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New growth, new ideas & increasing demand for American Grown Flowers

Last November, I celebrated my 10th anniversary at the California Cut Flower Commission. Over the past decade, not a day has gone by that hasn’t felt purposeful or rewarding while serving California’s flower farmers.

As we look forward to the things to come in this New Year, I can’t help but look back on all of the history, challenges and changes that have taken place in our industry in the past 10 years.

I’ve heard it said that “where you are right now in life is the sum total of all of the decisions you made up until this point.” There’s some sobering truth in that statement.

KASEYKasey CronquistDecisions we’ve made, our habits, and the disciplines we’ve established, have all played a part in where we are right now, both as people and as an organization.

One of our best organizational disciplines over the past 10 years has been staying focused on origin-based branding. These simple branded messages that quickly identify where flowers come from has proven to sell more flowers. Consumers do care. They want to know, they support the transparency, the connection to the farm, the storytelling.

And consumer demand for all of that is increasing.

Of course, not everything is within our control. The decisions of others, specifically lawmakers and regulators, certainly have an impact and influence on our lives and businesses.

A decision by California voters to legalize marijuana in 2016 certainly had an uncontrollable ripple effect throughout California agriculture in 2017. Greenhouse values have surged in California, providing cut flower farmers with a windfall of options to consider. Do you finally sell and retire? Lease? Grow your flowers and marijuana together?

However, in 2018 I predict we’ll see the unchecked growth and development of cannabis production stabilize as California rolls out statewide regulations and enforcement.

In 2017, we saw the industrywide awareness for Certified American Grown advance with the Society of American Florists recognizing the program as “Marketer of the Year” for its American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour. The national dinner tour will kick off its fourth year in 2018, continuing to crisscross the country and inviting consumers to dine on America’s most beautiful flower farms.

The California Cut Flower Commission honored Safeway’s Crystal Hedgpeth, Northern California Division sales manager, as California’s 2017 Flower Farm Champion of the Year for her origin-based campaign featuring California Grown Flowers. To drive consumer awareness and sales, Hedgpeth and her team have leveraged the California Grown program by launching their “Blue Bucket Campaign,” featuring California Grown labeled flowers through a beautiful merchandising effort within every store. The blue buckets have drawn consumers’ attention and provided the division with double-digit growth.

More and more consumers will be looking for this type of transparency and connection to where their flowers come from in 2018. Retailers that focus on storytelling and work to create an authentic connection to America’s flower-farming families will benefit from the momentum that exists today. The real challenge will be how America’s flower farmers then meet these increasing demands.

Fortunately, we’re seeing a number of our farms proactively making the necessary investments to expand and grow. This summer, the Commission published a series of stories titled “California Growing,” (ccfc.org/californiagrowing) highlighting a number of examples of farms that are investing in growth and development of their operations and production.

With a brand new year ahead of us, we can look back and see how our discipline and focus on origin-based branding and messaging continues to serve our farms, our retailers and ultimately the consumer well. But as Marshall Goldsmith so famously put it in his book of the same title, “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There.”

Therefore, the CCFC, along with the Certified American Grown Council will be refreshing their strategic plans in 2018, examining what’s been working, developing new partnerships and determining what more needs to be done, all while casting a new vision for how to get there.

Kasey Cronquist is the chief executive officer and ambassador of the California Cut Flower Commission and administrator of Certified American Grown. He can be contacted at kcronquist@ccfc.org.