Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NPR and the Drought

Several people asked me if I was on NPR recently, and I had to tell them it was my brother Stuart.  The piece was on the California drought and in the Pajaro Valley, there might not be another farmer who is as knowledgeable about the water situation than Stuart.  Stuart have been on two committees that advise the Parajo Valley Water Board and has been saying for years, before everyone else jumped in, that water will be one of our biggest challenges. Below is a link to the NPR piece. 

We all hope that we will have a very wet winter, but that will not solve the long term problem of increasing water demand and decreasing supply.  KB is working on many programs to use recycled water, recycle our greenhouse water, collect runoff from greenhouse roofs and reduce usage to a bare minimum.  

However...as Stuart says, the long term solution will have to be a community solution with all parties working and sacrificing together.

Stuart with a valuable resource.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Nita Gizdich's Example

Watsonville Apples and Flowers Promotion:

Who is the Queen of agro-tourism and marketing in Watsonville?  The hands down answer is Nita Gizdich of Gizdich Ranch.   

Apple orchards once dominated Watsonville and the Pajaro Valley. In 1908, there were 14,000 acres of apples in the Pajaro Valley, today there is only 2,128 acres in production. It is not hard to figure out why: apples bring about $281 a ton, strawberries return about $1,947 a ton and blackberries a whopping $6,671 a ton. Apple orchards come down and berry hoop houses go up.  

Nita and her husband (who passed away) were apple growers, and instead of giving up on apples, Nita turned apples into apple pie, literally.  Not only apple pies, but every other kind of berry pie, cider, jam, syrup, and pancake mix, etc.  Her pies are famous throughout the region and every school kid within 30 miles has been to Gizdich to pick apples.  Nita said that Gizdich Ranch wouldn't be here today if she hadn't transitioned over to pies and other branded products. 

KB is inspired by Nita.  Just like apples, flowers aren’t what they once were in the Pajaro Valley.  However, we have an opportunity to create our own alternative business based on flowers.  And using Nita’s example, we can create our KB Brand products and events.  

Here is a picture of our grower Jimmy Zheng and Nita at last Friday’s Wine and Rose event in Watsonville.  Always the promoter, Nita made sure Jimmy had one of her brochures in his pocket.  Don’t forget your Gizdich pie for Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What Flowers Make KB Unique?

There are a few flowers that make KB unique: gerrando gerbera daisies, stemmed gardenias and KB lisianthus to name a few.  We hear this comment all the time, “You have the best lisianthus!” 

It's not a secret that lisianthus is hard to grow.  It isn’t hard in the summer but getting a good year round crop…that is the trick.  Our grower Jimmy Zheng prides himself in growing lisianthus when others can’t.  He says it isn’t any secret, just like everything else, “hard work and experience.”

Lisianthus is one of the longest lasting, great performing flowers that consumers don’t know.  Whenever we have tours, we often hear, “It’s beautiful, what is it?”  Lilium, one of the best florists in Ft Worth shared a picture of a bridal bouquet featuring only KB lisianthus; of course we think it is gorgeous.  Next time you talk to KB, ask them about lisianthus.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

KB Supporting Local Flower Growers

About 40% of what KB sells is not from our own production.  A lot of it comes from local growers and cutters who work hard to produce or cut beautiful and unusual flowers and greens.  California is known for the unique and fun: berries, branches, grasses, blossoms, pods, etc.  If it wasn’t for their efforts, we would live in a commodity world of boring roses, carnations, pompons, lilies and gyp. 

Our growers are by and large of Hispanic origin and usually learned their trade working for other growers.  We know how hard it is to survive and thrive as flower growers, so we invited them over for a “Thank You” BBQ and to have a discussion on how we can support them.

Local Flower Growers - picture by Tony

Our local Ag Extension agent Steve Tjosvold came to explain resources available to help these growers with growing issues.  Steve has been supporting the Monterey Bay flower growers for over 25 years and he has seen the decline in growers, and was heartened to see a good size group still growing flowers. 

Discussion at KB - picture by Tony

At KB, our goal is to increase total flower production in Northern California.  A growing supply of good quality, good value, and interesting flowers equals to - everything better for all involved.   When we ask these growers, “How can we help?”  They tell us, “Sell our flowers,”  and to do our part, we will make sure they grow good quality and we pay them fair prices.  

You can do your part by ordering flowers grown by hard working California growers. 

CA Grown - picture by Tony


Friday, October 10, 2014

Striving for Improvements

Last month, Geoff (IT Manager - GWF & KB) and I went to Dallas, TX for a user's group conference to learn more about our new computer system. It was a busy schedule. 

After a long first day of sessions, we were ready for the networking dinner event. And wow, they were so organized...here's a picture of the 5 buses waiting for us to board, then seamlessly taking hundreds of people to the venue. I was definitely impressed with their efficiency, which in turn, created an enjoyable experience for everyone. 

As I took this picture, my thoughts were, this can't be his first time. Check out the pose! 

Wrong! 6 seconds later - man down.

Try again. 
And off he went for 26 seconds, making it look so easy!

Of course, I had to try something new. Calf roping looked easy. Boy was I wrong! 
On my first try, the rope didn't make it pass the horse. Really?!

Try again.
On my second attempt, I made progress. I didn't roped the calf, but somehow... 
I managed to roped myself. 

An open mind willing to learn and try paired with patience and practice can make it look easy. But first thing first...you have to try.


Kitayama Brothers

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

KB English Classes

Here is an update on a program spearheaded by Stuart Kitayama.  This is Stuart in his own words.

“We’ve been thinking about an English class for our employees for a long time, just never sure how it would work and who would be interested.   I know from living in Mexico how difficult another language can be, and how important it is to understand what is being said.  So when Genie Dee from the Literacy Program of Santa Cruz County said she could help us, I was intrigued.  

Genie was very positive and helpful, and it took several months before anything got going.  We started in the spring with 5 students, all foremen or higher level employees.  They were motivated and wanted to try the class.  Now they attend class twice a week for 2 hours. 

The best part is seeing the student’s excitement and satisfaction with the class and their teacher Bonnie Ott.  We see their confidence grow and they are more comfortable speaking English.  It’s very obvious that the students (Juana, Artemio, Brenda, Wilbert, and Jose Luis) enjoy the class and each other’s company.”

(Sitting: Juana and Wilbert. Standing: Brenda and Jose Luis. Center: Bonnie)

What is very gratifying to read is how well they are doing; this is an email from their teacher.

Dear Stuart,
Artemio, Juana, Brenda, Jose Luis and Wilbert are all excellent students – something I have never experienced in 30 years of university teaching!  Jose Luis has come the farthest. He was at Alfredo’s level when we began, and now he is near Juana. I think I know why:  one of their fill-in-the-blank exercises included “I am always _________.”  Jose Luis put ‘thinking’.

Such a delight your folks are.

Kitayama Brothers

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bye-bye Beauties...

Next door to our greenhouse is a 300 acre field of mini callas we have enjoyed for two years.  This past summer, the field was a riot of colors with the most beautiful assortment of blooming mini callas.  As beautiful as our flowers are, visitors were blown away by the calla fields.   

Our neighbor had leased the land to CallaCo which is the largest calla and begonia bulb producer in the USA.  Here are two photos taken with our greenhouses in the background.


To make a mini calla bulb, it is a two or three year process of blooming the flowers, then letting them die back.  After one or two more seasons of this process they have a sellable bulb.  

This past week CallaCo started to harvest the bulbs. It is a major project with around 100 workers with 8 tractor and work stations harvesting the bulbs. It is amazing how fast they cleared the fields and picked the bulbs. 

This is very hard work and CallaCo has perfected the process.  CallaCo is an example of an exceptional local flower company.  Flower growing and bulb growing is still a big part of the Northern California agriculture of which we are proud to be part of.