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.


Friday, August 15, 2014

The Kitayama Story


This past week, Maya, Grace and I visited Bainbridge Island which is the “homestead” of the Kitayama Family.  We went to visit Auntie Yo and my cousins to show my girls where the Kitayamas came from.  For those who have never been to Bainbridge, you have to take a ferry out of Seattle across Puget Sound on a 30-minute ride.  Bainbridge was once a sleepy little island where the main industry was strawberries.  Today it is an expensive bedroom community for Seattle with incredible water scenery to match our Sunset Beach.  


Around the early 1920’s, Grandma and Grandpa Kitayama rented a greenhouse on the south part of Bainbridge Island to raised tomatoes, potted plants and 6 children.  It was there that the boys started their love of growing.  It was a tough life but they managed to support themselves until Dec 7 1941 and Pearl Harbor Day.   

Here is a photo of the farm today which the girls visited, it’s just a field.

And here is a photo when the family was there just prior to WWII.


On March 30 1942, Japanese Americans on Bainbridge were ordered by the US government to be ready for “relocation”.   They were the first group relocated in the USA because of the proximity to Bremerton Naval yards across the sound.   

The Kitayama family was part of this group which was marched onto a ferry to be taken away; not really knowing what their future held while being escorted by armed US soldiers.  They were taken by ferry, bus and train to Manzanar, a camp located in east California, not far from Death Valley. 


Maya, Grace and I visited the recently opened Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial on the site of the ferry dock which took the Bainbridge Japanese Americans away.  

Just like most of my parent’s generation, we didn’t hear much about their experiences and they didn’t bear grudges. They dealt with the circumstances and went on to make huge contributions to their communities, industries and a good future for their families.


The message at the memorial is, Nidoto Nai Yoni, translated as "Let It Not Happen Again". 
The lesson I hope my girls learned from their grandfather, grand aunts and uncles...when bad things do happen, how you adapt is most important. 


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sunset Beach Grown

American Grown: Maybe... CA Grown: Yes. 

Sunset Beach Grown: ABSOLUTELY!

This week’s blog is in reference to a new initiative by the California Cut Flower Commission to start an “American Grown” designation for American grown flowers.  I support CCFC and their “CA Grown” campaign has been a great campaign which Kitayama Brothers appreciates and takes advantage of.  We are examining the merits of an American Grown campaign and we don’t have enough information to have an opinion of its merit or potential.  However, I do have an opinion about Sunset Beach Grown flowers.  They are the best!!

I love America with our wacky government but I love California even more despite the regulations and water shortage.  I prefer Northern California over Southern California with our lack of movie stars and over-abundance of smug 20-something billionaires.  However, to pinpoint my very favorite place you have to come to Monterey Bay and find your way to Sunset Beach which is the best place to live and grow flowers on the planet.  I know I sometimes run counter to my friend Kasey’s ideas.  But instead of promoting all America, I want to promote the Sunset Beach “appellation” for the finest quality lilies, gerberas, lisianthus, snaps and gardenias.  Of course the Santa Maria, Carpinteria, Oxnard, Carlsbad areas are also nice, but for rich soil, amazing weather and nice people you can’t beat Sunset Beach.   
The local Santa Lucia Highlands and Santa Cruz Mountain appellations are producing very nice wine and getting recognized for their special attributes.  I just want to do the same for the Sunset Beach flower appellation.