Debra Prinzing

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Episode 278: Slow Flowers’ 2017 Floral Insights & Industry Forecast

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Happy New Year and Welcome to the third annual Slow Flowers’ Floral Insights and Industry Forecast.

Unlike most TREND reports, this compilation tracks changing shifts, emerging ideas and new concepts that are taking hold in the American floral world.  Think of it as your Next, New and Now Report. These topics are gleaned from my conversations and interviews that took place with many of you during 2016– Slow Flowers members, including farmers, florists and creatives.  I know some of you have already experienced these emerging developments and your influence has inspired this list.

If you would like a copy of this report, please click here: 2017-floral-insights [PDF download]

I look forward to your reaction, thoughts, and input on the Slow Flowers’ Floral Insights and Industry Forecast, including the ideas and themes I may have overlooked! I invite you to share yours in the comment section below.

Let’s get started:

. In the midst of global floriculture, with trade in cut flowers estimated at more than $100 billion per year, $13 billion of which takes place in the U.S., we’ve been seduced by the notion that the world is our oyster (or flower field).

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

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

In many markets around the country, the wholesale florist is the only commercial cut flowers and foliage source for floral designers, flower shops and studios to purchase product.Yet after branding themselves as the only way to access a world of floral options, some wholesale florists are returning to their roots, at least in part. They are proactively sourcing from American flower farms large and small to stock their coolers and shelves. And beyond this step, many are also using signage and labeling to inform buyers of the origin of that product.

I believe the explosion of farmer-florists and the growth of small-scale floral agriculture in markets across North America has occurred in part because of frustration with the lack of or limited local sourcing by conventional wholesalers. Let me say that again: Farmer-Florists and small-scale floral agriculture have stepped into the gaping void created when wholesalers turned their backs on local flower farmers. And now they’re waking up to the missed opportunity.

The success of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, well-documented by me and on this podcast over the past several years, as well as the continued growth of the farmer-owned Oregon Flower Growers Association market in Portland underscore that demand for local flowers is already in place.

Now we are witnessing a shift among some conventional wholesalers to align their brand with American Grown and Locally-grown flowers. Mayesh Wholesale Florist is the most active in this arena, with active support for, American Flowers Week, Lisa Waud’s Flower House Detroit, and other sponsorships.

When Mayesh opened its renovated Portland, Oregon, branch in early November, the company asked me to make a design presentation. The team there was very supportive of my request for all locally-grown product — hat’s off to Mayesh and I certainly expect that their success at the cash register will motivate other conventional wholesale florists to get onboard.

I’ve previously singled out Santa Barbara-based Florabundance, led by Joost Bongaerts, for making the effort to label all California-grown floral and foliage offerings on his online wholesale site. It is an effective tool — one I hope others will emulate. It is certainly a step that demonstrates excellent customer service and an awareness that Florabundance shoppers want to know the origin of the flowers they purchase.

This past fall, I surveyed members for their take on a number of topics and trends. When I asked, “If you shop with Conventional Florists, are you finding more American grown and locally-grown product than in the past?” 70 percent of respondents said yes.

Here are a few of the specific comments to elaborate:

  • I request American grown from my Rep, and I think there are more boutique, seasonal items that are coming from smaller farmers
  • I have been asking my conventional wholesalers to bring in more American grown product and I think it is helping. The “American Grown” branding really helps us to know that is happening.
  • It’s definitely taking place and some people at the conventional wholesalers are proud to share that their products are American grown.

This last comment reflects that the industry still has far to go. One member noted:

  • It’s a toss up. They say they want to add more but I’m not sure if they are working really hard at. And they don’t do a very good job at advertising what is local and what is not. My Rep knows that I want American grown but still have to ask every time

. This insight is closely connected with item number one.

In general, the conventional wholesale model is changing, as traditional channels of floral distribution are disrupted. I predict that more flower farms will seek and establish new ways to bypass the conventional wholesale pipeline and market direct to florists and consumers. This is a hot topic and certainly one that’s hard to find anyone willing to go on record to discuss.
Our Slow Flowers survey revealed numerous sales channels among flower farmers. Granted, the majority of Slow Flowers farm-members are small-scale producers, but I believe they are the ones modeling how diversification and direct-to-florist commerce can succeed. When asked about their distribution channels, our respondents cited the following top three outlets:

  • Seventy percent are growing flowers for their own weddings and event clients;
  • This is followed closely by farms selling direct to other florists and wedding designers, at around 67 percent
  • With 53 percent of flower farms reporting they sell to local flower shops
    After this top tier, the percentages drop down to one third of respondents who sell flowers via farmers’ markets and CSA subscribers (basically consumer-direct) and about one-quarter who sell to local wholesalers and grocery/supermarket buyers.There is another farm-direct model, and here’s where I think the disruption is most revealing. A number of large farms are experimenting with direct-to-florist and direct-to-consumer models.

There is another farm-direct model and here’s where I think the disruption is most revealing. A number of large farms are experimenting with direct-to-florist and direct-to-consumer models. A few successful single-crop models have been in place, such as Danielle Hahn’s Rose Story Farm, which in the past few years has shifted almost completely away from selling through wholesalers to florist-direct fulfillment, and many of the Alaska peony growers who sell direct to florists and consumers.

Now, diversified, large-scale growers are beginning to spin off consumer-focused web shops, such as Sun Valley’s Stargazer Barn or Resendiz Brothers’ Protea Store. In the scheme of things, these new ventures are moving only a small fraction of their parent farms’ floral inventory.

But I predict that as large farms bend to demand for farm-direct sourcing of flowers (by consumers and florists alike), the path from field to bouquet will speed up and perhaps take fewer detours through brokers and wholesalers. That means fresher, more seasonal and better value for all floral customers.


Episode 265: Flowers in the Heartland with Adam and Jenn O’Neal of PepperHarrow Farm in Winterset, Iowa

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016
Jennifer and Adam O'Neal of PepperHarrow Farm, photographed during my September 2016 visit.

Jennifer and Adam O’Neal of PepperHarrow Farm, photographed during my September 2016 visit.

Early morning at PepperHarrow, as the sunrise glows behind the barn-studio.

Early morning at PepperHarrow, as the sunrise glows behind the barn-studio.

10846393_742697935817032_6622126312058960580_nI recently spent two days with farmer-florists Adam and Jennifer O’Neal at PepperHarrow Farm in Winterset, Iowa, where I combined a photo shoot for an upcoming issue of Country Gardens magazine with the chance to interview them for this podcast — how lucky for me, right?!

If you have any curiosity about where PepperHarrow Farm is located, think about that romantic novel and the 1995 movie, “The Bridges of Madison County,” starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. Maybe I’m dating myself, but it was a classic. The story and film are set in Winterset, Iowa.

It is a beautiful place to live and farm . . . and PepperHarrow Farm is everything you’d want in a homestead, with a charming farmhouse, a working farm with several useful outbuildings, access to “town” and the greater Des Moines urban core, which means it’s easy for PepperHarrow to supply a critical mass of flower customers within a 50 mile radius and to hold wedding consultations and teach workshops at their bucolic destination.

What a lovely experience I had getting to know these two farmer-florists (Nick Crow photogaph)

What a lovely experience I had getting to know these two farmer-florists (Nick Crow photogaph)

Jennifer and Adam O’Neal are local, hard-working green thumbs who cultivate fresh flowers and veggies on their 20-acre farm nestled among those covered bridges of Iowa’s Madison County.

A happy designer, holding an lush, abundant arrangement that he created for an upcoming issue of Country Gardens magazine

A happy designer, holding an lush, abundant arrangement that he created for an upcoming issue of Country Gardens magazine

Adam is originally from south Louisiana and spent his childhood days playing in his backyard, the swamps of a nature reserve. That early exposure to the outdoors grew into a love for being outside. One day he read an article about permaculture and the rest is history.

Jennifer O'Neal, a true flower gal! (Karla Conrad photograph)

Jennifer O’Neal, a true flower gal! (Karla Conrad photograph)

Iowa native Jennifer is a long time gardener who also inherited her Grandmother’s love of flowers. She grew up spending long summer days on her grandparent’s farm and in their garden. Her grandmother also spent every summer instilling floral design in Jennifer, doing flower arrangements with her for the local county fair. Jennifer now gets to bring her grandma to her farm to see the flower legacy continue and often delivers floral arrangements for her grandma to enjoy.

Flowers for the Market

Flowers for the Market

A PepperHarrow Farm design.

A PepperHarrow Farm design.

PepperHarrow's signature style -- lots of variety, beauty, and botanicals!

PepperHarrow’s signature style — lots of variety, beauty, and botanicals!

Sun-kissed sunflowers outside the barn-studio.

Sun-kissed sunflowers outside the barn-studio.

Quinlan O'Neal, whose "welcome" you hear on today's podcast episode; a grocery bouquet spotted in Des Moines.

Quinlan O’Neal, whose “welcome” you hear on today’s podcast episode; a grocery bouquet spotted in Des Moines.

The O’Neals are committed to sustainable farming practices that preserve and enhance the land. Their efforts to minimize the environmental impact and plan for self-sufficiency make their small farm a diverse and educational experience.

Jennifer and Adam

Jennifer and Adam

Follow these links to find Jennifer and Adam at these social places:

PepperHarrow Farm on Facebook

Jennifer on Instagram

Adam on Instagram


There’s a lot to flower your soul and spirit, not to mention your creativity, in several forthcoming design opportunities, so perhaps I’ll see you at one of these events!!

Detroit Flower Week, October 11-15: Along with numerous members of the Slow Flowers Community, I’ll be joining Lisa Waud of The Flower House and pot & box at the inspiring floral convergence of design, art, farming and storytelling. Read more about Detroit Flower Week here.
Follow this link to grab your tickets!

The Slow Flowers Creative Workshop, October 17-18 at Russian River Flower School in Sonoma County California. Spaces are still available for this excellent program. Debra Prinzing will teach “floral storytelling” and partner with Dundee Butcher to use local flowers in our expanded design process that includes each student creating a video short for her or his own use. Details and registration link here. Click here to listen to a Q&A with Debra and Dundee as they discuss the workshop.

Flowerstock, hosted by Holly Chapple, a Slow Flowers member based in Virginia. She’s a designer, educator, founder of Chapel Designers, past guest of this podcast and also a flower farmer with her husband Evan on a new project called Hope Flower Farm.

Flowerstock includes two days of demonstrations and talks by renowned floral designers, a marketplace of vendors, flower playtime, live music, food trucks, barn dancing, campfires and glamping! Slow Flowers is pleased to sponsor this special gathering of our flower friends. We’re also thrilled that Holly and participants of Flower Stock will design and produce one of our Floral Style Fashion images for American Flowers Week 2017!  Find Flowerstock Details and registration link here.


On October 16th, will sponsor and co-host the amazing Field to Vase Dinner coming up at Sunset Magazine’s beautiful new trial and demonstration gardens in wine country. I hope to see you there! The event florals will be designed by Slow Flowers member Alethea Harampolis of Studio Choo and Homestead Design Collective. Reserve your dinner ticket here!

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 121,000 times by listeners like you. THANK YOU to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

Thank you to our lead sponsor for 2016: 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

More sponsor thanks goes to 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

A big bouquet of thanks goes to Longfield Gardens… providing 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

A fond thank you 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

And finally, thanks to the 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

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