Debra Prinzing

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Episode 357: Engaging Customers Through Experience and Inspiration with Scott Paris of High Hand Nursery & announcing our 2019 Slow Flowers Summit Venue

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

We brought the Slow Flowers Summit 2018 to Washington, D.C.

As I mentioned during last week’s show, we’ve just experienced the fourth annual American Flowers Week — the original domestic floral-promotion holiday that’s an inclusive campaign filled with local, seasonal and beautiful flowers and foliage in all 50 states!

This virtual campaign gave me a peek into all corners of the U.S. as I witnessed flowers, farms, creativity and events taking place in region all around the country, as well as connections across social media platforms.

And, during the heart of American Flowers Week, we held the 2nd annual Slow Flowers Summit. As an interactive, LIVE element of the campaign, the Summit drew more than 100 attendees — speakers, designers, flower farmers, innovators, influencers and leaders in the Slow Flowers Movement.

Even though we were inside a hotel conference room, the space was filled with flowers, including the Moon Arch that everyone had a hand in designing (c) Niesha Blancas

In the coming weeks, I hope to release all sorts of content from the D.C. Slow Flowers Summit.

See a gallery of Slow Flowers Summit 2018 photos here.

But for now, I want to share a few words from my opening remarks on June 29th. Please bear with me — it’s personal and as my husband would say, probably contains too much “back-story,” but that’s how I am.

Here’s what I said:

I thought I’d take a moment to acknowledge how significant it is that we’re all here at the Slow Flowers Summit for Year Two. How did this come to be?

There had been talk over the years of a conference focused on domestic flowers, including some initial conversations I had with folks at the California Cut Flower Commission and the SF Flower Mart several years ago.

The desire was real, but the idea never went anywhere, and it later became clear that the Slow Flowers Community wanted something different — more intimate and inclusive — than a big industry event.

So what brought us from idea to reality? Before I left Seattle to travel here, I pulled out an email from April 2015, sent to me by one of our speakers, Mary Kate Kinnane of The Local Bouquet.

The email’s subject line read: NEW IDEAS.

I hope all is well with you and the family and I’m hoping that the Slow Flowers movement has new and exciting things coming its way. I have been wanting to contact you since I returned from my amazing experience at the Chapel Designers conference in NY and especially after meeting people like Jimmy Lohr of greenSinner and others. My wheels have been spinning and so I wanted to share some of my ideas with you. 

Jimmy and I discussed how our Slow Flowers family needs an event like what Holly Chapple has created for florists across the United States. An event that would gather designers from across the United States who have pledged to use local and American grown flowers to network and train with each other from experts in our field. 

I think it is time we bring the Slow Flowers website to life with an event at which all of the flower farmers and florists who have pledged to use their local and seasonal blooms get together and network. I think it would be great to actually gather everyone together to talk (farmer and florist). Let’s start with the East Coast. [well, Mary Kate, we started last year in Seattle, but yes, today, we’re here on the East Coast!]

She closed by saying: I am really proud that we are still able to stick to our mission of staying 100% American and locally grown in everything we buy. Now that I have bombarded you with ideas and thoughts, let me know if any interest you (because obviously we can’t do it all)!

We had a few lighthearted email exchanges, and while nothing happened immediately, the idea stuck with me because that was the year we launched American Flowers Week in 2015.

The following year, in 2016, I had a memorable conversation with Amy Stewart, author of Flower Confidential, the groundbreaking book that stimulated awareness of sustainable practices and flower sourcing in our industry. We both remarked that the 10-year-anniversary of Amy’s book would take place in 2017. Amy turned to me and said, “we should do something together to commemorate it.” I think she meant YOU should do something, Debra.

The seed that Mary Kate had planted grew a few more roots that day.

Weeks later, during the 2016 SF Flower & Garden Show, I attended a dinner where a very similar conversation took place, with Christina Stembel of Farmgirl Flowers, Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co., who spoke last year, Beth Van Sandt of Scenic Place Peonies, and Bay Area florists Susan Kelly and Kathleen Williford — all Slow Flowers Members. We spoke further about a Slow Flowers “live” gathering, and agreed to continue brainstorming at a workshop Teresa and I were to teach together later that year at her studio in Santa Cruz.

By then, it was September 2016, and I couldn’t let go of the notion that hosting a live conference during American Flowers Week would be a great way to celebrate what was a virtual, social media-centric event. I attended the TEDxSeattle conference a few months later and found myself enjoying the presentations, but spending more time analyzing the structure and flow of the conference — projecting my ideas onto that very successful framework at which a number of speakers and topics are presented in a single day.

Over the holidays, I called Amy and asked, “If I host a Slow Flowers Summit, will you give the keynote?” She said YES, and I jumped right in, finding a venue in Seattle and inviting a fabulous lineup of speakers. The Summit took place on July 2, 2017 in Seattle. We had 91 attendees and it was incredible as a first-effort.

Amy Stewart and Teresa Sabankaya were two of those first speakers, and a few of you were also there. Thank you for returning — we have Christina Stembel, Kit Wertz and Mud Baron, all who attended last year and — surprise — they’re presenting this year. And we have returning attendees Nan Mattson of Queen City Flower Farm in Cincinnati, a self-described “urban micro flower farm,” and Sarah Reyes of Unfurled, based in Oakland area, a floral designer and self-described “floral liaison” — I’m so happy to see you both here!

Well, that was my recap of the birth of the Slow Flowers Summit. And now, I have a big announcement for you . . .

The 3rd Slow Flowers Summit will take place on July 1st and 2nd, 2019, in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota! Save the dates!

I’m so pleased that we have a co-host in Christine Hoffman, founder of Twin Cities Flower Exchange, a floral wholesale hub that represents local flower farmers and chemical-free practices, now in its 2nd season.

Christine is a past guest of this podcast and I’m so pleased that she agreed to welcome the Slow Flowers community to the Twin Cities – where a lot of exciting things are taking place in the floral world. To share more, I’ve asked Christine to join me for a short preview of what’s in store for you next year!

Sign up to receive Slow Flowers Summit 2019 Updates and Announcements here.

Listen to our past Podcast interviews with Christine:

Episode 193 (May 13, 2015)

Episode 290 (March 29, 2017)

Follow Twin Cities Flower Exchange on Instagram

And if you happen to find yourself in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area on Sunday, August 12th, please join me at a reception Christine is hosting for the local floral community. It will take place at Good Acre, the food hub that houses Twin Cities Flower Exchange. See Details & RSVP for the August 11th Slow Flowers Happy Hour


Episode 335: On growing Farmgirl Flowers, with floral entrepreneur Christina Stembel

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Christina Stembel, founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers

I’ve known Christina Stembel since her early days of Farmgirl Flowers.

I used to say hers was the one business I regretted not being able to include in my 2012 book The 50 Mile Bouquet, because by the time we first met, virtually, through an email introduction, I had already finished writing and my publisher St. Lynn’s Press had already wrapped up the book’s production and sent it off to the printer.

When preparing this intro, I wanted to actually go back and figure out how Christina and I met, and as it turns out San Francisco-based food writer Sophia Markoulakis virtually introduced us by email on January 29, 2012 — about six weeks before the publication of The 50 Mile Bouquet. I knew that timing was close, but had completely forgotten about Sophia’s introduction. Sophia quoted both Christina and me in a  February 7, 2012 article for the San Francisco Chronicle, titled: “Locaflores? Eco-friendly florists think locally”. It’s just amazing to look back six years ago to the date of Sophia’s article, and consider all the strides we’ve taken to promote local, seasonal and sustainable flowers.

Christina appeared on this podcast as an early guest on Episode 108 in September 2013, and subsequently we recorded Episode 154 in July 2014 from Homer, Alaska, so longtime listeners of the Slow Flowers Podcast are familiar with her story.

As I wrote in the May 2017 profile about Farmgirl Flowers published in Florists’ Review:

Farmgirl Flowers’ founder Christina Stembel is not a typical Silicon Valley start-up darling. She isn’t backed by venture capital firms who have ponied up millions of dollars to fund her launch; she doesn’t have slick office space where the staff get to play ping-pong or video games after grazing on catered vegan lunches. She drives a hand me down car and lives in a rental house with her husband Neil Hiltz.
If all goes to plan, fortune may follow the fame she has received (as in great media attention and hundreds of thousands of loyal customers), but for now, there’s more grit than glamour in the life of this 39-year-old CEO.”

In the Q&A that followed, Christina spoke openly about the challenges of growth, including one of the most difficult ones that she faced a little more than a year ago — that of finding enough flowers to keep her customers happy.

Download a PDF of the entire “The Business of Flowers” article here: Farm Girl Flowers

FR: Earlier this year you announced to your customers and followers that you were going to begin sourcing flowers from outside the U.S. You posted a letter on your web site called “Our Heart” that explained your decision and what it meant to you and your team. You explained that you were faced with a challenge of sourcing enough flowers from domestic farms and that Farmgirl will now “source directly from farms abroad whose values align with our own.” And you said, We will continue to buy the majority of our flowers from US growers (at least 80% right now), and will be subsidizing with flowers we can’t get enough of here.” What has the response been to this announcement?

CS: I was really nervous. I knew I needed to write that letter to lay it all out there. I had to say, “This is the situation and this isn’t what I want to do. I’m sad about this but I’m just going to be honest and tell people why.” Then, we started getting emails and they were so positive. Everybody was so nice, so supportive, so thankful that I was honest with them. Customers who I had never met before wrote things like: “I’ve always bought from you because I love your aesthetic and I’m going to keep buying from you because I love your heart.”
We announced this on January 25th and we actually had a good transition. At Valentine’s Day, we only received between 20 and 25 percent of our confirmed domestic flowers, a lot due to the heavy winter rains in California. Had I not been able to use imported flowers, we would not have been able to fulfill our orders, which is what I feared and it proved (to me) that I made the correct decision.”

I asked Christina to join me again today to reflect on the past year of transition for her. One of the other reasons for this interview is to discuss the pain of growth and how all successful companies evolve due to unexpected market forces.

I was particularly moved to ask Christina to appear on the Podcast again after yet another round of comments that flooded Facebook groups, mostly populated by U.S. flower farmers, after a recent Forbes article about Farmgirl, which was published last December.

Here is a link to Christina’s “Our Heart” letter, which appears on the Farmgirl Flowers web site.

Farmgirl Flowers’ branding is some of the best in the industry.

I have to be honest — I was confounded by the number of assumptions and accusations being made about Christina in social media forums, and the conclusions to which people in the industry jumped, standing in judgment of a woman who has done incredibly amazing things to elevate the awareness of local flowers in our popular culture. At one point, Christina weighed in and offered to return to the podcast — and others on one of the threads were in support of it.

What you are about to hear is an honest conversation between two friends. I simply can’t be impartial and I make no apologies for it. It saddens me that people are critical of Christina’s choices. She speaks honestly about how tough those choices are and reveals, in fact, that she is still spending millions of dollars annually to buy American grown and local flowers for Farmgirl. I hope you listen closely with an open mind and heart. While you may not agree with Christina’s choices, I think you’ll definitely learn from her tenacity and big heart.

More from Farmgirl Flowers

Thanks for joining me today! I am grateful to Christina to opening herself to this kind of scrutiny and explanation. I respect her for even trying to set the record straight and sharing some insights into her decisions. Check out the beautiful USA-Grown Bouquet from Farmgirl Flowers, starting at $75 plus shipping.

If you have more to say, please say it to her directly rather than in a public forum like Facebook. She has offered up her email at and I know she will answer any respectfully posed questions with sincerity.

Despite my personal mission of changing the floral landscape through Slow Flowers’ outreach, promotion and content, I have also acknowledged that imports are here to stay. Yet, if we can even move the needle by a few percentage points away from the 80 percent import-20 percent domestic ratio, I will consider this movement a success.

I’m well aware of the compromises many feel they have to make sometimes to stay in business. The flower shops that have a secret stash of floral foam in the back room; the designers who don’t want to say “no” to a customer’s request for white hydrangeas from South America in January; the flower farmers who run a side gig with a farm in Baja. Don’t kid yourself. Not everyone is doing it but it happens. I was recently called out for leasing a Honda and slapping my “SlowFlo” license plate on it, or I’ve faced a crummy decision when the hard goods wholesaler where I shop runs out of USA-made glass vases and I’m forced to substitute with imported glass from China because I didn’t plan ahead. Degrees of sustainability face us all.

Let’s focus on what we’re doing that’s positive and continue to uphold, support and encourage one another to be transparent and honest in our actions. Cooperation over competition is the phrase I often hear. I’m hopeful you will receive this podcast today in that spirit.

If you’re able to attend the 2nd annual Slow Flowers Summit, coming up, June 29th in Washington, D.C., you’ll hear from Christina who will serve as our keynote speaker! Her presentation, “Scaling Your Floral Business to the Next Level,” will share great insights for floral professionals at any stage in their journey. Please visit the show notes for this podcast to find all the links and details to the Slow Flowers Summit. I’ll be featuring our speakers and more event details in the coming weeks.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 280,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing — it means so much.

As the Slow Flowers Movement gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of the American cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too. I value your support and invite you to show your thanks and with a donation to support my ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button at in the right column.

Thank you to our sponsors who have supported Slow Flowers and all of our programs including this podcast, American Flowers Week, the online directory to American grown flowers, as well as our new channels, Slow Flowers Journal and the 2018 Slow Flowers Summit.

Florists’ Review magazine: I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for the new monthly Slow Flowers Journal section, which you can find in the pages of Florists’ Review. It’s the leading trade magazine in the floral industry and the only independent periodical for the retail, wholesale and supplier market.

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

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

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

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. 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 Brenlan. Learn more about his work at

Music Credits:

Fudge; That Old Harpoon
by Gillicuddy

The Jazz Piano

by Bensound
In The Field
by Jason Shaw:

Episode 330: Slow Flowers’ 2018 Floral Insights & Industry Forecast

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018


The fourth annual Slow Flowers’ Floral Insights & Industry Forecast for 2018

I’m excited to announce that Florists’ Review has come onboard as Slow Flowers‘ lead sponsor for 2018, signifying a strategic partnership that acknowledges the many ways the Slow Flowers approach is moving into many facets of floristry — at all points along the farm to consumer pipeline. Florists’ Review is the only independent monthly magazine for the retail, wholesale and supplier market, reaching the largest number of floral professionals in the industry. I’m honored to be a Contributing Editor producing the monthly Slow Flowers Journal section, filled with unique content reflecting the cultural shift taking place in flower sourcing and design.

Since 2014, I have drawn from input from members of the Slow Flowers Community, past guests of the Slow Flowers Podcast and other progressive leaders in the floral industry — including farmers, florists and design creatives — to “predict” the future. While by no means a statistical survey, the Slow Flowers Floral Insights & Industry Forecast serves as a botanical crystal ball to identify emerging themes affecting the domestic floral industry. I’m excited to share these key insights for the first time in print form, here in the pages of Florists’ Review’s “Slow Flowers Journal” section.

Think of these topics as your inspiration checklist for 2018 — Your Next, New and Now Report. Some of you are already engaged in these up-and-coming developments, so consider yourself on-topic!

The overarching theme for 2018 is “Flowers without Borders,” which to me reflects the disappearance of silo-like barriers that previously separated growers of flowers from sellers of flowers from designers of flowers. Thanks to technology and social media, the ability of conventional “gatekeepers” to control the flow of information and product has greatly diminished. Transparency is power, making it easier than ever before to identify sources of fresh and uncommonly beautiful flowers and foliage. So here’s to a new floral landscape where accessibility is the driving force.

#1 Flower Farmers Diversify into Seeds, Bulbs and Plants

Beyond selling their crops to wholesale, retailer and independent florists, entrepreneurial flower farmers are finding new ways to turn expertise into cash flow. This phenomenon has moved far beyond seed-swapping and informal exchanges of plant cuttings.

One story of diversification comes from Bailey Hale of Ardelia Farm + Co. in Irasburg, Vermont. A trained horticulturist and two-time Philadelphia Flower Show gold medal floral designer (through his former studio MODA Botanica), Bailey now raises specialty cut flowers for farmers’ markets and florists and provides full-service wedding and event design. He turned his own hunger to find sources for uncommon “couture” flowers into a spin-off venture called Farmer Bailey, a custom plug brokerage.

When he’s not tending to his own farm, which is famous for producing sweet peas long into Vermont’s cool summer months, Bailey has become a cut flower hunter. He evaluates new varieties, contracts with a large wholesale nursery to custom grow “plugs” of must-have cultivars and markets his ever-expanding online catalog of irresistible choices to flower farmers and farmer-florists like himself. Bailey saw an un-served opportunity in the marketplace and used his connections and ingenuity to fill the demand. The result is a thriving new venture and the chance to influence the types of blooms — from Asters to Verbenas — entering the floral marketplace.

#2 Flower Farmers Launch Direct-Ship Wholesale Programs
Shipping to designers in markets that don’t otherwise have access to their unusual flowers, Gretel and Steve Adams of Sunny Meadows Flower Farm in Columbus, Ohio, “have opened door to get our product to florists without having to physically deliver it,” Gretel explains. Recently, their farm joined a shipping cooperative to take advantage of discounted overnight rates, an essential part of keeping their pricing competitive.

After a season of testing packaging methods and learning to navigate the FedEx system, Sunny Meadows expects to unveil The Columbus Flower Company’s national wholesale flower shipping program this spring, beginning with its huge ranunculus harvest. “We’d like to be able to send flowers to designers in New York, or Los Angeles, or places that don’t have access to a good flower market,” she says.

Gretel, also a wedding and event designer, feels she can add value for florists who order from the farm. “My favorite clients are florists who give me an inspiration board and a budget and I’ll pull a mix of ingredients that I myself would use.”

In Weyers Cave, Virginia, Jessica Hall and her family run two businesses, Harmony Harvest Farm (specialty cut flowers) and Floral Genius (pin frogs and other flower frogs). Jessica also reports of plans to ship flowers in 2018, borrowing lessons learned from shipping flower frogs across the U.S. to Floral Genius’s  wholesale accounts.

Harmony Harvest spent 2017 trialing packaging, stem hydration and shipping methods to determine best practices for a farm-to-florist wholesale program. “I believe there is a collective army (of smaller flower farms) that can take care of the U.S. need; they might be able to grow those flowers and see that it’s possible to ship. I’m going to figure it out and hopefully that will change the industry,” she says.

#3 Retail Garden Centers Add Floral Design Services

Last year’s Floral Insights report highlighted “Return of Brick and Mortar,” documenting a possible reversal of the decades-long decline in floral retail, as I witnessed studio florists with a distinct local and community focus open a new generation of retail flower shops. The next wave in this shift continues in retail nurseries and garden centers, which are opening or reviving in-house floral shops with a distinctly local emphasis.

Slow Flowers Journal featured The Flower Shop at O’Donal’s Nursery outside Portland, Maine — which recently introduced full-service floral design as a sister business to a 60-acre tree and shrub nursery. Manager Rayne Grace Hoke credits having a distinct aesthetic inspired by O’Donal’s extensive plant collection for much of the shop’s success.

On the opposite coast, Windmill Gardens, an independent garden center in Sumner, Washington, also debuted a new flower department. According to owner Ben DeGoede, Windmill brought floral design in-house for the first time since 2001, taking over space once occupied by a tenant and rebranding as Windmill Floral Studio. The beautiful, full-service shop has a commitment to providing only locally-grown and American-grown flowers. “The Slow Flowers movement and the buy local movement has inspired us to take floral back again,” he explains.

General manager Wendy Pedersen explains that the flower shop “wants customers to support local farmers.” There are obvious synergies for couples who book Windmill Gardens’ outdoor wedding venue and hire Windmill Floral Studio to design their flowers.

#4 Flower Farmers Shift into Retail

While it may seem “counter-trend,” a number of flower farms are opening retail spaces in prime locations where their flowers are marketed alongside related hard goods and artisan products. It’s a move welcomed by consumers who want to buy farm-direct in urban and suburban markets. I’ve identified Chicago, Boston and Albuquerque, among other cities where flower farmers have opened retail shops to sell their blooms.

In Boston, Field & Vase, a new venture of Stow Greenhouses, has opened two retail spaces at The Shops at Prudential Center, a major downtown retail hub. Barbara Rietscha and Dave Buchholz incubated their first retail venture two years ago at Boston Public Market, a year-round, indoor farmers’ market with 40 vendors and a New England-grown mandate. Success in that venue attracted the attention of developers at the tony Prudential Tower, and this past September, Field & Vase opened two locations there — a permanent kiosk in the heart of the mall’s central court and a full-service shop-studio that is large enough to accommodate custom design work, event production, client consultations and ongoing workshops.

Barbara says adding multiple retail channels to sell their farm’s value-added flowers was an intentional decision. By selling the flowers they grow direct to consumers through retail, Field & Vase enjoys larger margins and gets out of the wholesale environment dominated by price competition with imports. Additionally, at the Prudential locations, the business promotes other flower farms that aren’t set up to do retail themselves. “We source within the U.S. because we believe in local,” Barbara says. “We want to be a venue for flower farmers who don’t have retail outlets themselves.”

#5 Aromatherapy and Wellness Remedies

Botanically-inspired fragrances, body care remedies and other herbal and scented goods have a natural affinity for floral consumers, and I’ve noted some brilliant ways that florists are taking advantage of this. From developing their own candle and soap collections to offering aromatherapy-themed events, florists are tapping into ways to cross-promote flowers and aromatics.

Stacey Carlton, AIFD, of The Flora Culturist in Chicago has made the fragrance connection for her customers with an “Aromatherapy Bar” service. It’s a smart way to extend into a new revenue stream incorporated into parties and special events. Guests are invited to create a personal, custom fragrance blend — or to follow Stacey’s cleverly personalized scent recipes. From intimate gatherings like bridal showers to large interactive events, the Aromatherapy Bar gives guests a social experience and a new way to engage with fragrance.

Farmer-florist Hedda Brorstrom of Full Bloom Flower Farm in Groton, California, is a certified herbalist who studied at the California School of Herbal Studies. She extends her farm’s season by creating and selling “small batch, field to face” herbal and aromatherapy products.
Full Bloom Flower Farm’s skin care line includes rich hydrating creams made from roses, calendula and lavender grown on her farm. A rosemary hydrosol is an organic spray that can be used either on the face after sun exposure or used in cocktails after a long day of gardening. Hedda’s personal favorite product is the Injury Salve which she uses after a day of farming to soothe sore muscles. She sells her products online, alongside other farm-logo items like tank tops, sweatshirts and hats.

#6 Cause-Related Flowers

Flower farmers and florists alike are investing their talents in helping nonprofits and others in their communities. Floral philanthropy or “flowers with heart” efforts are inspiring, and I love seeing flowers used as a currency to change lives and advance important causes. A number of feel-good projects caught my attention in 2017 and I am certain they will continue in 2018.

The Bloom Project, profiled recently in Florists’ Review, is a 10-year-old volunteer-run program that upcycles donated flowers into bouquets for hospice and palliative care patients in Portland, Oregon.

On a national level, Christina Stembel’s Farmgirl Flowers selects and supports a monthly nonprofit partner by donating a portion of sales for a signature bouquet in its product mix.

“We started our ‘With Heart’ campaign because we wanted a way to give back to multiple organizations that are near and dear to our hearts throughout the year,” Christina explains. “It’s also a way we can support many organizations that our team members are passionate about.” Since it launched in April 2017, Farmgirl’s ‘With Heart’ program has contributed more than $70,000 to nine different charities.

I’m also impressed with charities using flower farming and floral design as a platform for change. It’s inspiring to watch nonprofit farms that help teens and adults train for the workplace or those that provide sustainable jobs for individuals with different abilities. Some notable efforts include Muir Ranch in Pasadena, WOW Farm in Oakland, Blawesome Farms in the Raleigh-Durham area, Blooming on the Inside in Portland, and other socially responsible enterprises.

The bottom line is that flowers can meet people where they are and be used as a positive tool to instigate change, stimulate progress and enhance lives.

READ MORE… Florists ‘Take Back’ Valentine’s Day From Tele-florists With Sustainable Choices

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015
Bess Wyrick of Celadon & Celery ( says, "I consider each season in terms of which flowers and branches I can get my hands on! For Valentine's Day, I turn toward spring. Women love receiving the unexpected, so look for arrangements that are made with unusual flowers, grown locally on American flower farms. Bright, colorful arrangements adorned with ribbon and silks are a fresh alternative to a dozen imported red roses." The arrangement above was created using only California-grown red amaryllis, burgundy snapdragons, purple anemones, pink ranunculus, pink freesias, camellia flowers and camellia leaves. (Photo: Laura Grier, Beautiful Day Photography)

Bess Wyrick of Celadon & Celery says, “I consider each season in terms of which flowers and branches I can get my hands on! For Valentine’s Day, I turn toward spring. Women love receiving the unexpected, so look for arrangements that are made with unusual flowers, grown locally on American flower farms. Bright, colorful arrangements adorned with ribbon and silks are a fresh alternative to a dozen imported red roses.” The arrangement above was created using only California-grown red amaryllis, burgundy snapdragons, purple anemones, pink ranunculus, pink freesias, camellia flowers and camellia leaves. (Photo: Laura Grier, Beautiful Day Photography)

**Note: this press release was distributed nationally via PR Newswire today – in anticipation of the news media’s Valentine’s Day reporting

SEATTLE (Jan. 13, 2015) – This Valentine’s Day, urges consumers to rethink how they celebrate and woo by supporting local farmers and florists with sustainable, American-grown bouquets.

The flower market is booming! Retail value of U.S. cut flower sales totals $7-8 billion annually, but of the 224 million roses sold in 2012, only two percent were American-grown. Nearly 500 florists committed to sourcing U.S. grown flowers have sights set on Valentine’s 2015 to take back business that has for decades belonged to 1-800 tele-florists and the imported flowers they distribute.

The battle begins in Miami where its international airport receives 80,000 – 120,000 boxes of flowers per day during Valentine’s week. Ecuador has the largest share with U.S. growers nabbing only two percent of the market, behind Canada. On the heels of the successful farm-to-table movement, is racing to galvanize support for its farm-to-vase crusade. Valentine’s 2015 is positioned as an industry coup, where the country’s most progressive florists are turning down 1-800 orders that flood their businesses every February – opting instead to meet demand with artistic pieces using only domestic flowers and foliage.

Debra Prinzing, founder of and consumer spokesperson for the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus, says sweethearts will select American-grown if given the option. “Fifty-eight percent of consumers would rather purchase domestic flowers if given the choice. Valentine’s sees millions of roses arrive via Jumbo Jet with a shelf life of just days,” she says. “Even if ‘American-grown’ is not a concern, buying fresher flowers should be.”

Christina Stembel, florist and owner of San Francisco’s Farmgirl Flowers, has built her business using only California-grown flowers. “The entire process of ordering from the big guys feels like you just got conned,” says Stembel. “We’re pledging flowers that are fresh, local, beautifully designed, and thoughtfully delivered.”

The Origin Matters push from the California Cut Flower Commission is hoping to change flower-giving this season by placing Valentine’s 2015 into the hands of florists committed to domestic flowers. “We are ready to prove bouquets and arrangements are far better than imported alternatives,” says Prinzing. “It’s time to show your love with local flowers.”

Slow Flowers is an online directory to help consumers find florists, event planners, supermarket flower departments and flower farmers committed to using American-grown flowers. More information is at

PR Contact: Lola Honeybone, 615.818.9897,

ASCFG #3: Pamela Arnosky on Selling Your Flowers to Groceries (Episode 169)

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
Veteran flower farmer and industry leader Pamela Arnosky, of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.

Veteran flower farmer and industry leader Pamela Arnosky, of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.

Today’s episode was recorded on October 20th at the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers and features veteran flower farmer Pamela Arnosky of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers in Blanco, Texas, west of Austin.

Pamela’s presentation — about selling to supermarkets — was paired with Lisa Mason Ziegler’s session on selling to florists, which you heard several weeks ago. Head’s up – like all the ASCFG sessions and panels, this is a one-hour presentation, so don’t feel badly if you have to take it in over several days.

Before we get started, here’s some great news I have been waiting weeks to share.


Flower child and co-producer of the Peony Party, Christina Stembel of Farmgirl Flowers. Photo (c) Victor Obeck

Flower child and co-producer of the Peony Party, Christina Stembel of Farmgirl Flowers. Photo (c) Victor Obeck

Earlier this year, my friend Christina Stembel of SF-based Farmgirl Flowers, joined me on a fabulous 4-day trip to Homer, Alaska, where I spoke and taught for the Homer Gardeners’ Weekend. You can listen to our podcast episode recorded in Homer, here.

It was my second visit to Homer during Alaska’s glorious peony season and I was thrilled to both watch Christina’s discovery of these gorgeous, incomparable American-grown flowers and to introduce her to my peony farmer friends in that community.

Like they say, “all good things happen for a reason!” Not only was Christina instantly floored by the beauty of the Kenai Peninsula, she went crazy about fields and fields of Alaskan peonies available in July (the Peony season is CA is only the month of May.)

What could be more amazing that to stand in a field of peonies with the amazing Alaska glaciers in the distance?

What could be more amazing that to stand in a field of peonies with the amazing Alaska glaciers in the distance?

To this, I just smiled, knowing only more good things would come from her discovery in Alaska.

Pretty soon, literally within minutes of visiting the farm, our creative juices started flowing. We asked ourselves: “What if we bring other peony lovers here, all the way to Alaska — to discover and participate in the magic of what we just experienced?” 

Since the sun doesn’t really set until close to midnight, we brewed and brainstormed some unforgettable late-night conversations. Together with our delightful host, Beth Van Sandt, co-owner of Scenic Place Peonies, we started envisioning a “Peony Party,” a private, custom event, limited to an intimate group of flower lovers, florists, farmers and friends to come experience the magic of Alaska grown peonies.

The Peony Party was finally made real when the members and farmers of the Alaska Peony Marketing Group extended their enthusiasm and support in August of 2014.

Today, we’re launching the new web site and invite you to check it out at

Our fabulous event is scheduled for July 10 to 13th, 2015 and there are only 20 spaces open to students.

Unlike most of the floral design and farmer-florist intensives you’ve seen in the past year or so, we’ve packed ours with serious value-added bonuses.

Most workshops like this do not include lodging or meals. Guess what? Ours includes 3 nights’ of lodging all but one or two meals. The early-bird price is $2995, a $500 discount if you sign up before end of January.

BlackAnd here’s my wonderful little secret. If you sign up for an Alaska Airlines Visa Card ASAP, you will receive 25,000 bonus miles in your first year – that’s exactly what you need to fly round-trip from many US cities on the west coast or to cover at least a one-way ticket from many US cities on the east coast.


The unforgettable Blue Barn of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.

The unforgettable Blue Barn of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.

And now, on to Pamela Arnosky. With her husband Frank, Pamela farms 20 acres of cut flowers in Central Texas. The Arnoskys grow more than 70 varieties of flowers – year ’round – and sell through many grocery store accounts, as well as to florists and at their own on-farm market.

They are popular speakers at regional and national ASCFG events, thanks in large part to their expertise and humorous presentation style. They say they’ve weathered just about anything from hurricanes and tornadoes to Mothers of Brides. Previous guests of this podcast, you can hear their last interview in Episode 130.

Ready for delivery - Texas  Specialty Cut Flowers.

Ready for delivery – Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.

This is a priceless and highly practical presentation – and if you’ve ever contemplated getting into the grocery store bouquet business, there is one person you need to learn from – and that’s Pamela Arnosky. Sit at her feet and listen, learn and be inspired.

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 25,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at

ASCFG #2 Design Basics and Beyond with Jennie Love and Sullivan Owen (Episode 167)

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
Gorgeous, local, seasonal and simply sublime: Sullivan Owen's lovely urn arrangement.

Gorgeous, local, seasonal and simply sublime: Sullivan Owen’s lovely urn arrangement.

I’ve lots to share with you, so before introducing today’s episode, let me jump right into the Flower News of the Week:

COVER.The_Wreath_Recipe_Book._HIGH_RESFirst off, the winner of our drawing for a free copy of Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo’s beautiful new project, The Wreath Recipe Book, is Jen Beck, a professor, nonprofit consultant, and artist based in Austin, Texas.

Thanks to the people at Artisan Books for sending this info-packed prize her way- and thanks to everyone who took the time to comment about their favorite seasonal and local wreath ingredients.

Next, I am so pleased to announce that flower farmer Sid Anna Sherwood of Annie’s Flower Farm in Sequim, Washington, reached her funding goal for an interest-free loan via an innovative nonprofit program called Kiva. When I posted a bonus interview with her on October 29th, Sid Anna she still needed to raise close to three-quarters of her goal.

Thanks to listeners of the Slow Flowers Podcast and to the amazing way that news spreads on Facebook, that huge amount of money – more than $7,000 of crowd-lending, was raised in 9 days! Every penny will be paid back over the course of three years and Sid Anna’s customers will continue to benefit from her lovely local flowers, grown on a new piece of leased farmland on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

I also want to give my personal congrats to two previous guests of the Slow Flowers Podcast. First, to Erin Benzakein, owner of floret flowers, for being one of the winners of Martha Stewart’s American Made Awards, given to her in person by Martha this week in NYC. Bringing local and domestic flowers to the consciousness of Martha’s followers is super important. I hope this award inspires everyone to think about the origins of their flowers and the people who grow and design with them.

Next, a huge shout-out to Farmgirl Flowers and creator Christina Stembel for reaching their 4th anniversary this week. Stay strong and flourish, my friend!

S-L-O-W   F-L-O-W-E-R-S in pink and white dahlias

S-L-O-W F-L-O-W-E-R-S in pink and white dahlias

Earlier this week, I received a wonderful email from members Kay Studer and Susan Studer King of Buckeye Blooms in Elida, Ohio. We recently met in person at the ASCFG Conference and they thoughtfully followed up to tell me about a recent effort to reach out to potential bridal customers. After their consultation, Susan and Kay sent her a note like this one:

We hope you have had a great fall so far and that plans for your wedding are proceeding smoothly!

We just wanted to follow up with you to confirm if you would like to contract our flowers and design services for your wedding. We are planning our spring flower crop now and are actually able to custom-grow flowers exclusively for you! As both a flower farm and a floral design studio, Buckeye Blooms is able to provide the very freshest, sustainably-grown flowers possible for your special day. We offer numerous varieties of flowers not available to traditional florists, which means your bouquet will be unlike any other!

Whether you decide to go with Buckeye Blooms or not, we do hope you will consider requesting seasonal, locally-grown or at least domestically-grown flowers for your bouquets. Incredibly, over 80% of flowers used by traditional florists are imported–primarily from Ecuador and Colombia where environmental and human health regulations are lax (I–Susan– used to live in Ecuador and can tell you stories of what I saw….).

Seasonal, locally-grown flowers arrive to you fresher and more fragrant, plus you help to support local farmers and the local economy. You can learn more about the local flower movement at and

We have found that brides love telling their guests that their flowers were grown in Ohio and came a field not far away– and that they know the farmer that grew them. This can really add a special, personal touch to your wedding day.

Educating consumers about their choices in flowers is something we are passionate about, so whatever you decide we do hope you will consider locally-grown flowers!

This is worth a hip, hip, hooray – Buckeye Blooms, I love your efforts at outreach and education. I know that it will inspire other flower farmers to convey similar messages to their existing and potential clients. Many thanks for your leadership in the Slow Flowers Movement!

Jennie Love of Love 'N Fresh Flowers

Jennie Love of Love ‘N Fresh Flowers

Today’s guests are none other than Jennie Love of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers in Philadelphia, and her friend, fellow designer and frequent flower customer Sullivan Owen of Sullivan Owen Floral & Event Design, also of Philadelphia.

The two shared the stage at ASCFG last month in a packed ballroom where they designed with gorgeous local flowers and discussed their craft in a talk called “Design Basics.”

Even though this interview is audio-only, I believe what you’ll hear will stimulate you to think about floral design and seasonal and locally-grown flowers in a new way.

Sullivan and Jennie have a lot to share and even their casual asides are packed with juicy information that will help you in your own floral business, be it growing, designing – or both!

Here’s a little more about them both:

Huge audience! ASCFG's "Floral Basics" with Jennie and Sullivan drew a crowd.

Huge audience! ASCFG’s “Floral Basics” with Jennie and Sullivan drew a crowd.

Owner and creative director at Love ‘N Fresh Flowers, Jennie Love is a trained professional horticulturist and an experienced, life-long farmer.

Jennie has led numerous workshops over the past five years, including the sold-out Seasonal Bouquet Project LIVE series and classes for Longwood Gardens’ Floral Design Certificate program.

Sullivan Owen at the ASCFG floral basics workshop.

Sullivan Owen at the ASCFG floral basics workshop.

She has also presented to many garden clubs and other groups throughout the Mid-Atlantic area.

A charismatic and passionate flower farmer, Jennie found her natural niche as a ‘farmer florist’ for wedding and event design, becoming a recognized leader of the local flower movement.

She was recently featured in the New York Times for her farm-to-centerpiece efforts. Her distinctively lush and textural floral designs have been used in hundreds of weddings as well as for numerous photo shoots, magazines, style blogs and books. Jennie is a board member for ASCFG and write a regular column for The Cut Flower Quarterly.

Sullivan Owen is the owner and creative director of Sullivan Owen Floral & Event, her eponymous floral design studio, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

She is sought after for her lush and fashion-forward style, and is a trendsetter whose work is regularly featured in wedding publications, and most recently in Martha Stewart Weddings. Her business acumen and background in marketing and branding have made her just as passionate about running an excellent business as she is about creating gorgeous designs. She loves working with the best flowers available and loves to get to know the growers behind the amazing products they cultivate.

Jennie's hand-tied bouquet features All American flowers from her farm and others'.

Jennie’s hand-tied bouquet features All American flowers from her farm and others’.

If you haven’t started following Jennie or Sullivan on their various social platforms, you can follow them at these links:

Jennie on Pinterest

Jennie on Facebook

Jennie on Instagram

Sullivan on Facebook

Sullivan on Twitter

Sullivan on Instagram


Next week’s guest is event designer Emily Ellen Anderson of Lola Creative in Seattle. Then, you’ll hear another presentation recorded at the ASCFG Conference. . . so I promise lots of good stuff in the coming weeks.

On another note, a few weeks ago I dedicated an episode to a little girl named Shylah who faced many challenging health issues. Blessedly, your prayers, thoughts, meditations and good wishes have been felt. She’s out of the hospital and back at home. And while there are months and months of treatment ahead, everyone around Shylah feels optimistic about her recovery. Among others, this floral tribe has gathered around her and I thank you for sharing in my best wishes for this little one’s swift road to good health.

Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 25,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at




SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Debra & Christina’s Alaska Peony Adventure (Episode 154)

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
A few lovelies, spotted on the windowsill at Chilly Root Peony Farm.

A few lovelies, spotted on the windowsill at Chilly Root Peony Farm.

I know I’ve raved about Alaska-grown peonies for a few years and YES, they are one of my floral obsessions. No apologies here. When it comes to peonies, The 50 Mile Bouquet is now The 1,500 Mile Bouquet.

But the exciting news is that these flowers are proving to be a very important value-added crop for farmers in Alaska; their lovely peonies satisfy demand at a time when no one else on the planet can supply the popular flower – and these blooms have stimulated economic development in a state that greatly needs it.

Since touring Alaska’s three primary growing regions for cut peonies in 2012, I’ve been a passionate booster for this fabulous American-grown crop – sharing the story of uncommonly beautiful summer peonies available in July, August and even September. My magazine articles, blog posts, lectures and even a previous podcast episode have highlighted peonies for the cut flower trade – and I believe consumers are just as smitten by these peonies as I am.

My lovely hosts from the Homer Gardeners' Weekend, Roni Overway (left) and Brenda Adams (right)

My lovely hosts from the Homer Gardeners’ Weekend, Roni Overway (left) and Brenda Adams (right)

So it is with a huge amount of joy that I bring you today a special episode about peonies in Alaska. Thanks to the Homer Garden Club and co-chairs Brenda Adams and Roni Overway, I returned to speak at the popular “Homer Gardeners’ weekend,” an event-packed two days featuring lectures, tours and a fun reception at Homer’s only winery.

Kachemak Bay and Grewinkg Glacier. Sigh. SO beautiful. Awe-inspiring, actually!

Kachemak Bay and Grewinkg Glacier. Sigh. SO beautiful. Awe-inspiring, actually!

I spoke about floral design with seasonal ingredients and led an afternoon hands-on workshop using only Alaska-grown flowers. Against all this activity was the beautiful backdrop of Homer and its water, glaciers and expansive skies. The landscape is unforgettable and I loved being able to look across Kachemak Bay to Grewinkg Glacier – a sight that one never tires of.

Beth (left) and Christina on bouquet-making day at Scenic Place Peonies.

Beth (left) and Christina on bouquet-making day at Scenic Place Peonies.

In this episode you will hear from Beth Van Sandt, owner of Scenic Place Peonies in Homer – And – Christina Stembel, owner of San Francisco-based Farmgirl Flowers.

Beth’s peonies blew us away. It was so wonderful to share my excitement with Christina, who joined me on this fun floral vay-cay. Christina is a foremost advocate for domestic cut flowers. Through her company Farmgirl Flowers, this woman has been a tireless advocate for local and seasonal flowers, as she sources and promotes flowers from California flower farms and sustainable design.

Christina Stembel & me on our boating excursion with Beth Van Sandt (who did all the hard work)

Christina Stembel & me on our boating excursion with Beth Van Sandt (who did all the hard work)

When I told Christina back in March that I was heading to Homer in early August, she said: “I’d love to come” – and I took her seriously. While I enjoyed the companionship, I also loved the intellectual and creative stimulation of being with a kindred spirit – a fellow American Grown flower advocate and a designer who walks the talk with what she uses in her daily designs for customers who shop at

A Farmgirl Flowers bouquet, Alaska-style.

A Farmgirl Flowers bouquet, Alaska-style.

Christina and I sat down one morning to record our musings about what we were both personally experiencing on this trip. We owe a huge thanks to Beth and her husband Kurt Weichhand. Their Scenic Place B&B was our home for four nights and we were cozy, comfy and happy. It was a magical trip for me in so many ways and I’m grateful to Christina, Beth and the other Homer peony farmers for giving me such a memorable experience.

On Scenic Place Peonies’ web site, Beth writes: “We are long time Alaskans who work, play and enjoy living on the Kenai Peninsula. Located on the scenic East Hill side of Homer, overlooking beautiful Kachemak Bay, Beth grows 14 different cultivars of peonies for the cut flower market. At elevation 1,150 feet, Scenic Place Peonies is one of the latest producers of fresh cut peony stems grown in America – with flowers harvested from mid July, August and September.”

The farm holds a Certified Naturally Grown designation. “Because we value our family, community and the wild creatures that we share our farm with, we choose to grow naturally without the use of harsh chemicals and with the utmost care and love. When you see, touch and smell our flowers you will only experience the true beauty and fragrance of the peony,” Beth writes.

Scenic Place Peonies thrives on a perfect combination of climate, rich black soil, cool temps and crazy sunshine of up to 20 hours a day. These assets produce magnificent flowers with long, robust stems and exceptional blooms.

Thank you for joining me today to hear some of the exciting voices in American flower farming and floral design.

Please join me next week for another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded more than 18,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time.
The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Farmgirl Flowers & Christina Stembel (Episode 108)

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Farmgirl Flowers & Christina Stembel (Episode 108)

Christina and Debra

Christina Stembel and I were guests of the California Cut Flower Commission’s Monterey Bay event in June. We were photographed on a tour of Pajarosa Roses, a wonderful source for cut roses.

If the term “imitation is the highest form of flattery,” then my friend Christina Stembel has been over-flattered, multiple times.

Christina Portrait

Meet Christina Stembel at her SF Flower Mart stall, which is where all the beauty happens!

The creator of Farmgirl Flowers in San Francisco, Christina has poured considerable heart, soul and personal resources into developing her innovative floral design business. Customers and the media have responded enthusiastically (see Martha Stewart Living). And her reward in part has been the explosion of copycat businesses, not just in the Bay Area but in other major cities around the country.

That’s the downside of being a successful and creative business like Farmgirl Flowers. But  to me, the upside for Christina is that no one can imitate her personality or character. People can try, but they never will be the original.

Christina is an original. She shares her story in our interview, but you can read a little background here:

I’m Christina, also known as the farm girl behind Farmgirl Flowers. I grew up on a farm in Northern Indiana, and while I set my sights on leaving the farm for big dreams in New York City, I now appreciate more than ever my farm upbringing. Ten years ago, after moving around a bit, I settled in the Bay Area and, like so many others, decided to make it home.

In the past, ahem, years, I’ve had the privilege of working in many industries, mostly in hospitality and event planning. Pretty quickly, I noticed an exorbitant amount of money was spent on flowers. So, I started doing my own arrangements and realized tremendous savings along the way. Now, being the overly curious individual that I am, I wanted to know just why do flowers cost so much?

Burlap Wrapped Bouquet

Here’s one of Farmgirl Flowers popular Trademarked Burlap Wrapped Bouquets – using all local, CA Grown Flowers. Sublime~

I started researching the reasons and came to some pretty startling conclusions. The flower industry has gone through a very tumultuous time in the past 20 years, and is pretty much in the same boat as the industries that numerous documentaries have been made about in recent years (ie: textiles, coffee, technology, etc). What used to be a big domestic business is now being whittled away due to imports. I had no idea that 75% of our flowers were being shipped in from other countries. It just didn’t make sense to me when over 75% of the domestic supply is grown right here in California. I don’t want to bore you with more stats – hopefully you see where this is headed.

The bottom line is that local farmers are going out of business left and right because they can’t compete with the prices of flowers imported from South America and other countries. And, normal people like me can’t afford to send flowers to friends and loved ones because it ends up costing an absurd amount of money. Not to mention all of the environmental damage caused by flying flowers across the globe – they have to be shipped in chemicals just to make it to your door.

And, another huge source of waste is having so many choices of flower arrangements. As a result of this approach, a huge percentage of flowers end up as waste, and are never even sold! We’re making our landfills so beautiful, but, really, isn’t there a better way?

I thought so, and devised a plan to fix the problems that have caused the inflated prices and high environmental impact, which is how Farmgirl Flowers was born!

What’s that saying about being able to take the girl out of the country, but not the country out of the girl?

Farmgirl Sign

There’s a charming vibe at Farmgirl Flowers, down to the logo and signage. 


Making Bouquets

One of the designers who works for Farmgirl Flowers wraps a bouquet at the studio.

Click on the “Why we’re different” page at Farmgirl Flowers where you will see a chart comparing the LOCAL bouquets Christina and her staff design with wire services, aka “the competition.” It’s amazing when you look at these very different business models side-by-side.

Here’s a link to the Podcast Episode 101, in which Christina Stembel of Farmgirl Flowers and I joined Sunset Magazine’s Kathy Brenzel to discuss the Local Flower Movement. 

The Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing is edited and engineered by the very talented Hannah Holtgeerts of HH Creates. Check out her web site here. 

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Farm-to-Table; Field-to-Vase Panel Discussion (Episode 101)

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

From left: Kathy Brenzel, Kasey Cronquist, Debra Prinzing & Christina Stembel

Welcome to Episode 101 of the new SLOW FLOWERS Podcast. The audio featured here is from the July 19, 2013 panel discussion at the California Association of Flower Growers & Shippers (NORCAL) conference, moderated by Kasey Cronquist, CEO/Ambassador of the California Cut Flower Commission. Panelists included Kathy Brenzel, garden editor at Sunset Magazine; Christina Stembel, founder of Farmgirl Flowers, and me. The audience Q&A that followed our presentation was difficult to hear due to the limited number of microphones in the room, so here is the edited transcript of those questions and our panel’s answers. 

Q&A following Field-to-Vase Panel discussion:

Kasey Cronquist : I hope you all have a sense of how special this group is in context of this industry. This is certainly a trend, or as Debra says, “a cultural shift,” that we’re excited about. It’s a special time because you’re not necessarily going to hear a program like this or have the chance to hear from speakers like this subject in our industry or at other floral trade conventions. I get to sit back and enjoy listening to people talk about locally-grown. 

I think you have a sense here that there’s a renaissance in our midst in terms of bringing flower farmers back and of course this is a good thing for California. Where people say “California’s Flowers are America’s Flowers,” it’s because we want to back up that local claim for those florists when the season is over and they can’t source from those local farmers, California’s growing flowers all year long providing another source of American grown. I could spend each day energized by the things I’ve heard here. I want to open it up to questions: 

Q: Regarding the “Farm-to-Consumer” idea or for that matter, “Farm-to-Florist.” How should our wholesalers in the room feel about this particular approach? Because I can certainly see where you’re going. We are flower growers who are strictly wholesale and we want to keep it that way. I have 185 customers and I don’t want 2,000 so how does that work for the wholesaler? 

A (Debra): I totally agree that we’ve got to work on the wholesale level of this message. Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think wholesalers should be afraid of this concept at all. They’re the ones who are on the front lines, talking to florists. And even if you don’t care about American grown, you should care about making money and branding your flowers as American grown or California grown in order to answer the question that the florists are going to be asking anyway. If they’re not asking it now, they’re very soon going to be asking it because consumers are asking them. I think from a farmer point of view if you can provide content, photography, messaging or signage that the wholesalers can use it’s going to do the work for them. I know there’s a fear that somehow the florists are going to cut around the wholesaler and come to you direct, but like you just said, you don’t want to deal with all those florists. So if you can partner with the wholesaler and make everybody succeed, I think it could be a win-win. 

A (Christina): Pictures. Pictures of the farmers with content about where (the flowers) come from. People want to see a human face, so give them information about “this is the farmer who grew this.” It’s something that the wholesalers can then give to their customers. At Farmgirl Flowers, we use a wholesaler as well for some of our product and they don’t want to be photographed because they don’t want 2,000 people coming to them either. But it’s about educating the florist. And I really do see this movement shifting quickly and I think that the florists will be asking you soon, just based on the volume of questions we get. We’ve had to hire staff people just to answer the email and the phone calls that we get from florists. It’s not directly our bread and butter but we feel like it’s our mission to educate as well. 

Kasey Cronquist: I want to add to that. We’ve felt that pressure on the requests for content. For wholesalers, as much as for the flowers, it’s a content marketing-supply opportunity for them. They have the relationships with the farms and they can package that relationship up and provide it to the florists who are wanting that content to share, either on Facebook or Pinterest so (the florist) has access to the farmer, not directly, but through the wholesaler’s relationship with the farmer.