Now, I won’t tell you how many months it took to make the connection between those copper jello molds and the name, Jello Mold Farm, but Dennis Westphall and Diane Szukovathy are one of the main reasons I fell in love with American flower farmers. So it was no surprise when we pulled into their driveway that the telephone pole next to the road was encircled with hanging jello molds!! It was cool!
Honestly, I don’t know where to begin with Dennis and Diane.
If you search for Jello Mold Farm on Google, you’ll get over 81,000 results. There is just so much to share about them. Countless blogs, articles and interviews. They are written about in books, such as, The 50 Mile Bouquet, written by Debra Prinzing- a personal favorite! They talk on podcasts, offer farm tours, and very active on social sites like Facebook and Instagram. They even went to the United States Congress in Washington D.C. in 2014 to voice their thoughts on unfair trade policies and raise awareness of the current situation in flower farming communities.
The reality is that most people have no idea where their flowers are coming from. Right now 80% of all flowers are imported from foreign countries. Those roses you bought your sweetheart last year; 97% of them came from countries like Colombia and Ecuador. In 1991, 75% of flowers in the US were grown in US soil. Now, only 25% of cut flowers are grown in the United States.
I really could carry on all day about the lifelong commitment both Dennis and Diane have to American flower growing. For them, it’s not just a commitment, it’s their lives. They live it. They breathe it. And they probably prefer earth surrounding their toes than socks on their feet.
I knew before arriving to Jello Mold Farm in Mt. Vernon, Washington that I was in for a special treat. To call their farm a special treat is an understatement. It is a candy store for growers and florists alike! One long dirt road divides the property, but walking to the back is like meandering down the path of a Candy Land board game. There are different lands of wonderment and floral treats to delight in every which way you turn. I was amazed at how tall all of the shrubs, trees, and floral crops were.
I asked Dennis how they got their crops to grow so tall and he casually said, “I sing to them at night.”
Every inch of the farm is touched by the caring, loving, creative, and sustainable practices Diane and Dennis live by.
This might sound indulgent, even luxury for plants, but actually these modern marvels in farming play a critical role in the concept of local and sustainable growing practices. It’s these methods learned and developed over years of experience that take flower farming to a new level. I admit, I used to think farming and chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides on our flowers and produce went hand-in-hand.
It’s simply just not true. And Jello Mold Farm is a living example of that. Diane and Dennis are so good at local and sustainable farming they offer growers workshops where people come from across the country to attend.
This isn’t just a leisurely operation either. Diane works a tight ship, right down to the buckets the flowers hydrate in. Before a stem even touches a bucket, that bucket is carefully cleaned of any bacteria which may have begun growing from the previous bucket of flowers. This is just one of many steps that ensures the flowers they sell to florists are the highest of quality.
Lucky for me, Dennis is one of the many friendly faces I see on a weekly basis. Always helpful and curious to know what I’m doing that week, Dennis is truly a staple in my flower world. In the winter months, I don’t see him as much. The wholesalers’ market just doesn’t quite feel the same without seeing him as I enter the warehouse. I don’t know…. It could also be seeing his variety of Hawaiian shirts he clearly has an affection for. J
Recently, hundreds of flower growers and floral experts across the country joined together to create, American Grown, an organization founded to build awareness and promote the American cut flower industry. As part, the 2015 American Grown field to vase Dinner Tour was organized. All I can say is WOW about this tour!
This tour is a really big deal!
Several farms across the west coast were selected to host an indulgent evening of local and sustainable cuisine from well-known area chefs and of course flowers! And guess who is hosting the event in the Northwest this September? You guessed it, Jello Mold Farm!!! I cannot wait… I’m just so excited for this evening to come true!
After already visiting Dennis and Diane’s farm, I can only imagine how beautiful of a night it will be.
Of course, I’ll be sharing the evening with you!
Diane and Dennis are truly special people. It’s amazing that when you see Diane she will humbly take your hand and look directly at you to say, “Thank you so much for your support.” She is a very heartfelt and genuine.
It’s their flowers that generate a smile on people’s faces. It’s their labor of love that creates an unexpected surprise of blooms on a rough day. And it’s because of their undeniable passion for sustainable farming and ability to produce such unbelievably gorgeous flowers which inspires me to push on in this competitive industry.
A big thank you to Dennis and Diane for opening their home to me. It was truly an honor.
The stories, photos, and opinions were sourced from my personal interviews with Dennis Westphall and Diane Szukovathy, http://www.jellomoldfarm.com/, and http://www.miamiherald.com/incoming/article1960844.html,
For a full list of sponsors and details of the 2015 American Grown field to vase Dinner Tour in the Seattle area, visit: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07eag3kucldff24689&llr=jcfg48bab