When I was filming the CA Grown Experience Documentary for uBloom- I was fascinated to learn – that there were no longer flower farms growing carnations- the reason behind this was both economic and environmental. When I was a kid- we grew carnations in a couple of the greenhouses in Nebraska… I knew it was challenging- and I knew it was difficult- but I was a kid- and not paying very much attention.
In the late 60s my family realized it was much more affordable and made more business sense to ship our Carnations from the farms in Colorado and California- the flowers were bigger- and the selection was much more diverse- and it was easy. We actually put a box on the bus in Colorado each week- and sent it to Nebraska… As I grew older I realized that my childhood friends- the Kitayama’s also grew Carnation in California… but again- the economics of growing carnations was challenging.
Carnations have to stay warm… and they needs lots of light- and when provided a higher altitude- the foot candles of light increase- that means bigger blooms- but when it’s cold- it’s not ideal… That’s when farms in Colombia South America started experimenting with carnations. The Altitude in Colombia is perfect- and since it’s right on the equator the temperature is perfect…. between 50 and 70 every day- so no need for coal heating … that’s when the farms started moving to Colombia.
Fast forward- there are no longer Commercial Flower Farms for Carnations in the USA… both economics and environment- caused the inevitable change of location… but there were still die-hards that kept it going in the US… but they slowly were losing their ground- due to better pricing, better quality and year round production. I was creating a program with my Dad- with American Flowers for Veteran’s Day- and my Mother insisted there had to STILL BE American Grown Carnations- I didn’t think so… (Never argue with your Mother)… she contacted my life long friend Robert Kitayama to see if they had any American Grown Carnations… and they did- from ONE Lone Grower in Watsonville… a Japanese American Couple- the Akiyamas- whose son Ben also helped them farm a small greenhouse operation with Carnations… we got the Red Carnations for the Veterans Day Production from them. Watch that show here!
When we were on location in California for the CA Grown Documentary- we made a special trip to film the Last Carnation Grower in the USA… and visit the Akiyamas. It was a great visit- and we quickly realized we had friends in common- and poored over the family photo albums and did lots of visiting.
It was interesting and enlightening to see the classic carnation greenhouses- and growing operation. While the operation was small it provided a hobby for Mr. Akiyama- and his son. Ben also works as a Athletic Coach at the Local High School- and had a son that would soon be graduating. We asked if he was interested in the Carnation farm… Quickly he answered NO- that his son thought they should concentrate on something that was more viable- although rich in history- the Grandson realized there was opportunity in farming- but maybe not in carnations.
You can see our entire Visit to Akiyama Nursery in this Documentary. Soon after our visit- my friend Robert called to say that the farm had closed- land had been sold and greenhouses demolished… it was heartbreaking to hear this news… but shortly there after Robert shared that Mr. Akiyama, his son Ben and Grandson had started a new farm- growing Hops for Craft Beer Brewing.
I was delighted to hear this- 3 generations working together on a new Farming project that was lucrative and creative… We’re anxious to get the crew back out to California- and explore this new Venture with the Akiyama Family… while change can be frightening- at times- it allows us to choose another path- those choices provide opportunities that we may never expect… and keep us creative, active and viable.