Debra Prinzing

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Episode 244: Meet Mike A. Mellano, 3rd generation American flower farmer & ranunculus expert

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

aapeonies_logo This week we welcome a new Sponsor to the Slow Flowers Podcast — 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 arcticalaskapeonies.com.

Click here to learn more about Alaska peonies and listen to Episode 102.

Follow Arctic Alaska Peonies on Facebook

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Catch Arctic Alaska Peonies’ tweets on Twitter

Next up, today’s engaging guest is Mike Anthony Mellano.

I met “Mike A,” as he’s often called, in 2012, when the California Cut Flower Commission invited me to speak to their board meeting about The 50 Mile Bouquet and my passion for connecting consumers with the source of their flowers.

Mike A. Mellano, 3rd-generation flower farmer for Mellano & Co., speaking at the recent Field to Vase Dinner Tour at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California

Mike A. Mellano, 3rd-generation flower farmer for Mellano & Co., speaking at the recent Field to Vase Dinner Tour at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California

Grandfather Giovanni Mellano and his family in the early days after establishing Mellano & Co. in Los Angeles, 1925.

Grandfather Giovanni Mellano and his family in the early days after establishing Mellano & Co. in Los Angeles, 1925.

Early days at the Los Angeles Flower Market. The Mellano family has been involved for more than 90 years.

Early days at the Los Angeles Flower Market. The Mellano family has been involved for more than 90 years.

We’ve since crossed paths at many industry gatherings and I’m so impressed with Mike’s commitment to flower farming. His approach is to blend old-world Italian family traditions with modern and commercial innovation to grow and provide millions of American Grown flowers to today’s floral marketplace. Click here to read the History of the Mellano Family of Flower Farmers.

A rainbow of ranunculus at The Flower Fields, farmed by Mellano & Co.

A rainbow of ranunculus at The Flower Fields, farmed by Mellano & Co.

Love this! All photography, courtesy of Certified American Grown/Field to Vase Dinner.

Love this! All photography, courtesy of Certified American Grown/Field to Vase Dinner.

This interview took place on the morning of April 13th, prior to the Field to Vase Dinner held at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California. For the 2nd year, Mike was the “farmer-host” for that must-attend event. Unlike last year, I planned ahead for the podcast and was able to corner him for an interview at Mellano & Co. earlier in the day.

Mellano & Co. is a Certified American Grown flower farm.

Mellano & Co. is a Certified American Grown flower farm.

Here is a bit more about Mike Anthony:

Michael Anthony Mellano, Ph.D. is Chairman of the Board and Vice President of Production for Mellano & Company, a third generation cut flower production and distribution operation in San Luis Rey, California.  He joined the family business in 1988 after graduating from UC Riverside.

He is a Past President for the San Diego County Farm Bureau and past chairman for the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC).  He is currently a commissioner for the CCFC and chair of their Grower Research and Economic Development Committee.  He has been a long standing member of the USDA Floriculture Research Initiative Task Force, chairman and a Director of the Kee Kitayama Research Foundation and has served the last 8 years as the University of California representative to the national “Council for Agricultural Research, Extension & Teaching”.  Most recently Mike has accepted a board position with the American Floral Endowment.

Michael in the past also served as chairman for the California Ornamental Research Federation (CORF), was on the UC Davis Environmental Horticulture Department Advisory Committee and the grower representative to the USDA-Pacific Area Wide Program for Methyl Bromide Alternatives.

Michael received his B.S. in Plant Science and Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of California Riverside under Dr. Donald Cooksey where he focused on the molecular genetics of bacterial pathogens and copper resistance. The San Diego County Farm Bureau named him Farmer of the Year in 2015.

Michael is married to Valerie Mellano, Ph.D. the current chair of the Plant Science Department at Cal Poly Pomona. Together they have four wonderful and exceptional kids and one grandchild.

The Flower Fields has become a major tourism destination - connecting consumers with local flowers.

The Flower Fields has become a major tourism destination – connecting consumers with local flowers.

Dinner in The Flower Fields was divine!

Dinner in The Flower Fields was divine!

I know you’ll learn a great deal from our conversation and appreciate the passion and commitment Mike devotes to his family’s business.

Find Mellano & Co. on Facebook

Follow Mellano & Co. on Instagram

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 95,000 times by listeners like you. THANK YOU to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

American Flowers Week. Our Flower 'Fro designed by Susan McLeary, Passionflower Events.

American Flowers Week. Our Flower ‘Fro designed by Susan McLeary, Passionflower Events.

00507_DP_AFW_Logo_LRG-01 Just two days ago, On May 1st, we announced the 2016 American Flowers Week campaign. If you thought it was fun to be involved in this social-media-campaign last year, get ready for a bigger, better celebration this year — June 28 through July 4th.

Last year was our first time to devote an entire week promoting American Grown flowers, farmers and floral designers. This year, we’ll have a huge flower bucket filled with fun — all for the cause that is near and dear to our hearts.

2016 American Flowers Week Sponsors

2016 American Flowers Week Sponsors

Four industry sponsors have signed on with their financial support, including Certified American Grown Flowers, Syndicate Sales, Longfield Gardens and Mayesh Wholesale.

As I said in the press announcement, “Consumers are more conscious than ever about the origins of the goods they purchase, especially when it comes to food — and flowers. It’s important to raise awareness for and celebrate American grown flowers, as well as flower farmers who grow a diverse selection of botanicals for the cut flower trade. At the same time, we salute floral designers whose ethos and intent inspires them to source domestically.”

Earlier this week, I shared details about the 2016 American Flowers Week campaign with more than 700 Slowflowers.com members, unveiling new graphics and a “50 States of American Flowers” contest. The contest encourages farmers and florists to post photographs of their red-white-and-blue bouquets along with the hash-tag americangrownflowers on social media platforms. Entrants will be included in a drawing for a number of prizes.

2016Badge with no background You’ll find more information and resources at americanflowersweek.com. Downloadable fact sheets, infographics and the 2016 American Flowers Week logo and social media badges are available for growers and florists to use for their own marketing and promotion efforts.

Submissions to the “50 States of American Grown Flowers” contest will highlight local flowers from across the country. Slowflowers.com member farms and florists are invited to submit their designs to a gallery that we will share with the media during American Flowers Week. Our goal is to showcase the botanical and seasonal beauty from flower farms and designers in all 50 states.

Participate in the “50 States of American Grown Flowers” Contest here.

Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And 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 and Hannah Brenlan. Learn more about their work at shellandtree.com.

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2016 Floral Insights & Industry Forecast (Episode 227)

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

page-0 As I was preparing to record this week’s episode I had a flashback to January 2014 and it reminded me of just how young Slow Flowers really was only two years ago.

Leading up to the launch of Slowflowers.com, I’d spent six months working with my designers to create the site’s framework. Having invested more than $10,000 of my own money to get the platform off the ground, I decided to turn to crowd-funding to raise another $12,000 in order to pay the web developer’s bill.

My original sketch for how this website could look! Yes, I wanted to call it "Locaflor"!

My original sketch for how this website could look! Yes, I wanted to call it “Locaflor”!

I spent considerable time and effort to set up my Kickstarter campaign, including hiring my friend Hannah Holtgeerts and her then-teenage brothers to create the Slow Flowers campaign video. For those of you who’ve been involved in these crowd funding sites, you know about all the up-front investment of time and resources that’s required prior to ever submitting your project for review.

Why Slow Flowers? from debra prinzing on Vimeo.

On December 24th 2013, less than 24 hours after I had submitted the Slow Flowers campaign to Kickstarter, I received this generic email response:

Unfortunately, this project does not meet our guidelines — resources of this nature do fall outside our scope. This isn’t a judgment on the quality of this project, just a reflection of our focus.

Not only was I devastated, I felt that Kickstarter was wrong and didn’t understand the creative nature of Slowflowers.com. If I had wanted to publish the directory of American flower farmers and florists as a tangible book rather than an easy-to-update web-based directory, I’m sure they would have accepted my proposal. It’s not like I was launching an e-commerce site either. I think it was just a matter of a lazy reviewer who didn’t take the time to thoughtfully read my proposal, but instead made the wrong conclusion and sent me their rejection.

I brushed myself off and turned to Indiegogo, where I should have started in the first place. I resubmitted the exact same campaign that Kickstarter had rejected and within 24 hours – on January 5, 2014, I received this email:

Congrats, ‘Slow Flowers: A Directory of American Flowers, Florists, Designers & Farmers’ is now live! 

Indiegogo_home_pg My chunk of coal in the Christmas stocking turned into a beautiful diamond, thanks to Indiegogo’s acceptance of the project. What followed was nothing short of amazing, with a 45-day campaign generating more than $18,000 from 229-plus contributors— we exceeded the original funding goal by 54 percent! Look how far we’ve come in just two years!

Slowflowers.com launched in early May of 2014 with 250 listings.

Today, our membership has climbed to 640 in 48 states!

It’s always good to look in the rear-view mirror and see the distance covered. The road was bumpy, narrow and had limited visibility – but our wheels are still on the flower cart and it is my dream to help Slowflowers.com membership climb to 1,000 in 2016.

That is my New Year’s resolution – and you can help me reach that goal by referring fellow flower farmers, floral designers and wholesalers to join the site!

NEWS ITEM

Laura (left) and Jacha (right), of Butterbee Farm outside Baltimore.

Laura (left) and Jascha (right), of Butterbee Farm outside Baltimore.

Laura embodies at least three of this year's Floral Insights: She's female; she is an urban flower farmer; and she builds community through collaboration!

Laura embodies at least three of this year’s Floral Insights: She’s female; she is an urban flower farmer; and she builds community through collaboration!

I recently checked in with Slowflowers.com member Laura Beth Resnick of Baltimore-based Butterbee Farm to learn more about the Maryland Cut Flower Growers Association’s winter meetings. Laura is the current president of the Association, which will hold the second of its three winter meetings on January 12th from 10 am to 1 pm (the third meeting is scheduled for February 9th at the same time).

The Maryland Cut Flower Growers Association is a regional group that has met each winter to share information for almost twenty years. The group convenes in Annapolis and the meeting is open to flower farmers in the Chesapeake Region, which includes Maryland, northern Virginia, southern Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

Before you hear her voice, I’ll share a little bit more about Laura Beth. She is a Baltimore native who launched Butterbee Farm in 2013 after a few years apprenticing on East Coast organic farms. The farm’s first seeds were sown on a 13th of an acre in the Reservoir Hill area outside Baltimore. Midway through the summer, artist and California transplant Jascha Owens volunteered on the farm, and the two have been farming together ever since, now farming on nearly two acres thanks to increasing demand for their beautiful flowers.

The Maryland Cut Flower Growers Association meeting will be held at the Maryland Department of Agriculture Building (50 Harry S. Truman Parkway in Annapolis). For more information, you can contact Laura: butterbeefarm@gmail.com. I hope you are able to attend if you’re in the area.

OUR 2016 FORECAST

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As promised, Let’s kick off 2016 with my Floral Insights and Industry Forecast. I’ve been tracking shifts and concepts that are taking hold in the American floral world.  I know some of you have already experienced these developments. In fact, my conversations with guests on the Slow Flowers Podcast have greatly influenced this list.

READ MORE…

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