Debra Prinzing

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Episode 295: Farmer-to-Farmer – ASCFG’s Flower Farmer Mentorship Program

May 3rd, 2017

This week’s guests include, from left: Linda Doan (Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers), Sarah Ervin (Southerly Flower Farm) and Tanis Clifton (Happy Trails Flower Farm)

It’s the first week of May and we have just announced details about the third annual campaign called American Flowers Week.

Set for June 28 through July 4, American Flowers Week started in 2015 as a grass-roots endeavor inviting flower farmers and florists to post images of their red-white-and-blue bouquets on Instagram, Twitter or other social media channels.

In that first year, the campaign stimulated 400,000 social media impressions. Last year, with more time to plan, we added beautiful collateral material, a free USA floral coloring map that participating florists and flower farmers could download and share with customers, and even red-white-and-blue stickers used by florists, flower farmers and retailers to label their AFW bouquets. Impressions on social media hit 1.3 million last year.

For 2017, I’m more ambitious than ever about American Flowers Week — and you’re invited to join in!
We’ve just released the press announcement and the gorgeous campaign graphic (shown above), featuring the most beautiful wearable sunflower gown you’ve ever seen!

These and other images are included in our free collateral material that you can download and use from At that site, you’ll also find inspiration about what creative activities Slow Flowers members are cooking up to promote local flowers in their communities — all ideas that you can borrow and personalize for your marketplace.

At the heart of American Flowers Week we are staging the first ever Slow Flowers Summit, a one-day forum for thinkers and doers in the progressive, sustainable floral world.

Taking place on July 2nd in Seattle, the Summit will feature pioneering voices and compelling topics to perhaps push you to a new level in your own relationship with American grown flowers.

Tickets are on sale now and you’re invited to join me, along with floral luminaries like Amy Stewart, author of the groundbreaking book Flower Confidential, Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co., James Baggett, garden editor for Better Homes & Gardens who is our master of ceremonies for the day, Chantal Aida Gordon from the award-winning blog, The Horticult, who will moderate our diversity panel with florist Nicole Cordier Wahquist of Grace Flowers Hawaii, landscape designer Leslie Bennett of Pine House Edible Gardens, and horticulture-floriculture whiz Riz Reyes; Emily Ellen Anderson of Lola Creative on the foam-free flower wall and professional reinvention, and floral innovator Lisa Waud of pot & box and Flower House Detroit — who will lead a conversation on the creative process.

All this for just $175 with a deep discount offered to Slow Flowers Members. We’ll have swag bags, giveaways and delicious local lunch and cocktail reception with speakers, all with a view of the Seattle waterfront from our venue, Surf Incubator Event Space in downtown Seattle. Please join us!

After the success of its inaugural two-year session, the Association of Specialty Cut Flower GrowersMentor Program is ready for another round of matching new growers with veteran farmers.

The main goals of the program are to help fast-track younger or inexperienced growers through the learning phase of beginning flower farming; build more successful growers and engage older or more experienced growers.

ASCFG has just opened up the application process at its web site for those interested in finding a mentor for the 2018-2019 class, with a May 31st deadline. Click here for the requirements and application details.

To learn more about program, I’m hosting several guests today.

Tanis and Rick Clifton of Happy Trails Flower Farm

Tanis Clifton of Happy Trails Flower Farm in Dennis, Mississippi. Tanis is the past southeast regional director for ASCFG who worked on the initial development of the organization’s Mentorship program. She provides the “big picture” thinking behind the formation of this farmer-to-farmer program.

Tanis Clifton, Happy Trails Flower Farm

Happy Trails Flower Farm

Follow Tanis/Happy Trails at these social places:

Happy Trails Flower Farm on Facebook

Happy Trails Flower Farm on Instagram

Happy Trails Flower Farm on Twitter

In 2010, Tanis and Rick established  Happy Trails Flower Farm at their homestead in the scenic hill country of Northeast Mississippi.

The couple grows hundreds of different flowers as well as greenery, vines, pods, cotton and other unusual vegetation, which they sell to discriminating florists, event designers, grocery stores, flower lovers and customers at Pepper Place Farmers Market in Birmingham, Alabama.

As Tanis writes on her web site, “Happy Trails Flower Farm is part of a growing movement to provide slow flowers all  over the USA.  We are committed and compassionate about supporting local flower farmers, like ourselves, thereby providing seasonal and local  blooms to designers, florists, grocers and lovers of flowers.”

Okay, so now you have the big picture; so let’s turn to my back-to-back conversations with Mentor Linda Doan, followed by Mentee Sarah Ervin, the two flower farmers, to whom Tanis referred. These women both live, and grow flowers in the state of Tennessee and they’ll share personal insights about a very successful pairing:

Linda Doan and Sarah Ervin, photographed at the 2016 Happily Ever After Workshop at Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers (c) Anna Hedges Photography

First up, Mentor Linda Doan of Aunt Willie’s Flower Farm based in Blountville, Tennessee.

Linda is the current ASCFG board secretary.

She and her husband Roy grow specialty cut flowers on beautiful Tennessee farm land gently handed down through six generations.

They grow and arrange flowers for very special weddings — 43 weddings, in fact, in 2016! They also offer farming and design workshops at Aunt Willie’s, where all flowers — heirloom, wildflowers and beautiful cultivars — are farm grown.

This year, Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers has introduced a 10-week summer CSA bouquet program to the local community, allowing customers to enjoy the love of all things wild that grow and blossom.

Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers — the home farm (c) Anna Hedges Photography

Flowers from Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers (c) Anna Hedges Photography

Flowers grown and designed by Linda Doan, Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers (c) Andrew and Erin Photography

A word about Aunt Willie. Roy’s delightful aunt, Willie Doan Deakins, passed away in 2001 at age 91. Her farm, barn, land and the Homeplace built by Roy’s great grandfather in 1870 moved into Roy and Linda’s hands. Aunt Willie’s love of flowers and eye for beauty could be seen in her well designed and tended gardens. Several of her plants were likely starts from her mother’s or grandmother’s original plants (roses, phlox, peonies, lilac, mock orange, iris, and spirea) from the Homeplace, perennials and shrubs that are now starts for Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers.

Follow Linda and Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers at these social places:

Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers on Facebook

Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers on Instagram

By the way, if you’re hankering for a visit to Tennessee (as I am), check out details on this year’s return engagement of the Happily Ever After Wedding Design Workshop, just announced for September 25-27 at Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers. Lots of details can be found at this link.

Stunning florals from farmer-florist Sarah Ervin, Southerly Flower Farm. (c) Our Ampersand Photography

Finally, you’ll meet Mentee Sarah Ervin of Southerly Flower Farm.

A lovely scene from Southerly Flower Farm.

Southerly Flower Farm is nestled in the mountains of East Tennessee, and is owned and operated by Matthew and Sarah Ervin – along with their 3 cats.

After inheriting a hardy piece of land and quaint cabin, they moved away from the city and began hibernating in the country. The land surrounding their home remained idle.

It wasn’t until much discussion and deliberation that they decided to put their hands, heart, and land to use harvesting locally grown flowers. Sarah grew up around her grandparent’s farm and in the back of her mind, knew she always wanted to farm. This combined their love for the creative side with their deep respect for farming.

Southerly Flower Farm wishes to decrease the dependence on imported flowers and strengthen the landscape of locally grown commerce, therefore strengthening the local economy and shedding light on the wonderful quality of American-grown flowers.

Their mission is to introduce specialty cut flowers and floral varieties to break the trend of the ordinary.. They long to join other local farms and makers in a mission to reawaken the landscape of local values and reinforce community.

Sarah’s flowers

Southerly’s arrangements feature seasonal flowers harvested from the farm and designed by Sarah. Individual bouquet and custom arrangements fill orders throughout the season and Southerly Flower Farm is found at the Main Street Farmer’s Market and the Chattanooga Market. Their flowers are also available for wholesale purchase for regional florists.

Find Sarah and Southerly Flower Farm at these social places:

Southerly Flower Farm on Facebook

Southerly Flower Farm on Instagram

Southerly Flower Farm on Twitter

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 185,000 times by listeners like you. THANK YOU to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to family of sponsors:

Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at

Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at

One Response to “Episode 295: Farmer-to-Farmer – ASCFG’s Flower Farmer Mentorship Program”

  1. Melisa Green Says:

    That sunflower gown gave me goosebumps, so beautiful!

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