The Mellano and Castellano families, a group of longtime flower farmers and dedicated industry volunteers, were named the 2019 Flower Farm Champions by the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC) at its recent annual meeting. The families are the fourth recipients of this prestigious award. 

Mike Mellano Sr., Sharon Mellano and Mike A. Mellano accepted
the Flower Farm Champion Award on behalf of the Mellano and Castellano families
for their impact over generations on the flower-farming industry. 
Photo by Linda Blue Photography.

The Mellano and Castellano families were recognized for their enduring and active involvement in the cut flower industry, and for having hosted an American Grown Field to Vase Dinner for a record-setting five years in a row. Mellano & Company CEO Mike A. Mellano was also acknowledged for being a past CCFC chair and for serving on the board of the Kee Kitayama Research Foundation. 

In presenting the award, CCFC interim CEO & Ambassador Dave Pruitt said, “It’s an honor to award the Mellano and Castellano families the 2019 Flower Farm Champion award. The Mellanos are a proud third generation flower-growing family who have dedicated their lives to the floral industry. Family members serve on multiple industry boards, committees and the California Cut Flower Commission. We’re also proud to honor them for being a Field to Vase Dinner host and sponsor for five years in a row. That’s every year since the event started!”   

And the cut flower industry is better for all the Mellanos have done via CCFC and elsewhere!  

The Mellano family came from a small mountain town in Italy
and moved to Southern California in the early 1920s
to grow fresh flowers of exceptional beauty.
Photo provided by Mellano & Company

Present for the awards ceremony were Mike A. Mellano, Mike Mellano Sr., Sharon Mellano and members of the Castellano family. During the presentation, Mike Mellano Sr. narrated a slideshow and shared stories about the family’s history and adventures in flower farming. 

The families were presented with a crystal vase inscribed with the words “Flower Farm Champion Award,” and each family member received a bouquet of California Grown Flowers. 

Photo by Linda Blue Photography.

The ceremony also included an extended Field to Vase Dinner Tour video that featured the tour stops Mellano & Company has hosted at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad and comments from Mike A. Mellano that were captured during the events. 

The Flower Farm Champion award has become a steadfast tradition for CCFC – a chance to honor influencers and givers to the homegrown cut flower cause. 

In 2018, the Flower Farm Champion award went to Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner Cathy Fisher. Crystal Hedgpeth, floral sales manager for Safeway’s Northern California Division, earned the award in 2017; and in 2016, the recipient was Lois Capps, former U.S. Representative for California’s 24th Congressional district.

The results are stunning!

During California Grown Flowers Month in June, retailers like Bristol Farms and Northern California Safeway stores went above and beyond in creating displays, point-of-purchase materials and special offers on California Grown Flowers.

With the data now in, we’re excited to share that their efforts to promote homegrown flowers and share the importance of flower origin with customers paid off!

Safeway store 1761 in Lincoln, CA participated in the CA Grown Flowers Month promotion and saw their sales increase 31.5% in the month of June.

Participating NorCal Safeway stores saw enormous increases in cut flower sales in June. How big, you ask?

One store’s cut flower sales were up 31.5% (Store 1761 in Lincoln, CA) in June. Others saw increases of 26.8% (Store 1617 in Burney, CA), 23.8% (store 1617 in Roseville, CA) and 5.6% (store 2683 in El Dorado Hills, CA).

The entire NorCal division saw an increase in cut flower sales of 5.4%.

Another beautiful display showing CA Grown Flowers was seen at Safeway store 1617 where they saw an impressive 23.8% increase in sales.

Talk about putting an end to the summer slump!

Bristol Farms stores created eye-catching displays using CA Grown Flowers Month signage and sharing Flower Farmer stories.

Bristol Farms stores also went all out to promote California Grown Flowers with displays that included farmer’s stories and CA Grown Flowers Month signage.

Employees also donned the blue and gold celebratory logo to help spread the word to customers.

We’re already making plans for California Grown Flowers Month 2020! If you want to increase sales, spread the word about the state’s cut flower farmers and create breathtaking displays during one of the biggest flower-producing months, be sure to join us!

Flower Donations, Ambassadors Needed

Plans for the first two Certified CA Grown entries at the 2020 Tournament of Roses Parade are already underway, and the full ramp up to the New Year’s Day tradition has begun.

The entries from Cal Poly Universities and FTD Companies Inc. – the first to announce so far – will both feature at least 85% CA Grown flowers and foliage – allowing them to meet certification requirements.

The 2018 Cal Poly Universities float won the Past Presidents trophy, which recognizes innovation.

Additional CA Grown entries will be announced in coming weeks, including a number of equine entries.

The theme for the 2020 Rose Parade is “The Power of Hope,” and the goal is for every entry to celebrate the influence optimism and hope can have on the world.

This year’s float from Cal Poly Universities – they’re 72nd – is titled “Aquatic Aspirations.”

The student-created entry will feature an optimistic submarine that sets out into the deep blue sea aspiring to discover fortune and riches, but instead comes across something much better than ever expected. With the help of some aquatic sea life – including jellyfish, sea turtles and a school of vibrant fish – the explorers are guided to a breathtaking underwater home thriving among the pieces of an old sunken ship.

“As Cal Poly students setting off on an exploration into our futures, we never know what treasures we might encounter as we aspire to achieve our goals. The spirit of discovery conveyed by our float embodies the idea that no matter what dreams you strive to achieve, hope can be a powerful guide to reaching your own treasure,” described Cal Poly’s float team in a Facebook post.

Cal Poly students celebrated the certification of their 2017 float entry, “Dreams Take Flight”. Photo by Linda Blue Photography.

The California Cut Flower Commission’s (CCFC) Anna Kalins, who leads the organization’s Rose Parade efforts, is seeking donations of flowers and greens for the Cal Poly float. This year, the Sun Valley Group and Pyramid Flowers are growing specific flowers requested by students for the float, but additional flowers are needed.

Ambassadors have a great opportunity to connect personally with the public
who are coming to see the floats and educate them about CA Grown Flowers.
Photo by Linda Blue Photography.

Also needed are Rose Parade ambassadors to help at the event itself and in the days leading up to the parade. It’s a great way to connect with consumers directly, share your passion for California Grown Flowers and spend time with industry friends!

To donate flowers or volunteer, email Kalins at

Tour, Discussions Put Focus on Key Issues, Industry Innovations

While flower farmers make a visit to Washington, D.C., each year to connect with policymakers, a recent meeting with staff from Congressman Salud Carbajal’s office brought policymakers to the flower farm.

Last week, Jeremy Tittle, chief of staff, and Erin Sandlin, agriculture legislative assistant, visited Ocean Breeze Farms in Carpinteria on behalf of Carbajal, a co-chair of the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus.

While there, Tittle and Sandlin toured the farm and met with farmers Rene and June Van Wingerden, chair of the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC). They were joined by CCFC interim CEO Dave Pruitt and Jumana Misleh, CCFC’s federal affairs representative.

Jeremy Tittle and Erin Sandlin of Congressman Carbajal’s office, discuss cut flower policy concerns with Ocean Breeze farmers Rene and June Van Wingerden.

During the meeting, the Van Wingerdens summarized the top three cut flower issues they believe Congressman Carbajal should focus on: enforcement of labeling laws on imported flowers, passing the American Grown Act and immigration reform.

Tittle and Sandlin responded by agreeing to follow up on the labeling issue and promising to review alternative ways to move the American Grown Act, including looking at modifying appropriations language. They also indicated that while discussions on immigration reform continue, the chances of action on the issue this year are slim.  

Farmer Rene Van Wingerden discussing the growth process and innovative care practices of Gerbera daisies with Tittle and Sandlin.

The group then toured an Ocean Breeze Farms greenhouse, learning about the growing process of Gerbera daisies and hearing about the innovations implemented on the farm, including hydroponic growing and integrated pest management, which has made the operation chemical-free.

Also discussed during the tour were the slim margins flower farmers face, how farms are cutting costs with efforts like using plants for longer periods, and the importance of a consistent, skilled labor force.

Tittle and Sandlin left California with a deeper understanding of flower farming and a pledge to continue to provide support for California’s flower farmers in Washington, D.C.

“Meetings like these continue to stress the importance of having a strong relationship with our state and federal representatives to educate and convey the issues that all flower farmers face,” notes CCFC’s Pruitt. “We hope that through meetings like this, we continue to ensure a bright future for American flower farmers.”