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US (CA): Family flower farm gears up for next generation

Tony Ortiz once asked his dad why he chose to grow flowers.

“He just said it’s something he was really good at,” says the operations manager for Joseph & Sons, the flower farm his father founded 13 years ago. “Harvesting flowers wasn’t anything like growing lemons or avocados or strawberries, and he was definitely good at it.”

For himself, Ortiz can’t imagine a future without acres of larkspur and stock stretching before him. That’s why he’s hungry to add more fields to the family business, which already encompasses more than 400 acres of field flowers spread between Santa Paula, Lompoc and Imperial Valley. He recently had his eye on a 20-acre property, and he’s on the lookout for other likely prospects.

“We’re definitely interested in any agricultural land that’s available to invest in for the future,” he says. “Adding more acreage is something that’s going to be part of my dad’s legacy. When you add more acreage you add more water rights, different climates and the possibility of building more hoop houses. It’s very important for my family to invest in land.”

Flowers are in his blood. His childhood is peppered with memories of riding the tractor with his brother, driving the water truck with his dad for the first time, and harvesting blooms with his mom.

“I get a sense of peace in the flower fields,” he says. “There are no car horns, no one revving up their engine. It’s very serene to look at a hoop house that’s ready for harvest, full of pink snapdragons or blue waltz.”

Joseph & Sons grows about 15 different flower varieties throughout the year, with stock and larkspur available year-round. The farm recently added dianthus to its rotation and is working on boosting production through increased efficiency as well as expansion.

Installing solar panels to power the company’s warehouse, coolers and offices was a big step toward making the business more sustainable—but it’s just one part of his plan to shore up the family farm for the future.

“We’re adding new varieties and new colors as they become available,” he says. “We’re looking at seeds that are more drought-resistant and resistant to inclement weather. We’re also looking into investing in machinery to increase production.”

He doesn’t see the demand for California flowers slowing down anytime soon.

“The industry is very healthy,” he says. “We definitely outshine a lot of the competition. If given the choice between local and imported, most people prefer locally grown flowers.”

Jose Ortiz Sr. founded Joseph & Sons.

As his dad prepares to celebrate his 76th birthday, the family is also working on a transition plan to help the farm change hands into the next generation of ownership. With three generations currently working in the business, including two of his siblings and one nephew, “we’re laying down a very strong foundation for the future,” he says.

Whatever the future may bring, he’s certain it will involve more fields and hoop houses bursting with colorful blooms.

“I’ve always known about the importance of flowers,” he says. “They’re food for the soul.”

Source: California Cut Flower Commission
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