Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend (left), Rob Morse, PG&E central coast manager and others take part in the California Grown Design Cup Friday at California Pajarosa Floral as part of a promotion for the fourth annual Monterey Bay Greenhouse Growers Open House which takes place today. (Photos by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)
WATSONVILLE — It was a battle of the ages, and the warriors came ready for a fight.
Armed with pruning shears and well-stocked with buckets full of flowers and decorative greens, they nobly trimmed and artfully arranged roses, sunflowers, kangaroo paw and other flowers and greens into their vases.
The “battle” was in fact a flower arranging contest, dubbed a “floral throw-down,” which pitted Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend, Watsonville Mayor Lowell Hurst, PG&E's Central Coast Manager Rob Morse and Watsonville rose farmer Paul Furman against each other.
The contest was a kickoff to the fourth-annual Monterey Bay Greenhouse Growers Open House, in which seven South County growers open their doors to give the public a look at an industry that helps the Pajaro Valley thrive. The tour is today from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
The contestants had no experience with floral arranging except for Hurst, who formerly taught a class in that subject at Watsonville High School, a fact that brought light-hearted accusations of a rigged contest. Indeed, the mayor won the event and took home the first-ever California Grown Design Cup.
But the competition was in good fun and drew dignitaries from throughout Watsonville, including the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture, Second Harvest Food Bank, the City Council and several from the agricultural community.
“We’re glad to do this every year,” said John Furman, who co-owns California Pajarosa and participates in the greenhouse tour. “It’s a good opportunity to show the public what we do and not be a mystery to everyone.”
California Pajarosa is one of several producers in Watsonville that strictly sells wholesale and as such is not generally open to the public.
But with 19 acres of land that produce an estimated 20,000 bundles of roses that are shipped to clients around the country, the business offers a substantial contribution to the community.
“People are surprised,” Furman said of the tour. “They are always fascinated to see where their flowers are coming from.”
Participants in the tour will have a chance to see Pajarosa’s production and propagation facility.
In addition to highlighting an industry vital to the area, the tour is also a chance for growers to debunk misconceptions the public might have about farmers, said Jennifer Everett, who manages California Floral Greens.
The problem, she said, is that many people believe growers overuse pesticides and other chemicals harmful to the environment.
“I use ladybugs for pest control,” she said. “I spray as little as possible.”
In addition to tours of the facilities, the companies will also be offering their products for sale. The proceeds from the sales will go to a charity of the growers’ choosing.
The overarching theme of the tour, however, is persuading consumers to buy locally grown products.
According to California Cut Flower Commission Ambassador Kasey Cronquist, some 80 percent of the flowers purchased here come from overseas producers.
In an age where many consumers are seeking out locally grown food, it’s an easy task to do the same for their flowers, he said.
He added that the cut flower industry in California contributes $10.3 billion to the state’s economy.
“If people just think about where their flowers come from, we’ll probably see those numbers grow,” he said.
The Monterey Bay Greenhouse Growers Open House is today from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. It features seven Pajaro Valley growers. For information, visit www.montereybayfarmtours.org or call 274-4008.
Succulent Gardens - Succulents
Kitayama Brothers - Flowers
McLellan Botanicals - Orchids
Jacobs Farm - Herbs and edible flowers
Four Winds Growers - Citrus trees
California Pajarosa - Roses
California Floral Greens - Decorative greens
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