National Flower Experts Visit Alaska to Support 'Field-to-Vase' Movement

By Rachel Lord / Photography By Martina Miller - Joshua Veldstra Photography | August 10, 2017
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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.

Photo 1: Beth VanSandt, Kurt Weichhand, and Willa the dog were the hosts at Scenic Place Peonies. Along with a huge team of volunteers, they helped create a magical night for everyone.
Photo 2: Possibly the fanciest on-farm hand washing station ever.
Photo 1: Who wouldn’t want a selfie in this incredible floral frame, with Kachemak Bay and its mountains and glaciers as a backdrop?
Photo 2: Guests were given a bouquet of peonies and a tote bag that included copies of Florist Review magazine (editor Travis Rigby was in attendance), a pair of cutting snips, and a bar of Scenic Place Peonies soap made by VanSandt’s daughter.

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.

Photo 1: Along with salmon, guests enjoyed sautéed garlic rainbow chard and Alaska baby carrots blanched in a vanilla Sauvignon Blanc reduction.
Photo 2: Delicious Dave served up Alaska grilled salmon with chimichurri and balsamic reduction for the main course, garnished with peony petals.
Photo 3: One hundred and sixteen people sat together for a dinner that featured locally grown foods, Alaska peonies, and an overall Alaska maritime theme — right down to the halibut ground line wrapped around the vases.
Photo 4: Margo and Kennan from Jakolof Bay Oyster Company (Homer) provided fresh shucked oysters at the luscious pre-dinner reception.

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.

Learn more about American Grown Flowers, Scenic Place Peonies, Alaska Peony Growers Association, and Slow Flowers Online Directory by visiting their websites.

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.

Photography by Martina Miller of Joshua Veldstra Photography.

Article from Edible Alaska at
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