SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Kathleen Williford, passionate “locaflor” and American-grown floral advocate (Episode 146)
June 18th, 2014
Today’s guest is my friend Kathleen Williford of the lifestyle blog Bloemster, the California Cut Flower Commission, the Monterey Bay Greenhouse Growers Open House & Tour, and Staff of Life Natural Foods in Santa Cruz, California.
Yes, Kathleen is involved in all these endeavors, thanks to her talents, her tendency to say “yes” to all sorts of opportunities, and her genuine love for all-things local when it comes to flowers. In fact, it seems as if everything Kathleen does professionally and personally intertwines like flowers, stems and tendrils in a lovely bouquet.
We recorded this interview on June 1st while working together at the Sunset Celebration Weekend in Menlo Park, California. Kathleen had just pulled off her largest floral design commission ever the night before – she designed the tabletop flowers for a VIP dinner hosted by Sunset’s editor in chief Peggy Northrop. The setting was gorgeous and everyone raved about the all-California-grown centerpieces, which were an important reminder of the weekend’s local and seasonal theme.
I’ve worked with Kathleen off and on for a couple of years, thanks to our mutual association with the California Cut Flowers Commission. Kathleen has helped me source flowers from the Monterey Bay area farms for my demonstrations at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show and for a Garden Conservancy workshop I taught in the East Bay Area two years ago. She is a social media whiz, prompting all of us involved in the American Grown movement to hustle to catch up with her.
Kathleen is the first one to notice a trending topic, a new voice on twitter, a new source of gorgeous local flowers on instagram. I can count on her to always bring me up to speed. Case in point, when a group of us wanted to cheer on the only all-California-grown float in this year’s Tournament of Roses Parade, it was Kathleen who compiled an exhaustive list of the twitter addresses for every single broadcast personality on the various local, national and cable networks . . . just so we could be strategic with our messaging. She was one step ahead of the rest of us.
Social media has been a tool for her promotional work as the special events planner for CCFC’s Monterey Bay Greenhouse Growers Tour, which will take place this coming Saturday, June 21st.
I was invited to participate last year as a speaker and as the guest designer for a delightful field-to-vase dinner that Kathleen organized with her colleague Janice Wills Curtis of CCFC. We had a total blast and I’m truly disappointed that I have to miss the fun this year due to another lecture commitment.
It was through social media that Kathleen also connected with Holly Chapple of The Chapel Designers, a previous guest on this podcast. Kathleen found her way to the Chapel Designers’ conference that was part of Florabundance Design Days in Santa Barbara this past winter. (Actually, it was Kathleen’s husband Paul who gifted her the two-day design intensive as a surprise Christmas present).
Since that experience earlier this year, Kathleen has been on a floral fast-track, adding special event floral design to her plate, launching a website to support her personal design work – called Bloemster – and further, taking on the floral department management for Staff of Life, where she also handles marketing and special events.
I think she needs to clone herself, because there never seems to be enough hours in the day to accomplish all these to-do’s, but Kathleen knows how to pull it off.
I thought you’d enjoy hearing about the many ways one person can live out the values of supporting local and seasonal agriculture – from design, to retail, to communications and more. One person can make a difference, and Kathleen demonstrates that every single day.
If you are in the Bay Area this weekend, take a drive to Santa Cruz County for a free tour of several flower farms, nurseries and greenhouses where you can meet a flower farmer, buy cut flowers and plants, and enjoy a slice of the true California floral experience. I’ll add all the details on my web site so you can check out the Monterey Bay Greenhouse Growers Tour. You might just run into Kathleen. She’ll probably be wearing a large-brimmed hat and carrying a clipboard, an armload of flowers, a phone, a tote bag, a camera, or all of the above!
Follow Kathleen at these places:
The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.