A 107 Year Old Tradition

The 2019 First Ladies Luncheon is a little over just three short months away and the Certified American Grown Organization is currently looking for volunteers to be on this year’s design team.

I have the honor or serving as this year’s lead designer along with my co-lead, Christi Lopez of Bergerons Flowers. Together we will be leading a team of 30 volunteers from around the country in creating beautiful floral decor for the 108th First Ladies Luncheon!

I thought it would be a good time to do a look back on last year’s luncheon to give everyone a sneak peek into what goes on behind the scenes to produce this event. My hope is that you may want to apply to join me in Washington, D.C. this May to experience the beauty of American Grown Flowers!


But first, a little history about the First Ladies Luncheon…

Founded in 1908, the Congressional Club was created to provide a non-partisan setting for friendships among the spouses of members of the House and Senate in Washington, D.C. One of the many activities and events they host throughout the year is their Annual First Ladies Luncheon, which is a luncheon that honors the First Lady and the charity of her choice. Spouses of current and former Members of Congress, the President’s Administration, and the Supreme Court, business leaders, philanthropists and friends of the Congressional Club, gather in Washington, D.C., for a celebration of bi-partisan community service. Considered one of Washington’s most exciting and historic events, this tradition fosters friendships among our nation’s leaders.

Now About the Flowers…

For the past three years, Certified American Grown Organization has been the sponsor for all of the flowers that are used for this event. Twenty certified American grown flower and foliage farms from across the United States came together for this annual event to showcase the beauty that is grown in our country in May. From the West coast to the East coast, 18,000 stems of flowers and foliages were brought in to create beautiful floral decor that represented last year’s unique theme.

Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.13.12 PM.png

Who is Certified American Grown? CAG is an organization that is made up of flower farmers from across the United States that are committed to guaranteeing the public that their flowers have been grown in the U.S. Certified American Grown is the only third party organization in the floral industry that guarantees that the bouquet or bunch of flowers that you are purchasing is actually homegrown. Since its launch in 2014, Certified American Grown has been able to communicate the domestic origins of the flowers and foliages. They have also been able to create a brand that stands for high quality, variety and farm freshness that people are looking for. 

As a florist who goes to the flower markets looking for American grown flowers, the logo that the Certified American Grown organization has branded themselves with has been so helpful to me as a consumer in this industry. It makes it easy to pick out domestic flowers at the market in a whole ocean of imported flowers and I know that not only is my money supporting an American flower farm but I can also feel confident that my flowers are of the highest quality!


Back to the Luncheon…

For the 2018 luncheon, the theme was “Limitless Horizons” with a focus on the great state of Arizona. This theme was chosen by the 2018 chair of the Congressional Club, whose home state is Arizona. With a focus on the Red Rock of Sedona, orange and turquoise tones were chosen to showcase Arizona’s beautiful natural landscapes. Color was used throughout the floral arrangements including vibrant purples, oranges, yellows, pinks, and reds. Texture was also highlighted with unique foliages and potted plants including succulents.

Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.16.00 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.36.14 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.07.32 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.06.44 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.32.32 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.16.46 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.08.58 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.29.12 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.28.42 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.42.27 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.29.31 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.33.47 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.15.41 PM.png

Now About the Experience of Volunteering…

We are looking for professional floral designers, farmers and/or floral industry peers to join us in designing and executing this year’s luncheon. As you can see this is a large job with a lot of parts so a strong team is vital to the success of this event. As a volunteer you will be asked to help in a variety of different tasks including receiving flowers and dry goods, unpacking and organizing work rooms, processing all of the donated flowers, prepping for the design portion, executing all designs, and finally installing on the day of the luncheon.

Here is our talented team of designers, farmers, and industry peers from last year’s luncheon:


Besides getting to design for such a beautiful event, you will also be able to spend 3.5 days networking with your peers. In the first year I volunteered for the luncheon, I was greeted with a room full of other floral designers, some who I knew and some who I knew of. It was such a valuable experience to spend those days working side by side, learning about each other and about how we can all help in furthering the American Grown message. We got to talk “shop”, bonding over our experiences of being business owners. I left feeling refreshed and renewed about my company and my journey, ready to take on a new wedding season back home.

I was also greeted by some of America’s most talented flower farmers, who had come to aid in the design process but also to meet professional floral designers, like myself, who may be interested in buying their beautiful flowers in the future. Leaving D.C. that year, I left with a handful of new contacts which has aided me in growing my own company.

Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 11.59.34 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 11.58.19 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.00.27 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.42.01 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 11.59.50 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 12.14.10 PM.png

Lastly, seeing all of the flowers and foliages that came in from across the United States from Certified American grown flower farms was breath taking to say the least! Some of the product I had never seen before never mind worked with, so it was such a valuable experience for me to see more product in person, get to design with it, and then have the contact information from those farms for me to source from when I got home. Because of this volunteer experience I have been able to add to my resource list, buying and using from more American flower farms throughout the year.


So what do you say? Want to join me in Washington, D.C. this May to design for our First Lady of the United States?

If you are curious what 18,000 stems of flowers looks like then this is an opportunity for you! If you want to meet new friends and contacts to help grow your company then sign up today!

Applications will be accepted until Monday, March 4, 2019.

Head over to American Grown Flowers
for more information and to apply!

I hope to see you in May!

-Mary Kate

Photographer: Kirsten Smith Photography