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Fun ‘N Sun 2017 celebrates CalFlowers’ 75th anniversary

This year’s Fun ‘N Sun event was held Aug. 9-12 in Carlsbad, CA, at the Hyatt Park Aviara Resort. Everything about our time in San Diego County was first rate — including the weather.

Fun ‘N Sun is a biennial event and it’s truly unique among U.S. floral conventions and conferences. In addition to a great locale and abundance of old friends and new friends, it included a Flower Fair — with the largest display of California floral products found anywhere — farm tours and educational programming. Fun ‘N Sun also featured a history of California’s floral industry and a commissioned report concerning the impact of legalized cannabis on the California floral industry.

Dramm & Echter, Mellano & Co. and Kendall Farms hosted this year’s farm tours. We experienced three flower farms deploying innovative techniques across the range of operations, from a GPS system to optimize planting by Mellano & Co. to Kendall Farms being completely water-self-sufficient and energy-self-sufficient, to all three farms’ water conservation practices.

FUN-N-SUN-2The CalFlowers 2017 Fun ‘N Sun event was held Aug. 9-12 in Carlsbad, CA, at the Hyatt Park Aviara Resort.In the case of Dramm & Echter, I noticed changes in its post-harvest practices since my first tour four years ago. It was explained that staff proposed the changes and those changes not only improved working conditions, but resulted in productivity improvements.

California flower farming has to be innovative to remain competitive and we saw excellent examples of some of the techniques employed across the state to supply the market with more than 600 varieties of commercial cut flowers.

This year, CalFlowers departed from tradition and did not give a Distinguished Service Award to an individual from the industry. Instead, we celebrated the organization’s 75th anniversary by recognizing all who have contributed to the industry’s success. This took the form of a series of display boards featuring California’s floral industry history from its beginnings in Northern California and Southern California in the 1870s to the present. Milestones of firsts were displayed across three distinct eras: 1870s–1941; 1942–1993; and 1994 to the present.

Many longtime industry participants commented that they learned things from reviewing the display boards. Perhaps the most interesting takeaway was in recent history — one half of California flower grower-members of CalFlowers started their operations since 1994. Could there be any stronger sign that the California cut flower industry is robust than the fact that it attracted so many new flower farm operations beginning the year after imports started to dominate U.S. market share?

Many opinions have been swirling around about the impact of cannabis on California’s cut flower production since the state legalized the use of recreational marijuana last November. To separate fact from fiction, CalFlowers commissioned a study by the Agricultural Issues Center of the University of California-Davis and Daniel Sumner, a professor and director at the center, presented the findings on Aug. 12. After analyzing the data, Sumner’s conclusion was that California’s cannabis production in the foreseeable future would not disrupt the state’s cut flower production.

The panel following Sumner’s presentation, along with comments from the audience, made it clear that while some flower growers may elect to lease part of their production capacity for cannabis growing, it’s just as likely that cannabis production may provide additional capital for reinvestment in flower production. In conclusion, there’s good reason to believe that the U.S. market will continue to enjoy access to California cut flowers.

The full cannabis report and the presentation given to about 100 attendees at Fun ‘N Sun is available on the CalFlowers website at www.cafgs.org.

I invite you to join us at our next Fun ‘N Sun event in 2019 in sunny California as we continue to celebrate our floral industry.

Michael LoBue is chief executive officer at CalFlowers in Capitola, CA. He can be contacted at 415/561-6111 or lobue@cafgs.org.