With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it’s a good time for California consumers to wake up and smell the roses — or daisies, tulips and orchids.
Kasey Cronquist, executive director of the California Cut Flower Commission, recently sat down with Noozhawk to discuss the growing importance of educating consumers about the origins of the flowers they purchase for that special — or not-so-special — occasion.
“Right now, 80 percent of the flowers sold in the U.S. are grown in South America, particularly Colombia,” said Cronquist, who has been executive director of the commission for the past two years. “So instead of that money being pumped back into the local economy, a good portion of it goes out of the country.”
A recent study by the California Cut Flower Commission found that each year, the flower industry has a $10.3 billion impact on the economy, and that for every dollar spent on locally grown flowers, 92 cents goes directly back into the local economy. That statistic is particularly important to note for Santa Barbara residents, since Santa Barbara County provides more than 50 percent of California’s overall production value — making it the largest flower-growing region in the country.
“Our growers are hoping that people will take into consideration the fact that buying locally grown flowers actually provides a big boost to our economy,” Cronquist said. “In general, consumers can help the flagging economy by simply paying attention to where a lot of the products they buy are coming from.”
Each bouquet of locally grown flowers is marked by a California license plate symbol that reads, “CA GROWN.”
The commission, a state agency funded by a state-mandated assessment on all California growers, launched a campaign in November to help garner support for the struggling industry. “Hint cards” were created, which are wallet-sized cards that perforate off and drop not-too-subtle hints that someone would like to receive flowers.
The messages on the cards say things such as, “Not because you have to,” “Not because you’re sorry,” “Just because” and “I dare you to buy me flowers.” The cards are the right size to leave under a pillow, stick to a mirror or drop into someone’s pocket.
“The hint cards come with the bouquet, and the flowers themselves act as a vehicle for the campaign, which hopefully allows flower lovers — especially women — to receive local flowers all year long,” Cronquist said. “It’s just a fun, engaging way to get the word out there.”
On March 6, the commission will launch a Greenhouse Tour Program in Carpinteria. The public can visit greenhouses redolent of local flowers and learn more about the flower-growing process.
Cronquist said that while he’s hopeful that raising awareness and educating the public will provide much-needed support for California’s flower industry, he realizes that the commission faces an uphill battle.
“This is an industry that is under siege right now by a ton of import pressure,” Cronquist said. “There are currently four local families with kids that are in the process of taking over the family growing business. With so much market share dominated by South America, I wonder sometimes if they are going to have a future in this industry.”
— Kevin McFadden is a Noozhawk contributor.