National Flower Experts Visit Alaska to Support 'Field-to-Vase' Movement
In 1991, American flower farmers were caught in the crossfire of the war on drugs.
Smithsonian Magazine reported that when the U.S. government incentivized South American farms to switch from coca to flowers, American farms quickly went from producing 80 percent of flowers bought in the U.S. to under 20 percent. If you’ve ordered flowers for family or friends, most of those blooms likely came to you from Colombia or Ecuador.
Over the past 10 years, there has been a renaissance in American flower farms and efforts to encourage and inspire locally-grown flowers. Flower farms are sprouting up again around the U.S., including dozens of peony farms across Alaska where flowers bloom from July through September on farms in Fairbanks, North Pole, the Matanuska Valley, Kenai, and elsewhere on and off the road system.
Homer played center stage to the national local flower movement on July 29. Beth VanSandt and Kurt Weichhand from Scenic Place Peonies hosted one of this year’s seven American Grown Field to Vase Dinners held around the country, highlighting America’s most beautiful flower farms.
American Grown hit the mark here in Alaska. Crab pots spilled over with vibrant pinks and coral peonies. Guests tried out floral design at a ‘boutonniere bar’ and the wash station was breathtaking.
A giant picture frame, covered in vibrant peonies, provided a selfie opportunity like no other while local piano great Johnny B played on the upper deck. One hundred and sixteen people from all over the country dined on local, Alaska food cooked by Anchorage’s Delicious Dave. We sat at two enormous banquet tables, lush with flowers and underlain with Alaska — seine web, glass floats, driftwood, and vases adorned with halibut ground line.
The guest list included florists and designers, floral wholesalers, fellow farmers, and flower lovers from around the United States. Debra Prinzing, author of “Slow Flowers” and “The 50 Mile Bouquet,” was also among the top promoters of American Grown flowers sitting at the table. Kelly Shore, of Petals by the Shore in Washington, D.C., led the design team, with VanSandt providing not only the peonies but also the local Alaska touch. Kasey Cronquist, director of American Grown, encouraged everyone at the table to remember Alaska peonies, remember American farmers, and remember the beauty of this Field to Vase experience.
It is said that bread feeds the body, but flowers feed the soul. With the backdrop of Kachemak Bay, glaciers and mountains, we were reminded by this incredible event to slow down and find that soul food close to home — supporting Alaska farmers and the rebirth of American Grown flowers across the country.
When you buy local flowers, you become an integral part of that story by bringing your family and friends into a sustainable circle that supports community, beauty, and thriving family farms.
Alaska farms providing food included Jakolof Bay Oyster Co. (Homer), Twitter Creek Gardens (Homer), and Matanuska Valley Farms: VanderWeele Farm, Glacier Valley Farm, Kenley Family Farm, Earthworks Farm, Stockwell Farms, and Remple Family Farm. Homer’s Two Sisters Bakery provided baguettes. La Boum Events (Anchorage) provided day-of event coordination.
Rachel Lord is a Homer-based farmer-florist. She owns and operates Alaska Stems, providing locally grown flowers for weddings, special events, and everyday occasions on the Lower Kenai Peninsula.