Arizona Agriculture's Got Flower Power

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau Communication Director: Did you know Arizona agriculture has Flower Power! Yes, we do. On a recent visit to one of our floral farmers up north, I realized a rich tradition of growing flowers exists in Arizona.

Historically, we must first take note of the amazing group of Arizona farm families that grew flowers along Baseline road years ago. In the years following World War II the base of South Mountain in Phoenix was filled with citrus and vegetable farms. Those same families, many first and second-generation immigrants from Japan, began growing flowers. The flowers, like sweet peas, calendulas, and other annuals grown on Baseline Road supplied much of the country.

A rose in one of Michael Francis' fields. At any given moment the Francis family can have several hundred acres of roses in production at various stages of growth. Not counting other bare root nursery stock, rose bushes alone contribute around $50 million in just crop/cash receipts to the Arizona agriculture industry. 

Today, Arizona can claim the status of the largest rose bush grower in the nation, in the West valley. Just a few years ago, Arizona was supplying 60% of rose bushes to independent garden centers or mass retailers such as Lowes, Costco and Walmart. Today, more than 70% of the rose bushes any American can buy at a garden center are coming from Arizona. The remaining percentage comes from California.

All of those rose bushes are coming from four farmers in the west valley.

Michael Francis, one of the rose bush farmers and a Farm Bureau member, estimates that between California and Arizona farmers, the cash receipts alone for the booming rose bush business is $50 million. “It’s a two-year product sold before you put it in the ground and it’s a very rewarding farming endeavor,” says Francis. “To see fields in full bloom in November that are absolutely beautiful is hard to describe. The Rose bush business is hard work but fun to do.”

Francis’ rose bush farm, along with the others, falls under the USDA’s bare root nursery stock production of which bare root roses is included. In the 2012 Census of Agriculture showed Arizona nursery stock (that includes a variety of other nursery plants) value of production was $154 million, which appears to rank Arizona at number 9 in the nation.

Our Direct Market Floral Farmers

On the direct-market or retail scale, many are discovering that flower farming just might be the perfect home business, or an addition to what they are farming already. Those doing it say you can set your own hours (though with any farming those hours can be long and challenging) work outdoors and earn extra income for the family. Plus, for those just starting out, it becomes a family affair. The spouse and children often help out.

And, when it comes to flower farming some take to it naturally. Lindsay Statler, owner with her husband, Walt, of Green Creek Gardens in Dewey, Arizona, says her daughter takes to it instinctively. “The other day she told me, ‘Mom I’m going to make a few Boutonnieres for the wedding.’ I said okay and didn’t think anything else about it. Sure enough she created the most precious boutonnieres for a wedding we did the flowers for.”

Taken by Lindsay Statler, her garden is loved by the butterflies and bees as well as her customers. 

Members of Farm Bureau, Green Creek Gardens is completing its third year in business. Their Locally grown fresh cut flowers cater to weddings and a U-Pick It environment. Green Creek Gardens is host to at least 10 different kinds of sunflowers, 30 to 40 different kinds of dahlias, and another 30 to 40 varieties of cutting flowers. For their on-farm U-Pick environment, one can select from three different offerings: $5, $10 and $20 bucket-size offers. Dahlias, because of their cost and care, are $2 per stem. They are open on Friday and Saturday from 8:00am to 5:00pm through the early part of October. They are also open on Sunday from 1pm to 5pm. Their season typically runs from May to early October. For questions about hours and more call 928.499.5088. 

Green Creek Gardens is one of a handful of direct-market or retail farmers growing fresh flowers for Arizona's local market.

Ultimately, Arizona agriculture has some amazing flower power for our industry. There's more to come about our state's floral farmers.

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