North Pole Peonies Joins Certified American Grown

In Alaska, North Pole Peonies makes the most of short, sweet growing season!

When it comes to growing peonies in Alaska, North Pole Peonies was there at the very beginning.

Ron and Marji Illingworth started with about 100 plants in 2003 and with some uncertainty about whether peonies were a viable crop in interior Alaska’s brief growing season. Seventeen years later, they have 12,000 plants, sell their blooms worldwide and are central figures in the state’s peony industry. They have been leaders in the Alaska Peony Growers Association, mentored new growers and helped with research on growing and shipping issues.

Since the Illingworths planted their first peonies, the number of growers in Alaska has grown from a handful to more than 100.

Chris Beks, the Illingworths’ son-in-law and operations manager of North Pole Peonies, says peonies were no sure thing when the farm started. Peonies take three to five years to produce marketable blooms, so it required a leap of faith to make the investment of time and money.

“People might not say it now but I think they were pretty skeptical that this was going to work,” Beks said.

The Illingworths had experience with growing vegetables at their small farm near North Pole, Alaska, just outside Fairbanks and near Eielson Air Force Base. They sold their produce at the local farmers’ market.

They were also professors at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Ron in English and Marji in early childhood education. It was there they learned about the possibility of growing peonies.

A fellow professor, horticulturist Patricia Holloway, was doing research on growing peonies. Interactions with growers and buyers from outside Alaska made Holloway think that the state might be perfectly situated to grow peonies. The blooms 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 are relatively lightweight and perfect for export via air.

Holloway suggested that the Illingworths give peonies a try. They were among about a dozen growers involved.

Beks, a native of the Netherlands, said his in-laws thought his heritage made him a natural to grow flowers.

“They said, ‘Hey Chris, you’re Dutch, you know about growing flowers,’” he said. “Almost everybody in the Netherlands has a brother, cousin, uncle or somebody that works in the flower industry. But I had never done it myself.”

Beks and his wife, Elizabeth, soon got onboard and became partners in the business. It’s their second job – Chris is an instructional design specialist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Elizabeth is a science teacher in the local schools.

It took until 2009 for it to be clear that peonies were a go.

“That’s was when the (floral) designers said, ‘Wow, these peonies, they’re great. Have you got more?’” he said. “That was when we realized we had something really unique here.”

The Illingworths dropped the vegetables that they had continued to grow and focused completely on peonies. The farm grew as it added more peonies every season. With 12,000 plants now, Beks said the focus is now on quality rather than quantity.

“We’re focused on growing at the top end and have our plants grow the biggest and best possible,” he said.

Beks said the farm has been a longtime supporter of the American Grown label. North Pole Peonies had the Certified American Grown label as part of a growers’ co-op and it recently received individual certification.

“We’re proud to be growing flowers in the United States,” he said. “The U.S. flower industry is making a comeback, slowly but surely. Even though we only grow flowers a few months out of the year, we want to show that this is how we should do it and not rely on imports.”

Blühen Acres Flower Farm Joins Certified American Grown

In rural New York, a flower grower discovers her joy!

When it comes to flowers, Kate Lindhorst has come a long way in a very short amount of time.

Lindhorst is the owner of Blühen Acres, a flower farm in Nichols, New York, that specializes in bouquets that Lindhorst makes herself.

But a few short years ago, flowers were not even part of her life.

“I was really part of that crowd that thinks, ‘Why would you even buy flowers when they don’t last?’” she said. “I just really underestimated the joy that you can get from them, from receiving them and giving them. It’s not something I fully understood until I started doing this.”

That joy has spurred the hard work that Lindhorst has invested in starting her business from scratch. She grows more than 50 varieties of flowers on a half-acre of a 30-acre former dairy farm where she lives with her husband and three children.

Since she opened Blühen Acres in 2019 with an announcement on Facebook, her bouquets by subscription have been in steady demand. She also offers a la carte flowers for weddings and special events. She takes another step on July 11 by opening a flower shop on the farm where she will sell her bouquets as well as floral accessories, such as vases, planters, flower-related books and floral-scented candles.

The shop was both a dream and practical move.

“It’s sort of a dream to do it but I didn’t expect to come to fruition so quickly,” she said.

The practical aspect is that it will give customers a place to pick up their bouquets.

“We had a drop-off location last year, and it just proved to be a lot of work,” she said. “It was a lot of logistics, trying to get everything lined up and making sure people had picked up their bouquets. I just want to make sure everyone is well-served.”

Both Lindhorst and her husband, Rand, grew up locally, a rural area on New York’s southern border near the Susquehanna River. Lindhorst was never involved in agriculture – “I had never grown anything, not even a garden growing up,” she said. Rand, however, was raised on a dairy farm, and farming goes back generations through his German roots. The name of the farm is a nod to his heritage – “blühen” is German for “bloom.”

The couple bought the 30-acre farm in 2018 with an eye on raising beef cattle. Eventually, Rand wants to open up his own butcher shop on the farm. They also wanted to raise their children – ages 3, 6 and 7 – in a rural environment.

The idea for a flower business came to Lindhorst as the couple was closing on the farm, and she realized they had all this open land.

“It’s kind of a running joke that I don’t know if the flowers found me or if I found the flowers,” she said. “I just like woke up one morning and I just keep thinking, we have so much space now. And I was a stay-at-home mom, so I didn’t really have anything that was just my own.”


Lindhorst embarked on learning all she could about growing flowers.

“It was a lot of research and reading,” she said. “I don’t like baby steps. I want to do things all in one fell swoop and get them done.”

Her formal training came through a five-week online course for small-scale flower growers offered by Floret Flower Farms in Skagit Valley, Washington.

“We really applied everything we learned and just went for it,” she said. “We reference it often, even still.”

As she laid the groundwork for the flower farm, she kept her plans pretty much to herself. As part of the preparations she built a Facebook page for the farm. When she was finally ready to open, she mentioned the farm and its Facebook page on her personal Facebook page.

People who knew her were surprised. The response was almost overwhelmingly.

“It really did blow up very quickly,” she said. The farm soon reached its limit on bouquet subscriptions.

What she grows is based on the area’s climate and the local population’s taste in flowers. “People around here like really classic flowers, things that are nostalgic, like sweet peas, because their grandma grew them,” she said.

Blühen Farms has always been an organic operation. Lindhorst sought American Grown Certification to give her customers assurance about how and where their flowers are grown.

“It’s important, especially now, that we know where things come from that you bring into your home,” she said. “That’s true with food, and with flowers, too. It’s a conversation that’s important – how was it grown, where did it from, what chemicals were used – and we want to be a part of it. It gives our customers a sense of security because they know how we grow and what our practices are.”

Since opening the farm, Lindhorst has learned that there’s lot more to selling flowers than just growing them. The amount of administrative work has been eye-opening as well as just how much work it is for one person and how much she has to put herself out there as the face of the business. Still, there’s that joy.

“I never expected how much joy it would bring me to share things with people,” she said. “Everybody has a story when they come and pick up their bouquets. Everybody has memories attached to flowers, and that was unexpected.”


Join Blühen Farms this Saturday, July 11th for their flower shop’s Grand Opening!

Photography credit: Emma Brown

It’s American Grown Flowers Month!

We’re Celebrating All Month Long and So Can You!

For the fourth year in a row, the U.S. Senate has designated July American Grown Flowers Month, recognizing the economic and cultural impact of America’s cut flower and greens farmers. It’s an amazing form of recognition right at the height of flower season!

There are so many ways you can participate in the celebration, connect with flowers and help spread the word that origin matters!

First, you can look for our iconic logo in the amazing American Grown Flowers displays from retailers participating in the annual American Grown Flowers Month. You’ll find special displays and supporting collateral in many Safeway, Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions, Spartan Nash, Charlie’s Produce, Mother’s Markets, Ralphs, Alfalfa’s Local Markets, United Supermarkets and more.

Grab some American Grown Flowers and Greens when you see them and encourage your family and friends to do the same. With so many stores participating, it’s easy!

Florists, you can also look to DVFlora for its celebration of American Grown Flowers Month that includes downloadable marketing materials and a full month of specials on flowers and greens from Certified American Grown farms throughout July.  Farms featured in July include: Ferntrust, Eufloria, Joseph & Sons, Mellano & Co., Holland America Flowers and Camflor.

And florists who are committed to spreading the #originmatters message and designing with homegrown flowers can use DVFlora’s dedicated online directory or our Where to Buy American Grown to quickly and conveniently purchase Certified American Grown Flowers and Greens.

Want something more interactive?

Kelly Shore, from The Floral Source, has curated American Grown at Home farm direct boxes and will be featuring four different Certified American Grown farms from coast to coast for the month of July. You will have the opportunity to create with these unique blooms and greens in your home with a virtual hands-on workshop.

Or celebrate American Grown Flowers Month by connecting with friends, family or even strangers with flowers! Buy flowers for yourself and some extra to share and spread joy – like the Flower Party Box from Harmony Harvest.

Finally, you can have a conversation about homegrown flowers with all of your connections. That might be in person, socially distanced, in an email or by sharing about American Grown Flowers Month on social media.

Now’s the time to share the word about the bounty and beauty of American Grown Flowers and Greens that are at their peak in July!



No Shortage of American Grown Roses 

Get Connected to the Domestic Farmers Who Can Fulfill Your Rose Dreams 

It’s a topic that comes up almost every year: a shortage of roses. Natural disasters, labor issues and, this year, COVID-19 and the related supply chain challenges, can disrupt the availability of roses in the U.S. 

Menagerie Farm & Flower

While there are fewer weddings happening this summer due to the pandemic, there’s still a lot of demand for roses from wholesalers, florists and consumers who appreciate the variety, fragrance and beauty of the rose. 

Not only are American flower farmers growing gorgeous, fragrant roses, there’s been a renaissance of craft rose growers in the U.S. who are providing specialty roses in a range of varieties and colors – particularly the popular garden rose. 

Getting your hands on them is a matter of relationship-building, and knowing the rose farms by name or the wholesalers that buy from those farms.  

Kelly Shore, a renowned wedding florist that serves Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland, encourages florists and rose aficionados to establish relationships with American rose growers right away. 

About 34 U.S. rose farms grow 28 million stems a year, with several new craft rose farms emerging. 

“As wedding, event and retail designers, we must educate ourselves on where our flowers come from. We can’t wait until the last minute when supply chain disruptions happen and go into a tailspin about where to confidently source roses,” Shore notes. “We have an abundance of flowers that grow 365 days a year in the U.S., roses being one of them. Garden roses, spray roses and hybrid tea roses are grown domestically in a variety of popular and in vogue color palettes.”  

You can use our list of Certified American Grown rose growers to connect with farms that can deliver exactly what you have in mind year-round, something that will be particularly important when weddings and other in-person celebrations return. 

Shore’s advice: Don’t wait. Get connected to U.S. rose growers. Be an advocate for American Grown roses and look for distributors that support domestic producers. 

Menagerie Farm & Flower

Celebrate ‘Mother’s May,’ purchase flowers during U.S. peak production

Help keep the momentum going!

Thanks to wholesalers, florists and consumers who supported America’s flower farmers, Mother’s Day overall was a floral success! 

In fact, in some areas of the country, the response was better than expected, with many retailers selling out of flowers and florists having to ramp up significantly to keep pace with orders.

In other words, a good problem to have – and one that domestic flower farmers greatly appreciate!

As Patrick Busch of Len Busch Roses shared,

“Sales were very good, exceeding last year and very close to budget. Overall, demand was greater than we were prepared for.”  

The Flower Peddler in New Jersey also saw success:

“We sold directly to retail customers for Mother’s Day and it was beyond anything we could have expected. We actually had to stop taking orders as we were running out of product,” shared Bethany Bernard. 

Other flower farmers found success with gift card programs or on-farm sales. 

But even with the recent increase in demand, not all farms are where they need to be to keep going. Thankfully, there’s a solution! 

Consumers, wholesalers and florists can keep the momentum going and keep supporting cut flower farmers by backing what we’re calling “Mother’s May.” After all, for all they do, mom’s deserve more than one day of celebration. And since many are working from home, assisting with distance learning and still handling their usual mama duties, they’ve earned more flowers than ever this May!

We’re urging everyone to continue to honor their hardworking mom’s with American Grown Flowers. 

And, as July approaches, we have another reason to celebrate: July is American Grown Flowers Month. 

Perfectly timed for the peak production of amazing American Grown blooms and foliage, July is a great time to keep supporting America’s flower farmers and purchase flowers for life’s celebrations and to brighten your home. 

Remember to look for the American Grown logo to ensure your getting top-notch, fresh domestic flowers.  

With your help, we can help all American flower farmers continue to grow amazing blooms and greens, employ more workers and contribute to the economy.

Celebrate Mother’s May

Why not Mother’s May instead of just a Day!

Moms deserve more than just a day – give her a Mother’s May!

Celebrate Mother’s May – yes you read that correctly – we are suggesting that you celebrate the moms in your life for more than just a day. Instead make sure she has American Grown flowers and greens throughout the month of May.

Now more than ever mothers and caretakers need flowers! They are not only taking care of our little ones but now they are also teachers, employees, housekeepers, chefs and more – all at once.

It’s not easy being mom so let’s give her a boost! Several recent research studies have uncovered that flowers not only look pretty but they have a positive impact on our mood and provide connection between the giver and the receiver.

Not only will flowers bring mom joy, they will also support our American Grown flower and greens farmers and their families.

Just a few more reasons to give flowers to mom!

This year Mother’s Day falls on Sunday, May 10th – but with the current pandemic situation, make sure you order early. Some of the usual supply chains and transportation channels are slowed down by the current situation.

The best way to ensure mom gets the freshest, highest quality flowers is to ask your florist or designer to use American Grown flowers and greens, look for our label in your grocery stores or order direct from one of our farms. For a full guide on where and how to buy American Grown Flowers, click the link below.



American Flower Industry Suffering Staggering Losses

Flower Farmers Working Hard To Keep Flowers Moving In Time Of Crisis

Media Contact:

Dave Pruitt 
CEO, California Cut Flower Commission 
Administrator, Certified American Grown 
(805) 710-0692



American Flower Industry Suffering Staggering Losses

Flower Farmers Working Hard To Keep Flowers Moving In Time Of Crisis   

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has American consumers focused on purchasing necessities like toilet paper, hand soap and food. What they’re not purchasing is flowers on their way to check out, and that’s a problem. 

In a conference call on Friday, March 20, over 50 California flower farmers discussed the devastation their farming industry is experiencing due to lack of demand from consumers,  canceled orders from industry outlets and transportation line shutdowns.  

The bottom line, according to American flower farmers: If the general public doesn’t start buying American Grown Flowers immediately, the American flower industry, its farmers, wholesale distributors, retail designers and all the people who work in those businesses cannot survive. 

In fact, several flower farmers on the call said they’re less than a week away from complete ruin. 

“America’s flower farmers, the floral industry and all of their employees are teetering on economic devastation” said Dave Pruitt, CEO for The California Cut Flower Commission and administrator of Certified American Grown Flowers. “These people literally cannot hold on without support from consumers. We urge our fellow Americans to please consider purchasing fresh American Grown Flowers and Greens the next time you’re in the store, and ask for our flowers to be added back into the distribution pipeline as a valued agricultural commodity.”  

While a handful of retailers nationwide continue to carry flowers, many grocery brands and distributors are canceling orders or turning deliveries away. Farmers also express difficulty with getting their blooms and greens transported due to confusion around agricultural products and their exemption from the restrictions. 

“Our Certified American Grown farmers are out in their local communities now assisting the overworked people in the best ways we know – delivering flowers and greens to help alleviate stress and bring moments of joy. We encourage you all to BUY FLOWERS where you can, SHARE THEM and let’s make sure that all farmers are still in business when this crisis is over. Once gone, a farm may be gone forever,” said Rita Jo Shoultz, owner of Alaska Perfect Peony and chair of the Certified American Grown Council.  

“A Rutger’s University Study indicated that flowers bring happiness. In the home, they support self care, provide joy, hope and healing,” Shoultz added. “Flowers help counteract negative messages and darkness prevalent at this very moment. Flowers will assuage troubled minds and bring peace to hearts and souls in this time of anxiety and fear.”  

Today, flower farmers are asking consumers to purchase a bunch of flowers next time they’re in stores to buy essentials. That purchase could make the difference in an entire industry – one we count on to add beauty to life’s celebrations, express love and decorate our homes. 

# # #

About Certified American Grown

Launched on July 1, 2014, Certified American Grown Flowers represents a unified and diverse coalition of U.S. flower farms, including small and large entities in multiple states across the country. Certified American grown flower farms participate in an independent, third-party supply-chain audit to verify both origin and assembly of the flowers they grow. When it appears on bouquets, bunches and other packaging or store signage, the Certified American Grown Flowers logo gives consumers confidence in the source of their flowers and assures them that the flowers they purchase come from a domestic American flower farm. For more information about Certified American Grown Flowers, visit 

About the California Cut Flower Commission

The California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC) unites the state’s approximately 225 flower farmers to advance California’s $320 million flower industry. In addition to providing cooperative marketing opportunities and administering advocacy efforts, the commission has positioned the California Grown brand as a highly recognizable, consumer-facing brand to drive sales of the state’s fresh flowers and foliage. Learn more at 

Space savers: The flower power advantage for isolation

How many times have you said to yourself, “I could really use a break!” 

Although the timing and circumstances are not most Americans’ choice, this pause is here, courtesy of COVID-19. But unlike a staycation, we aren’t sure just how much time we have to launch DIY remodeling projects or dive into long-term changes in our life. 

Immediate impacts that refresh our space are the goal now, along with keeping our spirits sweet.

Floral arrangements accomplish both. According to a 10-month behavioral study at Rutgers University, flowers have an immediate impact on happiness and a long-term positive effect on moods. Study participants reported feeling less depressed, anxious, and agitated when presented with flowers. Color plays a strong role in this reaction:

Red has a positive effect on the immune system and an energizing influence on fatigue and exhaustion. 

• When you see pink, you often feel joy. Bright hues of this color increase blood pressure, heartbeat and respiration, as well, which leads to energy. 

Violet calms the body and mind and nourishes creativity. 

Yellow, the happy color, encourages communication while it stimulates memory and the nervous system. 

Orange’s psychological profile includes promoting optimism, determination, and success. On the other hand, it also urges viewers to socialization, so be sparing with this color. 

Blue, as you could no doubt guess, promotes a calm, cool, and sedate aura. No wonder it’s America’s favorite color even in normal times. 

Green brings about tranquility.

Photo: The Floral Source Instagram /

But the effects don’t end there. If you find working from home is adding undue stress to your daily life, take heart from this study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology: fresh-cut roses in a Tokyo office environment produced measurable degrees of relaxation. “In our stressful, modern societies, the relaxing effect of natural stimuli is considered advantageous compared with other stimuli,” the researchers shared. 

And, finally, don’t overlook the power of scent. Lavender has long been known as a way to relieve anxiety and depression. (It’s also been used as antiseptic) The small, white jasmine flowers enhance mental alertness. Lilac triggers serenity. 

Mother Nature loves you. Be sure to let her into your life in the coming days!


The Flower Fields tour stop in Carlsbad, California, originally scheduled for April 16, has been postponed.

The safety of our guests, farmers, chefs and staff is our highest priority. We want everyone coming to an American Grown Field to Vase Dinner on one of our flower farms to do so without worry. 

Therefore, based on the current recommendations of the CDC, we’ve decided to delay the start of our Field to Vase Dinner series until June, with the first dinner taking place at Ocean Breeze Farms in Arroyo Grande, California on June 20.

The Flower Fields tour stop in Carlsbad, California, originally scheduled for April 16, has been postponed. We’ll reach out as soon as a new date is determined. Your ticket will be honored for our future date, and if you’re unable to attend the rescheduled event, we’ll issue a credit that can be used toward another Field to Vase Dinner. This includes changing your tickets to nearest location to Carlsbad, the dinner in Arroyo Grande, CA on June 20.   

The events surrounding the recent COVID-19 pandemic have caused fear, panic and uncertainty, but now, more than ever, we need to rally as a community to take care of each other and spread kindness and joy. 

A Rutgers University study conducted a few years ago indicated that flowers have long-term positive effect on mood. Flowers assuage troubled minds and bring peace to hearts and souls in times of anxiety and fear. So next time you’re picking up essentials, be sure to grab some flowers as well. 

Thank you for your continued support of our American farmers, designers and chefs.

See you soon on a flower farm near you!

We want you to feel confident about your ticket purchase.

As the COVID-19 pandemic is ever-changing, we’ll continue to monitor information and keep you informed. If an American Grown Field to Vase Dinner must be postponed due to circumstances beyond our control, we’ll reschedule and all ticket purchases will be honored for a future date. If a guest is unable to attend the rescheduled dinner, we’ll issue a credit for the original purchase amount to be used toward another Field to Vase Dinner of their choice.

2020 D.C. Fly-in Recap

Certified American Grown

This past week myself and our team hosted one of the most important events CCFC / CAG has each year, the DC Fly In. As your CEO, I was beyond proud of the group that dedicated themselves to join us in Washington DC to perform this critical service on behalf of the entire US Cut Flower Industry. Our group consisted of 15 US farmers, 2 professional designers and 3 CCFC staff; all representing 10 States and including Jumana Madanat Misleh, our DC Legislative Consultant, who set up all of our appointments. During the 2.5 days, we held our annual CAG Council Meeting, then divided ourselves up to conquer the 40 + meetings with Representatives, Senators and 3 different departments.


I think I can safely say that this was the 1st ever DC Fly In where we’ve had a Senator actually sign a bill for us right there in his office (pictured below)!
Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska signed the Senate version of the American Grown Act with our group present in his office. Following the signing in Sullivan’s office, the bill was sent to Senator Dianne Feinstein to co-sign the bill.



Other highlights of the trip were us learning how the National Floriculture Report is created and discussing ways we can give input to improve the report managed by NASS, The National Agricultural Statistics Service. Annually, when you are reporting your cut flower variety production, there is an area called ‘other’. Please take a few minutes and write in the specific top five varieties you are growing, not included in the pre-printed list of varieties on the same page. That way we will get an opportunity to have detailed data on individual varieties we grow to better influence marketing decisions for our future.


Meetings last year with the Undersecretary Ted McKinney, in Charge of Foreign AG Trade, initiated conversations with USAID about financial aid given to countries to export flowers into the US market. We discussed with staff from USAID the need to rethink helping Kenya with exporting their flowers into the USA. We also met with the USDA to cover marketing, regulatory programs and fair trade policies for all flowers coming into this country. We presented our stand on ‘Country of Origin’ labeling to numerous people from Department Staff to every Congress person we met. We followed up by getting support to officially designate July as “American Grown Flower Month” and had members of Congress say they would become new members of our Cut Flower Caucus.



As you can see, our annual DC Fly In is one of the most valuable programs we run, creating real change that will help us all maintain the health of our Cut Flower Farms across the United States. This year was the biggest DC Fly In in recent history and it was all topped off by a packed house reception co- sponsored by our friends of The Wine Institute, CHEERS! We all got a second opportunity to talk with Staff, Representatives and Senators we visited during the day and have them leave the reception with Fresh Certified American Grown Flowers. Anna Kalins, our new Event Director was a big part of making this year’s FlyIn a strong success.



In closing, 2020 is the 30th birthday of the Cut Flower Commission. That longevity accomplishment is a true benchmark of the value our growers have experienced, as a result of the work our organization takes pride in.


Doing what matters,





Dave Pruitt,
CEO The California Cut Flower Commission #CAGROWN
Administrator Certified American Grown #OriginMatters