For Fred Van Wingerden, the Certified American Grown organization has provided the strong voice that flower growers need in order to address the barrage of challenges they face.
From competition from foreign growers to government regulation, American flower growers need the organization to represent them, said Van Wingerden, president of Pyramid Flowers in Oxnard, California.
When California Growers voted out the California Cut Flower Commission this spring, we were very concerned about who would represent the domestic growers and thus started the process for an independent Certified American Grown organization.
“Unless we had another organization representing the cause of American growers, it would be, like they say, united we stand and divided we fall,” he said. “We needed to step up to the plate and make sure that the new organization received strong support. I’m a true believer in Certified American Grown because we need it to represent us as growers.”
Pyramid Flowers and its affiliated company, B-Fresh Floral (owned and operated by Fred, Rene, and Winfred Van Wingerden), all became supporters when Certified American Grown was reborn as an independent trade association representing flower and greens farmers nationwide. The companies made donations to the association’s Formation Fund to support its programs and help with operating expenses.
“It’s very important that the organization gets proper funding at the start so it’s strong right from the get-go,” he said.
In addition to representing growers, Van Wingerden said, it’s important that the association’s grown-in-America message continues to be conveyed to consumers. Imported flowers dominate the American marketplace, accounting for 80 percent of sales.
“That in itself is critical,” he said. “We need to push that message into the marketplace even stronger. Studies have shown that when consumers are given a choice, they want to buy American. And unless we stand together and fund efforts like this, we cannot get that message out there.”
Van Wingerden has been in the flower business since 1979, and he comes from a long, long line of flower growers. Flower growing in his family extends back 15 generations to the 1600s in the Netherlands. In 1967, four Van Wingerden brothers, including Fred’s father, emigrated from the Netherlands to California to take advantage of the optimum flower growing environment along the coast between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.
Pyramid Flowers was founded in 1991 grows eight types of flowers on 80 acres along the coast in Oxnard. It employs over 120 people.
Fred’s son, Marcos, now works alongside him and is part of the next generation of family flower growers. Having his son in the business has been invigorating, he said. “He brings new ideas and energy,” he said. “For me as a father, having a son in the business gives me more to work for as well. It’s like a shot of adrenaline.”
Van Wingerden is steadfast in his support of Certified American Grown, and while not on the association’s board, he intends to be involved.
Flower growers face many challenges and the association plays a vital role, he said.
“It unifies growers,” he said. “We learn from each other, we share with each other, and whatever problems come along, we can address them together. Each company by themselves would be very challenged to address all the things that an organization like Certified American Grown can.”