SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - With Mother’s Day Weekend approaching, flower farmers in the Carpinteria Valley are enjoying their busiest week of the year.
“This week it is three to four times, even five times more than normal,” said Rene Van Wingerden of Ocean Breeze International, a flower farm near Carpinteria.
Van Wingerden says the month of May alone brings in 20 percent of the farm’s annual business. Spring weather creates more ideal growing conditions, compared to winter weather during Valentine’s Day.
“Mother’s Day for us is the biggest holiday of the year,” Van Wingerden said. “People think ‘Oh, Valentine’s.’ But Valentine’s is just a very expensive holiday for us because it takes so much more money to get the crop to market.”
After being carefully organized and packed, flowers are put on trucks and sent up and down the West Coast.
Van Wingerden says sunny days and cold nights this spring have led to more colorful flowers.
“Springtime, everything grows faster and everything just produces more,” Van Wingerden said. “And that’s what this is all about. Numbers, numbers numbers. And Mother’s Day, it’s a perfect storm at the moment.”
One of the farms’ biggest challenges during the Mother’s Day rush is finding enough labor to get the flowers where they need to go. Van Wingerden says some workers head for higher pay in the Carpinteria Valley’s budding cannabis industry, which produces more revenue and can offer higher wages.
“For the flower growers it’s been tough because we cannot afford to pay cannabis wages,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Van Wingerden says he could always use more help. But many are still hard at work at Ocean Breeze, and have been for decades.
“Most of our employees have worked for us for more than 20 years,” Van Wingerden said. “So money is important, but [this is] also a place to call home.”