Debra Prinzing

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SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: A Conversation with Flower Farmer Robert Kitayama (Episode 144)

June 4th, 2014

Before introducing you to this week’s guest, I must share with you a heartwarming letter I received recently from Emily Calhoun, a farmer-florist who owns Floriography in Corrales, New Mexico. She gave me permission to read her letter to you:  

Here's a glimpse of Emily (right) and the New Mexico floral landscape (left)

Here’s a charming glimpse of Emily (right) and the New Mexico floral landscape (left)

Hi Debra, I wanted to let you know what a HUGE difference your podcast has made in my life and my businesses.  

In January we expanded our farming and design operation to the Albuquerque-Santa Fe area. This means I am traveling that long, lonely (300 mile) desert corridor between the northern and southern part of New Mexico. This drive can be draining and depressing, especially after working huge hours at either location.

Each trip I plug in my phone, queue up the SlowFlowers podcast and get lost in your interviews. The drive disappears and I find myself at my destination refreshed, inspired and motivated to forge ahead – -spreading the good word of local flowers to our clients and educating the state about its potential as a producer.  

In fact, last month I mentioned your books, podcast and phenomenal website in my presentations at the NM Agrifuture conference.  I was presenting on creating successful agricultural businesses in small and urban areas. Naturally, I pushed flowers. Having your resources really helped add legitimacy to what we were doing and showed that this whole flower thing for real! As a result I have been able to recruit farmers, young and old, to grow for us (a la Ellen Frost’s model). WE even piqued the interest of the NM Secretary of Agriculture! 

Right now we are the only commercial cut flower farm in the state and are working diligently on growing that number! Hopefully soon we will be covering the state and the region with locally grown flowers. 

From the bottom of my flower pickin’ heart, Thank you! Emily

Okay, pretty amazing, right? Thank you, Emily – your voice and vision will now be heard by everyone listening to this podcast and I encourage them to check out your great web site, Floriographynm.com, to see what she’s up to in promoting the Slow Flowers Movement on her corner of the planet. Send her a little floral note so she knows we applaud her tenacity in changing New Mexico’s relationship with their flowers — we’re rooting for your success, Emily.  

Janice Wills Curtis of the California Cut Flower Commission snapped this photo as I interviewed Robert Kitayama at Sunset.

Janice Wills Curtis of the California Cut Flower Commission snapped this photo as I interviewed Robert Kitayama at Sunset.

Next, my interview this week comes to you from the Garden Stage at Sunset magazine’s Celebration Weekend at the Sunset HQ in Menlo Park, CA.

I spoke twice this past weekend, sharing the Slow Flowers’ eco-conscious floral design approach – and I combined my exhibit with my friends at the California Cut Flower Commission.

We gave away thousands of lily bulbs for people to take home and plant in their own gardens and took photos of thousands of people who wanted to stand in front of a flower field.

 

Here's our photo in the CCFC-Slow Flowers booth at  Sunset's Celebration Weekend.

Here’s our photo in the CCFC-Slow Flowers booth at Sunset’s Celebration Weekend. (c) CCFC

Those photos were posted all over social media, getting the word out about supporting local flowers. It was a blast! 

I also persuaded Robert Kitayama of Kitayama Brothers Farms in Watsonville, Calif., to sit down with me for an interview. You will be fascinated to hear his family’s story as it spans the generations, several areas in the west and numerous changes in flower crops – as this company has continued to evolve with the times.

A sea of colorful gerberas in the Kitayama Brothers' greenhouses.

A sea of colorful gerberas in the Kitayama Brothers’ greenhouses. (c) Linda Blue, CCFC

Kitayama Brothers has been growing and shipping beautiful cut flowers from Northern California since 1948. Located on majestic Monterey Bay, the company’s greenhouses in Watsonville enjoy perfect flower growing conditions.

The Monterey Bay’s cool evenings along with sunny days create an ideal environment for growing more than 20 different flowers and cut greens. Today, the farm’s top crops oriental and Asiatic lilies, lisianthus, gerbera daisies, snapdragons, mini callas, iris, gardenias and stephanotis, making their product selection a top choice for wedding and event professionals from around the country.

 

Robert Kitayama (left) and his brother Stuart Kitayama (right), pose with their mother at the 2013 Monterey Bay "Field to Vase" dinner.

Robert Kitayama (left) and his brother Stuart Kitayama (right), pose with their mother at the 2013 Monterey Bay “Field to Vase” dinner. (c) Linda Blue, CCFC

I have gotten to know Robert and his family’s floral enterprise in the past few years, including spending a weekend at the farm in Watsonville last year where I arranged centerpieces for the field-to-vase dinner held inside one of Kitayama’s greenhouses the night before the Monterey Bay Greenhouse Tour.

This year’s tour is coming up on June 21st and you can get more details here. And check out Kitayama Brothers’ free gerbera plant promotion here.

 

One of those luscious, lavish gardenias . . . so awesome!

One of those luscious, lavish gardenias . . . so awesome! (c) Linda Blue, CCFC

Thank you for joining today’s conversation with Robert Kitayama, just one of the many passionate flower farmers I encounter on my journeys through the fields and greenhouses where beautiful, fresh and local flowers are produced.

Please join me next week for another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded more than 12,500 times.

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. 

The Slow Flowers podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net

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