In recent years, however, the floral landscape has changed. Yes, tulips are beloved and important to growers in the state. But a renaissance in cut-flower agriculture, combined with a groundswell of consumer interest in local and seasonal food – as well as floral choices – has led to diversification of floral farming and growth in the number of flower farms. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s “Floriculture Crops 2018 Summary,” the wholesale value of sales of Washington-grown cut flowers increased by almost 5.5 percent in three years, to $21.6 million in 2018, up from $20.5 million in 2015.
The Washington State Farm Bureau (WSFB) and the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) took notice, and in 2017, the two agencies collaborated on a three-year USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) to serve floral agriculture and raise the profile of local cut flowers. “Washington is the third-largest producer of cut flowers [in the U.S.] and, yet, few consumers are aware of the diversity of what is grown here,” says Laura Ridenour, WSDA Regional Markets, one of the project coordinators.
Called “A Collaborative Effort to Advance Washington State Cut Flowers,” the project convened industry stakeholders as advisors, researched best marketing practices and consumer demand and awareness, designed an integrated marketing and outreach campaign to engage consumers, and created farmers’ market manager and farmer training curricula for business growth. Overall, the Washington Flowers Project aims to communicate to consumers and the floral industry how and why to chose local flowers.