Debra Prinzing

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Rain Drop Farms of Oregon’s Willamette Valley (Episode 213)

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015
Erin and Aaron of Oregon's Rain Drop Farms, photographed by Linda Blue at the Field to Vase Dinner on Sept. 12th.

Erin and Aaron of Oregon’s Rain Drop Farms, photographed by Linda Blue at the Field to Vase Dinner on Sept. 12th.

10011796_10153933043017542_6146716397999247836_oFall is here and news from our Slow Flowers Tribe is exploding!

There are so many things to discuss and update you about this week. You’ll find that news at the bottom of this post, after I introduce you to Rain Drop Farms.

The heart of the Slow Flowers Podcast are my weekly conversations with inspiring voices in the American flower farming and floral community. Please meet today’s guests, Erin McMullen and Aaron Gaskey, the dynamic duo behind Rain Drop Farms. Based outside Corvallis, Oregon, in Philomath, this husband-wife team of farmers grows a wide array of perennials and annuals on three acres of healthy soil. Allow me to bring Raindrop Farms  — and the sunshine they spread — to you, with the story of lovely, local, Oregon flowers and how one family makes a beautiful and creative living from their land.

Erin McMullen of Rain Drop Farms.

Erin McMullen of Rain Drop Farms, standing — where else? — in her dahlia fields.

Situated in the foothills of the Oregon coast range, Rain Drop has been providing fresh, local, specialty flowers to the Willamette Valley since 2000.

Passionate about growing flowers, Erin and Aaron count dahlias among their favorites. They grow more than 75 varieties and are always searching out more, as well as a wide variety of perennials and many different annuals.

The kids of Rain Drop Farms.

The kids of Rain Drop Farms with some of their beautiful zinnias.

Theirs is a working family farm. As Erin writes on the web site: “We live here, grow here and play here.  Our children have grown up digging in the dirt and chasing rainbows here.  As stewards of this beautiful place we strive to maintain and promote the diversity here.  We use organic and sustainable practices throughout our farm.  It is our belief that growing this way is just the right thing to do. It is the best for our farm, our family and flowers.”

Aaron Gasky at the Rain Drop Farms' farmers' market stall. Notice he's wearing a Slow Flowers t-shirt!

Aaron Gaskey Rain Drop Farms’ farmers’ market stall. Notice he’s wearing a Slow Flowers t-shirt!

I adore this couple. We’ve met in person on a few occasions, most recently when they took what I call a busman’s holiday to drive from Philomath up to Mt. Vernon, Oregon, (about 325 miles away) to spend a few days volunteering at the Field to Vase Dinner held on Sept. 12th at Jello Mold Farm. I simply couldn’t let the opportunity pass and am so thrilled that Erin and Aaron agreed to record this conversation.

Harvest time with Erin!

Harvest time with Erin!

Last week, Erin shared with me a fascinating conversation she had with a Farmers’ Market customer and I think it sums up what so many of us have experienced:

We have had so many people ask us this year if we grow all of the flowers.  Of course we say ‘Yes!  Every last one!’ We are always surprised by how many people seem surprised by this!  Yesterday we had a guy come up and ask if we grew all the flowers; the conversation progressed and he tells us that he works with flowers in LA and didn’t realize that there were people like us who actually grew flowers like these domestically.

His business is selling flowers at college graduations and he said that they buy most things from Ecuador and South America, basically saying that domestic flowers were just too pricey.  

Aaron told me later that he could see me high jump onto my soap box, but I let (the customer) know what I thought of that excuse and that supporting American farmers is a more sustainable long term economic strategy.  

He actually took pause and then asked for our contact info and for the name of the Slow Flowers website again, saying that he was intrigued and would like to learn more.  

I’m telling you this story, though I’m sure you hear this kind all the time, because it was so refreshing to me.  Also, because of you and your efforts, I have become more well informed and confident about my convictions that American flower farmers deserve a chance to thrive in a domestic marketplace.  So, thank you!  So glad that we met and that we’ve had an opportunity to get to know each other a little better!  :)”

Thank YOU both Erin and Aaron! I couldn’t agree more.

Follow Rain Drop Farms on Facebook

Follow Rain Drop Farms on Instagram

More news to share!!!

Here is a just-released clip about The Flower House, created by Hello Future Films, that shows recent footage captured during the installation of the preview exhibit earlier this year – it’s being shown to stimulate ticket sales for The Flower House show dates, October 16-18. If you’re anywhere near Detroit, hop on over to see this amazing display!

And then, with much fanfare, I’m so pleased to share with you “Field to Vase: Santa Cruz,” a 7-minute, 39 second documentary produced, filmed and edited by my friends Haejung Kim and her husband Moon, a LA-based couple of creatives whose probono efforts have beautifully captured the story of American grown flowers and the renaissance we are all helping make happen. Click here to read my recent Q&A with Haejung and Moon.

I have a cameo role in the film, but please don’t take this as blatant self-promotion. It’s all about the cause of promoting American flower farms, American flowers and the florists who create such beauty with intent. You’ll also meet flower farmer Paul Furman whose family owns California Pajarosa Roses and Slow Flowers member Teresa Sabankya, of Bonny Doon Garden Co., who was the guest designer at the Field to Vase Dinner held at Pajarosa Roses this past June. The film is beautiful, poignant and I encourage you to watch it and share it widely.

Martha Stewart American Made Taps Two Members

11406783_927429313946323_8650643430552798404_nI want to showcase the many people in our community whose work has earned them FINALIST status on the Martha Stewart American Made 2015 campaign.

I am especially excited that Susan McLeary of Passionflower, a member based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a finalist – the only floral category finalist – in the Design Category. Check her out here. 

And flower farmer Wanda Fox of Illinois-based Fox & Co. is a finalist in the Craft Category for her beautiful charcuterie boards made from salvaged and reclaimed black walnut lumber. Check her out here.

I also want to put in a plug for my friend Andy Chapman of Stumpdust. Andy is a finalist in the Design Category for Gardening & Outdoor Living, for his unique garden stakes and tools fashioned from salvaged wood. Andy’s work is exquisite and he is the genius behind my American Made shadowbox that I used to display my 2015 Northwest Flower & Garden Show floral entry. You can see photos of that beautiful work here. And please check out Andy & Stumpdust on MSL here.

Get Your Hands on Floral Soil!


Another Slow Flowers Podcast friend who is near and dear to my heart is Mickey Blake of Floral Soil, the innovative, plant-based, 100% biodegradable alternative to formaldehyde-based flower foam.

Mickey has just introduced a fun new product called “Floral Soil Cupcakes,” a perfect gift or DIY project that is one of the perks in her two-week Indiegogo fundraising campaign that continues through October 10th. Many of us have been waiting for Floral Soil to kick into full-scale production because we can’t wait to get our hands on this earth-friendly design product. By supporting the Floral Soil Indiegogo campaign, for as little as $15 you can get your hands on a cute cupcake-shaped base for planting succulents or arranging flowers – and you can help push Floral Soil to the next level where commercial production of those must-have bricks will begin before the holidays.

Episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast have been downloaded more than 66,000 times. I thank you and others in the progressive American-grown floral community for supporting this endeavor.

Until 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. THANK YOU to each and every one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

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 Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at

Earth Day with Updates from Peterkort Roses and Floral Soil (Episode 190)

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Earth-Day-Logo-2015This week’s episode coincides with Earth Day, fittingly symbolic for the Slow Flowers Movement and flower farmers, floral designers and product innovators who are working to change our industry and push for progress to alter the status quo.

So I’d like to share a few news items as well as two follow-up interviews featuring guests of past Slow Flowers Podcast episodes.

Listen closely to find out how you can win prize packages from each of our guests – you’ll want to get in on the good stuff!

First off, if you enjoyed last week’s interview with Jenny Elliott and Luke Franco of Tiny Hearts Farm in New York’s Hudson Valley and Rachel Gordon of Taproot Flowers of Brooklyn, please check out more photos that I’ve added to the show notes. They’re onto something really special and I encourage you to listen if you missed that episode – and enjoy the beautiful flowers the three of them grow and arrange in their worlds.

FRD_posters_2015_photography_loweres2Second, I want to share details about this week’s Fashion Revolution Day, which takes place on April 24th.

If you believe in Slow Flowers, you should also embrace and support Slow Fashion, which has so many parallels in terms of labor practices, environmental concern and trade policy.

Slow Fashion asks questions about the origins of the clothing we wear that are virtually identical to the questions Slow Flowers asks about the bouquets we bring into our homes.

Fashrev2015Fashion Revolution Day 2015 marks the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which killed 1,133, and injured over 2,500 people.

According to Fashion Revolution’s data, one in six people work in the global fashion supply chain. It is the most labor-dependent industry on the planet, yet the people who make our clothing are hidden from us, often at their own expense, a symptom of the broken links across the fashion industry.

Wow, doesn’t that sound identical to the floriculture industry? On April 24th, coordinated teams around the world will challenge global fashion brands to demonstrate commitment to transparency across the length of the value chain, from farmers to factory workers, brands to buyers and consumers., an innovative online fashion brand based in New York City, is serving as U.S. chair of Fashion Revolution Day. Slow Flowers has been invited to help promote the cause. Check out this Slow Fashion/Fashion Revolution event taking place in Brooklyn. Slow Flowers hopes to have ongoing involvement with Slow Fashion in the future.


I am inspired by what the fashion industry has done in just two years to mobilize conscious consumers to care about the origins of their clothing — and in the future, I hope the floral industry will be just as vocal. I don’t wish for a fatal disaster to occur at an unregulated flower farm in a distant land to make us all wake up and start asking about the origins of our flowers.

What you can do on April 24th is to use your own social channels to get active. Take a photo of yourself wearing an item of clothing inside out. Tag the brand, share the photo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtags: #whomademyclothes and #fashrev.

Not to take away from this important endeavor, but perhaps you’ll be inspired to ALSO take a photo of yourself holding flowers that came from a US mega-retailer, big box store or supermarket and tag that retailer on your social sites with the hashtags: #whogrewmyflowers and #slowflowers. Just a thought.

Thanks for caring!


SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Meet Mickey Blake, inventor of Floral Soil (TM), the new alternative to floral foam (Episode 160)

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Take the Pledge!!!

Take the Pledge!!!

One of my mentors reminded me recently that it’s inevitable others will disagree with my convictions and portray me as having an “all or nothing” point of view when it comes to helping consumers and florists embrace, design with and purchase American grown flowers — as a way to save the grassroots community of American flower farms.

I truly believe there is an American-grown flower solution for any design challenge – it boils down to desire, innovation and creativity.

I “get” that some in the floral community disagree with this position. A few weeks ago, Holly Chapple and I discussed the idea of hashtagging percentages to indicate the portion of American grown flowers used in a design.

That is a compromise to some, but at least it is a move in the right direction, the “least best” option, but better than not using American grown flowers at all, right?

Hopefully this interim step will nudge even more designers toward using local, seasonal and domestic flowers. And if you choose to promote yourself as having this philosophy, I believe it can be a huge advantage. If you have personally experienced success by taking this path, I want to hear about it because you and your story may be featured on a future episode of this podcast.

Foam_sampleAnother one of my no-compromise stances is about the use of floral foam, the ubiquitous floral design industry “tool” that is actually formaldehyde-based, toxic, does not break down in landfills and has led to a number of health problems for florists who regularly handle it.

This podcast has featured leaders like Pilar Zuniga, owner of Gorgeous and Green in Berkeley, an early advocate for non-foam design, and I’m constantly intrigued with designers who have a similar philosophy.

But there are so many who have not been able to wean themselves from using this harmful product – harmful to themselves, their customers and the earth.

Sooooo . . . we keep hearing that the conventional floral products industry is working on a solution. But hey people, it’s been 60 years since floral foam has been the so-called industry option for stabilizing stems in vases. Where is the innovation? Where is the corporate social responsibility to do the right thing? What about the lack of transparency about its unsafe attributes and failure to inform those who do use this product?

Enter today’s guests, eco-inventor Mickey Blake and flower shop owner Rebecca Wiswell.

This pleasantly-spongy, soil-colored block of foam is 100% natural and compostable - and it functions exactly like the chemical-based products on the marketplace.....but it's safe and unharmful to  you, your clients, and to the environment.

This pleasantly-spongy, soil-colored block of foam is 100% natural and compostable – and it functions exactly like the chemical-based products on the marketplace…..but it’s safe and unharmful to you, your clients, and to the environment.

Mickey Blake, inventor of Floral Soil.

Mickey Blake, inventor of Floral Soil.

Mickey Blake is a sheer genius, a floral industry outsider who was presented with the challenge of finding a nontoxic, 100 percent plant-based foam for florists to arrange cut flowers and foliage.

In just one year’s time, Mickey has developed, trademarked and has a patent pending innovation called Floral Soil. She explains on her brand new web site:

“We had seven major goals when designing Floral Soil ™ – Support cut flowers, be non-toxic, plant derived, biodegradable, hold water, grow seeds and be safe enough to eat.”

Mickey worked with a select group of beta testers, including Rebecca Wisell, owner of Bellingham, Washington-based Rebecca’s Flower Shoppe. Rebecca’s Flower Shoppe is listed on the directory, but she and I don’t know one another personally. My friends Steve and Sarah Pabody of Triple Wren Farms sell their flowers to Rebecca’s – through them, I’ve heard about her support for locally-grown flowers.

Rebecca's Flower Shoppe in Bellingham, Washington, is one of the first "beta" testers of Floral Soil.

Rebecca’s Flower Shoppe in Bellingham, Washington, is one of the first “beta” testers of Floral Soil.

I learned about Floral Soil a few weeks ago, when out of the blue Rebecca reached out to me on Facebook with this note:

“Good morning, Sarah and Steve Pabody are suppliers/friends of our here at Rebecca’s Flower Shoppe in Bellingham. We are a ‘green’ shoppe and were introduced to a new product about a year ago that I thought you might be interested in. It is called Floral Soil and is a replacement for the green foam. It is completely bio-friendly and compostable. We have been trialing it since last fall and think its qualities to retain water and its durability are impressive. I am not selling this product. I just want to get the word out to our floral community that there is a better product that we can all be using to protect us and our environment.”

The day Rebecca emailed me I was on location, working on a photo shoot. So I responded quickly and asked if I could call her later in the week. When I called, Rebecca surprised me by saying, “Oh, the inventor of Floral Soil is here in my shop – do you want to speak with her?”

One of Rebecca Wiswell's samples showing how well flowers of all sizes can be stabilized in Floral Soil (she purposely used a clear glass vase to show the product)

One of Rebecca Wiswell’s samples showing how well flowers of all sizes can be stabilized in Floral Soil (she purposely used a clear glass vase to show the product)

Talk about serendipity! So, I met Mickey Blake by phone and since she is also based in Bellingham, about 90 minutes north of Seattle, it took us a few weeks to get together.

There is so much to wrap your mind around here, so I’m just going to let you listen to my conversation with Mickey, recorded last Friday, September 19th.

Mickey is CEO of Mt. Baker Bio, a life sciences company with this mission: “Using modern science to secure a sustainable future.”

Mt. Baker Bio is a certified woman-owned small business that is focused on creating environmentally sustainable solutions for biomedical laboratories. Through its Green Lab Program the company environmentally friendly alternatives for scientific laboratories, as well as a collapsible silicone lunch box. The innovative company is now turning its attention toward the floral and nursery industries with Floral Soil and other products currently in development.

Look closely and you can see the cocoa fiber textures in the Floral Soil

Look closely and you can see the cocoa fiber textures in the Floral Soil

It’s pretty amazing to watch this dynamo’s eyes light up as she speaks so passionately about changing an ancient business model – from top-down product development where florists have been told they need something (we’re talking about the 1954 invention of floral foam here) to a holistic partnership between inventor and end user – a collaborative approach that has a triple bottom line motivation.

Having spent a few hours with Mickey, and getting my hands on the samples of Floral Soil that she shared with me, I have to say that this product is a major game-changer. It is going to alter forever the practice of using conventional, chemical-based floral foam. [Note, two days after I recorded our podcast interview, one of my floral designer friends was over and I showed her the product samples Mickey gave me. This is a woman whose very successful wedding & event studio has NEVER used conventional floral foam. She was so excited to use the bricks for an upcoming wedding alter design that I gave her three large pieces to use. Photos of that project to come!]

My second guest is Rebecca Wiswell, one of the florists who has been most intimately involved with a year of R&D for Floral Soil. With a 30 year background in the floral industry, Rebecca has the credibility Mickey needed to trial the product day in and day out. I reached out to Rebecca by phone after interviewing Mickey – and recorded our conversation to share with you here.

Here's how the cube of Floral Soil looks from its side, with stems inserted

Here’s how the cube of Floral Soil looks from its side, with stems inserted

Get ready to be wowed and to stop feeling guilty about using a product that you know is damaging to the environment. You may have been dependent on floral foam for some or all of your design work, but no more excuses. Mickey has offered to send a sample to anyone who listens to this podcast

More samples, showing how Floral Soil can be cut into various sizes.

More samples, showing how Floral Soil can be cut into various sizes.

And here are the various ways you can connect with Floral Soil’s via social media.

Floral Soil on Facebook

Mickey Blake on Twitter

I would love to know how you use the product and invite you to send me photos after you’ve played with it.

As she said, Mickey’s goal is to get into full-scale production by the holidays.  I want to close with one of her comments that resonated with me: It is up to each individual to make daily choices and personally responsibility to make our planet better. If you agree with this, I am convinced you will adjust your practices and stop using chemically-based floral foam, especially now that we have an earth-friendly alternative on the marketplace.

Thanks for joining me today to talk about all things American Grown — and American Made.

Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 21,000 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 Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at