hundreds of dollars at a flower shop!

Yamamoto has spent a decade creating events in the U.S. and internationally that wow attendees. She loves to mix fresh flowers and greens with custom props she and her team build to bring events to life. When we chatted, she was creating an entire Indiana Jones-themed event complete with live jungle-like flora and fauna.

Photography @apicturelife

Which is all to say, Yamamoto is sure to make your floral designer dreams come true! But to participate, you’ve got to sign up by April 16.

Want to receive the fresh flowers but don’t want to be a designer? That’s fine, too! Just place your order and then on event day, sit back, relax and enjoy the virtual experience!

We also thought you’d like to know that all ticket sales from Field to Vase Virtual Experience support Certified American Grown, a nonprofit that advocates for and promotes American flower farms and the families that own and operate them.

Reserve Your Ticket

 

Photography @sarahmackphoto

On Bees Wing Farm, a flower farmer is right at home

On 12 acres in Bluemont, Virginia, Graves and her husband are running Bee’s Wings Farm where they grow scores of flower varieties that they sell wholesale, by subscription, for weddings and at farmer’s markets.

Photography: @meganreiphotography
Bride: @grayems

Although she’s back where she started, Graves did not map out her life that way – to be back on her home turf being what she calls “a joyful and hopeful farmer.” She went off to college, earned a degree in horticulture and civic agriculture at Virginia Tech and worked on farms growing mostly vegetables and some flowers before circling back home.

During her eight-plus years of working on farms, she learned two important things: She really liked flower growing and working for other farmers was not a viable career path.

“I loved working for these other families, but I knew if I ever wanted to have my own family, I wasn’t going to be able to sustain myself and others on 10 bucks an hour,” she said. “Farming is hard on your body, and I felt like if I was going to break my back, I was going to do it for myself, not someone else.”

After starting and working for an urban farming cooperative in Roanoke, Virginia, she felt the time was right to strike out on her own and return home. Her parents invited her back to the old homestead where they continue to live in a farmhouse built in 1819. Graves and her husband, Chris, live in a newly built cabin on the property with their baby boy who was born in June 2020.

In 2014, Bee’s Wings Farm was born. In deciding to grow flowers, Graves could see that a lot of other people in the area were growing vegetables and that there was a good demand for flowers. All that time working for other people gave her a foundation for her own farm.

Bee’s Wing Farm Map

“I worked for farmers who were willing to take big risks and I worked for farmers who were very conservative, very careful with their money and resources,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been able to look at their experiences, and through trial and error, take a middle road. We haven’t expanded our business at an exponential rate but we’ve haven’t played it too small either.”

Graves had the growing part down but the business component was something new. She’s relied on word of mouth and some social media to bring in customers.

“My husband and I are both from the area and we are blessed with having a very supportive family and community,” she said. “And we’re really committed to growing and styling really high-quality products. I feel like oftentimes the flowers speak for themselves. And when we get them into the hands of some people, they really spread the good word.”

She has focused on doing weddings, selling at farmer’s markets, offering flower subscriptions, dropping bouquets at local shops and doing some wholesale. It’s all very time-consuming – growing, designing, selling. And with a new baby, she is looking at doing more wholesale, which would keep her closer to home. She’s excited about being part of a new co-op of 20 local flower growers who have banded together to sell their products wholesale.

“We’re trying to find ways of still making the same amount of money, but being able to be on the farm more, which means we can be with our son in a bigger way,” she said. And looking to the future, that means having time on weekends to attend Little League games or music recitals.

The timing, too, might be right, she said.

“I feel like we’re kind of in a transition phase,” she said. “And with the conversations that are going on around the floral wholesale market on a larger global scale, I think there’s an opportunity for us to jump in, in a bigger way.”

Stewardship of the land and organic practices are part of the fabric of the farm. In joining Certified American Grown, Graves sees those kinds of bigger issues she wants to support.

By supporting American growers, she’s also supporting land stewardship and social justice principles that aren’t necessarily followed in other countries whose imports dominate the flower trade in the U.S.

“I think American-grown has this awesome capacity to meet a lot of demand, and have some really big growth,” she said. “Obviously, we’re teeny tiny, and we aren’t going to be able to meet the demands of big accounts. But I still think it’s important that those big accounts are supporting American growers that are making the right choices for people and the environment. So, I’m excited to be a very teeny, little sliver of that conversation and part of that movement.”

In western Michigan, a farmer spreads the word about local flowers

At Creekside Growers & Flower Farm in a small town in western Michigan, owner Sue Dykstra is trying to kickstart a local flower movement.

She hopes that one day, local florists will seek flowers first from local growers rather than relying on distributors who fly flowers in from all over. Where she lives, it’s an uphill battle.

Photography: Kelly Lewis

“I think there’s a big disconnect,” she said. “When you talk to florists, they like the idea of buying local, they’re just not ready to commit. They are so used to working with flowers that can only be shipped. We’re trying to educate people that there is beautiful stuff right here that they haven’t been using, that can’t be shipped on an airplane. But in Michigan, it’s hard because they’ve never needed to.”

Dykstra has been in the plant business for more than three decades and has been growing cut flowers since 2016. She is in her 21st year of owning Creekside Growers and has a loyal customer base in the area of Middleville, Michigan, a town of about 3,400 people that’s part of the metropolitan area of Grand Rapids, which is 20 miles away. Those customers helped her weather the downturn of 2008 and the slowdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photography: Kelly Lewis

Dykstra started Creekside Growers after working for other growers for 10 years. She started as a wholesaler of perennials and annuals. She soon started adding structures and realized she needed more revenue to justify the additions. That’s when she opened her retail garden center.

Photography: Kelly Lewis

She now has two acres of greenhouses and another acre of outside space. She tends her operation with one full-time year-round employee and a seasonal workforce of up to 20 people. Creekside Growers has built its business on perennials and annuals but in 2016, Dykstra expanded into cut flowers; hydrangeas, lisianthus, zinnias, snapdragons and dahlias are among the many varieties she grows. Creekside Gardens also hosts potting parties, community events and offers bouquet subscriptions.

Photography: Kelly Lewis

In the process, she has embraced the slow flower movement and all it stands for – seasonal flowers that are grown locally, ethically and in ways sensitive to the environment. She has worked to learn all she can about the local flower movement and has taken online classes from local flower advocates Ellen Frost and Jennie Love. It’s that ethos that she’s trying to spread in her area.

“We’re a little behind other places with buying local,” she said. “It’s different here. We’re just not there yet.”

But Dykstra is doing her part. On her website above her bio are the words “cultivating a passion for growing a stronger community through local flowers.”

Creekside does its own bouquets, but Dykstra wants to build relationships with local florists. She has reached out to them by taking them samples, hosting a flower design event and inviting them to come see for themselves.

Photography: Kelly Lewis

“We want them to know that we can meet their goals and give them what they need. We might not be able to give them an exact flower because we’re not shipping it in. But we can definitely give them a beautiful flower. We keep sending them things and showing them all the different things that will work. And they’re starting to pick up on it and understand it. They say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you could use that in a bouquet.’”

She said she wants florists to know “that we’re your friend, we’re your partner, we want to work with you.”

“We’re working to get them to understand why it’s a great idea to buy from your local flower grower, to buy American Grown and to really understand the whole idea of where flowers come from.”

Photography: Kelly Lewis

That’s one reason Dykstra recently became a Certified American Grown grower. She’s looking to become part of a network of like-thinking growers. She also wants to connect with growers who can provide flowers in the cold winter months of December through February so her customers have American Grown sources they can rely on.

She sees signs that her work promoting local flowers is paying off and is optimistic about the year ahead. She’s in it, she says, for the long haul.

“I’m just really excited for this year,” she said. “I feel this is a big, positive step for me. I’m expecting a lot of growth and positive things to come this year.”

Photography: Kelly Lewis

Spring Flowers Boost Mood, According to Science

It’s Stress Awareness Month! According to a study, spring flowers and foliage aren’t just beautiful, they can actually make a positive impact on your mood.

Spring has sprung! 🎉 March 20th officially kicked off the beginning of the season. As we head into the first full month of spring, we also want to highlight that April is Stress Awareness Month. While this has been recognized since the 90s, it feels even more important to highlight after this past year. 

Designer @petalsbytheshore
Photography @bethcaldwellphotos
Flowers sourced from @resendizbrothers @mellanoandcompany @josephnsons @greenvalley_1973

A survey by Wakefield Research revealed that 68 percent of people are stressed on a weekly basis and 32 percent are stressed every single day. So, how do we combat that stress during April Stress Awareness Month and beyond? One simple answer that can help boost your mood: Spring flowers!

Flowers and foliage are not only beautiful to look at, but they can also help reduce stress. According to a study by the University of Florida, simply having flowers in and around your home can make a positive impact on your mood and could reduce stress by over five points on the Perceived Stress Questionnaire. Explore additional health benefits of owning (or gifting!) flowers and greens here.

 

Ideas and Tips for Boosting Your Mood With Spring Foliage

Flowers sourced from @bloomiaflowers

 

Before you buy your spring flowers, here is a list of spring flowers and foliage that are in season: 

  • Tulips: Nothing says spring quite like a tulip! Their vibrant colors are sure to brighten up your space. Each color represents a unique meaning, which makes them the perfect gift for a friend or family member. Pro tip:  In a vase tulips are both phototropic and geotropic. They will bend towards the light and away from the earth so keep them out of direct sunlight to last longer.

 

  • Daisies: White daisies are very common and they’re what we usually think of when a daisy is mentioned, however, there are a variety of colors to choose from with the Gerbera variety—including green and pink! Add a splash of color to your home or keep it neutral.

 

  • Daffodils: With daffodils being one of the first spring flowers to bloom, they signify a fresh start—like a new season or a new chapter—making them a thoughtful “good luck” gift for a friend or colleague. Bonus: They are budget-friendly!

 

  • Ranunculus: These trending blooms are more popular than ever…and for good reason! These rose-like beauties come in a variety of colors and when they are cut before they’re fully open, Ranunculus can last 10-12 days in a vase. If you want to add these to your garden, plant Ranunculus in bright light and well-drained soil; they do not thrive in heat or humid climates.

 

  • Hydrangeas: (American Grown hydrangeas are available May through December!) Nothing like a bunch of pastel hydrangeas to add some color to your kitchen or dining room (and a great excuse to dust off your favorite vase!). Bonus: Under proper care, they last a long time!

 

Find even more spring flowers in season, and check out this bloom time chart to add spring and summer bulbs to your flower garden.

 

Keep spring flowers around all season with this list of tips, ideas and at-home activities: 

 

  • Pick spring flowers that are long-lasting with a strong, natural smell. 
  • Research and properly care for your blooms to ensure they last as long as possible.
  • Buy homegrown flowers and foliage! American Grown is always in season. Look for the Certified American Grown Seal from a farmer near you or shop online
  • Start your own garden, and pick your own bunch each week to keep it fresh and new.
  • Test different floral arrangements—from bunches to single stems—after buying American Grown. Explore tips for arranging flowers like an expert.
  • Try placing stems or floral arrangements in new parts of your home or outside to complement a front door, patio or bird feeder.

 

Buying fresh, spring flowers this month and beyond is a win-win. Reduce stress and boost your mood. Celebrate the start of the spring season and brighten up your home. Buy local to support American grown flower and greens farmers. If you don’t see the Certified American Grown seal, ask for it! 

 

Show us your spring flowers by posting and tagging us on Facebook or Instagram, and join our email list to stay updated on all things Certified American Grown!

 

Flower Lovers, Experience The Flower Fields Live!

Save Your Seat by April 16th to Include Delivery of Farm Fresh Florals

Treat yourself to an evening of floral entertainment and education during the American Grown Field to Vase Virtual Experience live from The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California, on April 24, 2021 – all from the comfort of your home. During this magical evening, you’ll meet flower farmer Mike A. Mellano of Mellano & Company and learn about his family’s flower farming history, while enjoying a special farm tour that will take you through the 50-acre ranunculus rainbow!

 

 

As Mike explains the growing process and digs deeper into the science flower farming, he’ll touch on how Mellano and Company’s crops are grown using the most advanced scientific and environmentally responsible conditions. He’ll also share their strict post-harvest guidelines designed to ensure you always receive the highest quality, fresh flowers.

 

As part of the experience, you’ll make a virtual visit to The Flower Fields, which will be alive with blooms! The hillside where the farm is located overlooking the Pacific Ocean is one of the most spectacular and coordinated displays of natural color and beauty anywhere in the world. And its home to the Tecolote® giant ranunculus, also known as the Persian buttercup or Ranunculus asiaticus. Incredibly colorful and beautiful, the ranunculus flower is native to Asia Minor and is a member of the buttercup family.

 

Mellano & Company’s history makes this event even more intriguing to flower lovers like you! Started by Giovanni Mellano in 1925, today Mellano & Company farms more than 375 acres in San Luis Rey and Carlsbad. Year-round, they produce more than seven million bunches of flowers and foliage from these locations in the perfect, temperate climate of coastal Southern California. From these fields that have been producing Mellano & Company’s signature crops such as ranunculus and myrtle for over 30 years, to the newest crop plantings such as hybrid waxflower varieties, their pride comes from the exceptional quality of flowers and foliage they grow and a passion for flower farming.

Mike will also highlight the unique and very special relationship the Mellano family has with the Ecke family, owners of The Flower Fields, and how their partnership has worked to produce such a special farm for the public to experience and enjoy. Due to their continued benevolence and foresight, The Flower Fields continues to be a national jewel, an attraction that will be enjoyed for future generations – and you can experience it!

 

But you’ve got to save your seat to join this one-of-a-kind virtual event! And, if you’d like to include delivery of some of Mellano & Company’s renowned ranunculus in your experience, you’ve got to register by April 16!

SAVE YOUR SEAT!

 

Ticket sale proceeds go to Certified American Grown, a non-profit organization who promotes and advocates on behalf of American flower and foliage farming families across the United States.

 

We’re bringing Field to Vase right to your neighborhood!

Sitting on the sideline is so 2020.

Americans are putting a renewed effort into multi-sensory events this year, and Certified American Grown is excited to lead the way with our virtual Field to Vase flower farm experience on April 24. For this event, guests will be whisked away virtually to sunny Southern California onto the 50-acre Ranunculus farm at the iconic Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch.

It’s a totally new approach that opens these iconic evenings to every corner of the country. No plane tickets, no rental cars, no hotel costs. You can immerse yourself in the most spectacular moments nature has to offer in a matter of moments.

Guests will log on and participate in a live virtual program that includes a welcome reception with live music and a tour hosted by farmer Mike A. Mellano of the fully bloomed field, giving a behind-the-scenes tour of all things Ranunculus! Next, you’ll be treated to a fabulous design demonstration with Shawna Yamamoto of Shawna Yamamoto Event Design whose imagination will fill your need for beauty in your everyday life.  A sunset serenade will wind down the sure to be memorable evening.

Best of all, ticket proceeds go towards supporting Certified American Grown, a non-profit organization promoting and advocating for flower and foliage family farms across the United States.

It’s a sensory-rich evening, and Certified American Grown provides everything you need in this customizable adventure. We ship the appetizers: a cheese and charcuterie delight from Venissimo Cheese Shop in Del Mar, California, that contains three cheeses, three meats, Marcona almonds, dried fruit and local honey. And don’t forget the wine! Your package comes with 375 ml each of a red and white wine locally sourced from small boutique wineries in the Golden State. It’s enough to satisfy two to three people. We recommend grabbing friends, neighbors or family to enjoy as a group! Also, the perfect virtual date night!

You’ll also receive a farm fresh bouquet featuring ranunculus. We invite you to follow along with Shawna’s floral designer presentation and design your own fabulous arrangement using your favorite vase.

This unique Field to Vase evening offers three packages to choose from:

 

Option 1: Full Floral Experience with Wine + Wine

  • Wine, cheese and floral shipped to home.
  • Collateral and supporting documents.
  • Includes welcome reception, farm tour, floral demo, and sunset closing remarks.
  • $225

 

Option 2:  Virtual Experience + Floral Delivery

  • Floral delivery shipped to home.
  • Collateral and supporting documents.
  • Includes welcome reception, farm tour, floral demo, and sunset closing remarks.
  • $100

 

Option 3: Field to Vase Virtual Experience Only

  • Digital of collateral and supporting documents.
  • Includes welcome reception, farm tour, floral demo, and sunset closing remarks.
  • $50

 

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to mingle with top professionals in the floral industry and have your questions answered directly. You are free to join and rejoin as you please throughout the duration of the program as well. It’s OK to create the experience that resonates with you!

To register, visit our event page HERE!

We look forward to hosting you from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. PST on April 24!

The Dress That Spurred Floral Recognition

First Lady Jill Biden’s Floral Ensemble Gives a Nod to American Grown Flowers

On the evening of the presidential inauguration, First Lady Jill Biden, Ed.D., donned a dress and coordinating cashmere coat adorned with embroidered flowers representing every U.S. state. At heart level on the dress was the state flower of Delaware, her home state, representing that home really is where the heart resides. Flowers from every other state cascaded out from there.

 

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A post shared by Gabriela Hearst (@gabrielahearst)

The dress, coat and a matching embroidered face mask, all created by designer Gabriela Hearst, were seen worldwide when the President Joe Biden and the First Lady appeared in the White House and on a balcony for the evening inauguration concert.

There was no missing the floral theme or the nod to the variety and beauty of flowers and foliage grown by American flower farmers in every state in the nation.

At Certified American Grown, we’re still beaming about the floral nod! And we’re excited about what it can mean for American cut flower and foliage farmers.

Which is why we’re convinced there’s no better time to ask President Biden to support American farmers with an executive order declaring that the White House will use only American Grown Flowers in its arrangements. And that the administration pass the American Grown Act, which requires all federal agencies to only procure cut flowers and greens grown in the United States for their facilities, events and ceremonies.

Imagine if the dress seen around the globe spurred real action to support American famers. Imagine how far the symbolism of using only American Grown flowers and greens could go in supporting domestic farmers. Imagine the economic impact passing the American Grown Act could have in supporting hardworking flower farmers and their families. After all, the president already recently signed an executive order supporting American manufacturing, so supporting domestic flowers and greens is a reasonable stretch.

Which leads us to the next step – and an easy, clear cut way you can help. Whether you’re a farmer, a florist, a wholesaler or a consumer, you can support American flower farmers by adding your signature to our list of supporters of the American Grown Act. It takes less than one minute, but that minute could be as valuable to the industry as the floral ensemble seen around the world!

And you can take it a step further and share our story on your own social media creating even greater awareness and support for the American Grown floral community. Don’t forget to tag!

@drbiden

@flotus

@gabrielahearst

@americangrownflowers

#americangrown

#originmatters

#americangrownact

Join us. Support American flower and foliage farmers, and what they mean to the U.S. economy and the heart of our nation!

Pyramid Flowers and B-Fresh Floral give a boost to Certified American Grown

For Fred Van Wingerden, the Certified American Grown organization has provided the strong voice that flower growers need in order to address the barrage of challenges they face.

From competition from foreign growers to government regulation, American flower growers need the organization to represent them, said Van Wingerden, president of Pyramid Flowers in Oxnard, California.

When California Growers voted out the California Cut Flower Commission this spring, we were very concerned about who would represent the domestic growers and thus started the process for an independent Certified American Grown organization.

“Unless we had another organization representing the cause of American growers, it would be, like they say, united we stand and divided we fall,” he said. “We needed to step up to the plate and make sure that the new organization received strong support. I’m a true believer in Certified American Grown because we need it to represent us as growers.”

Pyramid Flowers and its affiliated company, B-Fresh Floral (owned and operated by Fred, Rene, and Winfred Van Wingerden), all became supporters when Certified American Grown was reborn as an independent trade association representing flower and greens farmers nationwide. The companies made donations to the association’s Formation Fund to support its programs and help with operating expenses.

“It’s very important that the organization gets proper funding at the start so it’s strong right from the get-go,” he said.

In addition to representing growers, Van Wingerden said, it’s important that the association’s grown-in-America message continues to be conveyed to consumers. Imported flowers dominate the American marketplace, accounting for 80 percent of sales.

“That in itself is critical,” he said.  “We need to push that message into the marketplace even stronger. Studies have shown that when consumers are given a choice, they want to buy American. And unless we stand together and fund efforts like this, we cannot get that message out there.”

Van Wingerden has been in the flower business since 1979, and he comes from a long, long line of flower growers. Flower growing in his family extends back 15 generations to the 1600s in the Netherlands. In 1967, four Van Wingerden brothers, including Fred’s father, emigrated from the Netherlands to California to take advantage of the optimum flower growing environment along the coast between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

Pyramid Flowers was founded in 1991 grows eight types of flowers on 80 acres along the coast in Oxnard. It employs over 120 people.

Fred’s son, Marcos, now works alongside him and is part of the next generation of family flower growers. Having his son in the business has been invigorating, he said. “He brings new ideas and energy,” he said. “For me as a father, having a son in the business gives me more to work for as well. It’s like a shot of adrenaline.”

Van Wingerden is steadfast in his support of Certified American Grown, and while not on the association’s board, he intends to be involved.

Flower growers face many challenges and the association plays a vital role, he said.

“It unifies growers,” he said. “We learn from each other, we share with each other, and whatever problems come along, we can address them together. Each company by themselves would be very challenged to address all the things that an organization like Certified American Grown can.”

America’s Flower and Greens Farmers Have Just What You Need to Deck the Halls!

In a year (and holiday season) like no other, we’re all feeling a need to add a little extra holiday cheer to our homes. There’s simply no better way to make that happen than decking the halls with flowers and greens from America’s flower-farming families!

They’re making it easy with a host of specials and programs designed to help you affordably bring fresh fir and floral joy to your home. And florists, they’ve got offers for you, too!

You can use American Grown flowers and greens to create multiple small arrangements placed throughout the house, adorn your mantle, create textural garlands, or design swags and wreaths, notes Kelly Shore, owner and lead designer of Petals by the Shore and founder of The Floral Source.

Here’s a look at the special offers from a host of American flower farms:

Albin Hagstrom & Son is offering 24” wreaths in a number of designs for $30. Choose one for your home or to send as a gift at albin-hagstrom.com/shop.

Harmony Harvest is shipping holiday swags and holiday DIY boxes, and they go out via FedEx within two business days of ordering. Choose your favorites at hhfshop.com/collections/holiday-greens/products/the-swag-box and hhfshop.com/collections/holiday-greens/products/the-holiday-diy-box.

The Flower Peddler in New Jersey is taking online orders for fresh fir, berries, and seasonal flowers at the-flowerpeddler.square.site.

Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers is selling a variety of protea wreaths that arrive fresh and can last for years in dried form. See all the designs at their Protea Store.

Florabundance, a floral wholesaler, has taken the extra step of helping florists and retailers find the best selection of seasonal blooms and greens from American farms by creating a Certified American Grown section on its website (bulkwholesaleflowers.com/flower-varieties/certified-american-grown/). Gift cards are also available at bulkwholesaleflowers.com/flowers/give-the-gift-of-flowers/.

Kelly Shore’s The Floral Source is offering an incredible curated winter greenery box from Fern Trust. The greenery essentials box includes: antler arbor vitae, gold tip cedar, princess pine, carolina sapphire, and pine cones on picks. Plus Shore will be live on Instagram throughout December providing tips on how to create with these long-lasting greens.

Place your orders today to bring winter abundance to your home, or send some of the American Grown blooms and foliage as gifts!

Florabundance becomes Certified American Grown Wholesaler

A lifetime of experience provides fertile ground for California wholesaler

To Joost Bongaerts, choosing to go into the flower business shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“I like to joke that once you’re in the flower business, you never leave,” he said.

That’s been the case for Bongaerts, who has been selling flowers in one form or another for 40 years. Since 2002, he has been a wholesaler via Florabundance, a Carpinteria, Calif., company that supplies florists and designers with flowers and greenery from 300 growers. Bongaerts started as a partner in the business and became the sole owner in 2008.

Florabundance was founded in 1994 as a grower-owned vehicle to sell to retailers. It aimed to reduce the amount of time from when a flower was cut to when it was in a retailer’s hands. Over the years, the company has grown through its strong internet presence, marketing efforts, and acquisitions.

Florabundance’s customers are professionals who can choose from a vast offering of flowers and greens, which can often be packaged in the same box and shipped nationwide.

“If you’re a flower expert, which I consider myself, it’s nice to get the best of the best from growers,” Bongaerts said. “We are not a wholesaler that fills up the cooler and hopes for people to come by and pick stuff up or push it out the door. That’s not our model. Our model is we buy premium quality flowers, sell them, pack them up, and ship them to customers.”

Florabundance also has a related website, Fabulousflorals.com, where consumers can buy flowers and greens.

“If you want a bunch of olive branches from California for your dinner table in New York, you can get it as long as you pay the shipping,” he said. “We’re the only ones in the country who can do that because we already have flowers coming in.”

Fabulousflorals.com also sells DIY packages of wedding flowers and offers instruction on making bouquets and arrangements.

Florabundance recently became a Certified American Grown business. Bongaerts sees it as one more way to support the industry.

“People like it. Made-in-America is very popular right now,” he said. “Certified American Grown has a lot of field crops, which is great. Some people claim that the flowers are better. They’ve traveled less, that’s for sure. And we like to promote our growers and help keep them alive.”

Bongaerts said 70% to 80% of Florabundance’s offerings have always come from California. The rest come from around the nation, with some imports that help bridge the winter production gap. Florabundance has been in the same location for 26 years, Bongaerts said. “We’re good-sized, but we’re not a mega-wholesaler,” he said.

Florabundance supplies a wide variety of Certified American Grown products, including roses, lilies, snapdragons, and amaranthus.

Bongaerts was well acquainted with Florabundance before he came onboard. As the owner of a flower shop in New Canaan, Connecticut, he had been a customer of the company.

Since buying out his partners in 2008, Bongaerts has guided the business through some tough times: the Great Recession, fire and mudslides in 2017-18, and the coronavirus pandemic. There’s also been the rise of imported flowers and the decline of flower shops.

Bongaerts sees his acquisition of the company as a move that has helped the company thrive. His commitment and the move away from multiple owners made it easier for the company to navigate changes and stay on the cutting edge, he said. The company currently employs 17 people.

Bongaerts’ connection to plants goes back to his years growing up in the Netherlands, where his father managed agricultural landholdings, and he worked on the family farm during the summers. In college, he majored in plant science. He later thought he would be a veterinarian. During an exchange program at Michigan State University, he decided he wanted to live and work in the U.S.

Flowers provided the bridge for Bongaerts to establish himself in the United States. His first job was with the Dutch Flower Auctions & Exporters Organization as a marketer in the Netherlands and then in the U.S. In 1983, he started selling flower bulbs and perennial plants from Dutch companies to growers in the U.S. and Canada. He put 40,000 miles a year on his car as he traveled his territory in the Eastern U.S.

In 1991, he and his wife started Bon Fleur, their retail store in New Canaan. In addition to running the retail operation, Bongaerts imported flowers from the Netherlands and sold them online via First American Florist. Bongaerts sold his flower shop to its manager in 2002, and the shop is still in business today.

Over his 40-year career, Bongaerts has seen huge changes in the American flower business, increasing imports and a decline in retailers. With the Certified American Grown label, he sees a chance to promote the growers the company works with when only 20 percent of cut flowers and greens sold in the United States are domestic.

“A lot of our growers are already certified,” he said. “This is a chance to promote them as such.”

Retail florists and floral designers can now search by the Certified American Grown category.  The iconic heart logo further identifies certified flowers and greens. Visit Florabundance.com today for premium Certified American Grown wholesale flowers and greens and join the movement to support our American flower and greens farmers.