Friday, September 27, 2013

Learning What We Do Not Know

Kitayama Brothers has been growing flowers since 1948.  In the 60’s and 70’s, Kitayama Brothers was the largest Carnation grower in the U.S.  With the less expensive Carnations coming into the country, Kitayama Brothers switch its major crop to Roses.  From the mid 70’s through the mid 90’s, Kitayama Brothers became the largest Rose grower in the U.S.  

Today, Kitayama Brothers grows 15 different crops in Watsonville, California.  To be viable in today’s floral market, we know we have to produce top quality flowers and a way to efficiently distribute flowers to those who value its beauty.  And after 65 years of growing we are still asking How?

On September 18th through the 21st, Scott Kitayama, of Greenleaf Wholesale Florist and Dave Kitayama of Kitayama Brothers went to Phoenix, AZ  to attend the Society of American Florist Convention.  

The many industry members that were here to learn.

Here, 500 Growers, Wholesalers and Retailers came together to look for the answers of How.  We were not dealing with companies but with talented real people all sharing information and looking for answers.  We learned a lot but more information brought more questions.

Forty-Four growers from around the world competed for the best flowers.  Kitayama Brothers was honored to win in the Best Lily Class and was represented on the Winners Table.  Two of our competitors are standing with me…Martin of Oregon Flowers, and Benno of Holland America.  

This is a beautiful industry with the hope that we can put this beauty 
in every home in America.

Dave Kitayama

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Stemmed Gardenia

Who came up with the stemmed gardenia idea?

Kitayama Brothers would love to claim that we created the stemmed gardenia, but we have to give credit where credit is due, to our customer and friend Michael Miyashiro of Rainforest Florist in Honolulu, HI.  

Four years ago while I was attending a trade show in Honolulu, Michael advised Kitayama Brothers to “burn” all our roses and grow gardenias.  He also said to keep a stem on the gardenias and ship them in a bud stage.  To be honest, at that time I thought he was “just being Michael.”  Michael always asks for the most bizarre and extreme forms of flora.  Half the time I don’t even know what type of flower or green he is talking about.  However, he has a booming business in Honolulu and his work is in high demand because of his fun and exotic look. 

Today, Kitayama Brothers has pulled out every rose plant and I believe we must be the biggest gardenia grower in the USA.  And with the introduction of the stemmed gardenia, our customers can get a new use for an old flower.  The stem allows the gardenia to be used in arrangements.  Also, because of the bud stage, the flowers can be ship in greater quantity and are much better priced than traditional select gardenias (3 in a box).  

Hopefully we are creating a new generation of gardenia lovers.  I will be back in Honolulu this Fall, (it's my duty to visit once a year), and I will visit Michael again, there just might be a new idea..


Friday, September 20, 2013

Kitayama Brothers at SAF 2013

Results of the SAF Competition

There were 44 growers in the Competition with over 225 entries, more S.A. growers than I have ever seen.  Judging was harder this year than past years, very few Blue Ribbons were given and over ¾ of the entries did not ribbon at all.

The KB Ravenna - Hot Pink Oriental Lily won BEST LILY IN THE LILY CLASS and we had a lot of competition.  This was our only blue ribbon.

I felt if I could have opened the Ice Dancer - White Oriental Lily, it would have taken the best of class because of its large blooms and strong stems---but we still took a second.

Our Orientals proved to be world class and we should be very proud of the Farm.

The greenhouse did a superior job growing, selecting, and shipping: out of 400 stems, we only lost 2. A very special thank you to Greenleaf Phoenix, Kathy and her crew for setting and transporting the flowers.

~ Dave Kitayama

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kitayama Brothers first NEW greenhouse in 20 years!

Twister-Kist Greenhouses:
Let's be honest, it has been a very long time since Kitayama Brothers has put up new greenhouses. I would say at least 20 years.  This summer, we just finished putting up 3 new houses.  You might say we are twisting the story around and twisting is the right term.   

The greenhouses we replaced were knocked down last December by a tornado that started as a waterspout on the Monterey Bay.  The waterspout hit land, became a tornado and landed on range 6 which was a very nice lisianthus range.  Tornadoes are so rare in this area, nobody but us saw it, and it didn’t make any weather reports.   

We called NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in Monterey and they came down and confirmed, “Yup, it was a tornado.”  Even though it was a category zero, you can see how much damage it caused.  I can’t imagine what a category 5 tornado like our Oklahoma customers experienced, would be like to see or live through.

Bullish on Flowers:
You might think, what is the big deal to replace 3-4 greenhouses, but we did have a choice.  Do we believe in replacing greenhouse space for flowers, or take the cash settlement?  In the end, we decided on greenhouses.   

We are in the business of growing and selling flowers, and it is our responsibility to maintain a thriving business.  The last few years have seen an improvement in the flower market.  It is hard work, but we are bullish on the future of domestic flower growing.  Some of you might think we are dreaming like Dorothy, but help us prove, “There is nowhere (to grow flowers) like home.”



Monday, September 9, 2013

Buy Flowers, Go Hiking and Stay Young!

Buy Flowers, Go Hiking.

Last week I finished a 6 day backpacking trip with a climb up Mt Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental USA.  I thought it was quite a feat until I met Peggy Park who has climbed Mt Whitney 11 times from the “hard side.”  

Peggy is “in her 70’s” and I met her on the way down from Mt Whitney.  She started climbing from Whitney Portal on the east side at 12:30 am that morning to do the 22 mile round trip that includes 6,000 vertical feet of climbing.  I had started from the west side, and only had to climb 3000 vertical feet and walk 16 miles.  I am not sure I could have done what she did.  She has become a role model for me and her message is, “keep hiking, it will keep you young.”

Also I included a little video of the top of Mt Whitney.  I can’t tell you how spectacular the view is from the top of Mt Whitney, you need to see for yourself.  Again, I realize that Kitayama Brothers needs to keep growing beautiful California flowers, so we can stay in California and explore all its beautiful places.