Historically fresh cut flowers were used in rituals and ceremonies. For example, in the Middle East, prehistoric bones of a man were found ceremoniously laid out and covered with wild flowers over 50,000 years ago (Laufer, 1993). Today’s typical consumer will purchase flowers for their own enjoyment or to give as a gift (Yue and Hall, 2010). Consumers purchase flowers based on a set of aesthetic attributes and the occasion for which the flowers are to be given [e.g., sympathy, apology, love, and appreciation (Yue and Hall, 2010)]. There are many factors tied to the purchasing behavior of consumers such as income, purchasing occasion, relationship with recipient, and the availability of flowers (Yue and Hall, 2010). Understanding how these factors affect the spending habits of consumers allows the cut flower industry to more efficiently meet consumer demand (Yue and Hall, 2010).
Recent research has found factors such as color affects consumer preference and meaning associated for purchasing, as well as attaching different cut flower colors with different calendar and noncalendar occasions (Yue and Behe, 2010). Yue and Hall (2010) investigated how purchases of both traditional and specialty cut flowers have changed over time. The study found demographic characteristics played a role in the purchasing of flowers, with age, education, and income being major factors. Older participants (55 years and older) were less likely to buy SCFs, as well as people with lower education levels (Yue and Hall, 2010).
Local is often difficult to define and context driven (Holt and Watson, 2008). Much of the research regarding attitudes and perceptions of locally produced goods has been conducted concerning “food.” “Food miles” is a term referring to the distance traveled from where an item was grown to the location of the consumer (Holt and Watson, 2008). Because of factors such as the concentration of the food supply base into fewer, larger suppliers and major changes in delivery patterns, and routing through delivery centers using heavy goods vehicles, there has been a major change in food production and its supply chain (Holt and Watson, 2008).
However, more interest has been garnered by consumers of other types of agricultural and horticultural products regarding local sourcing (Getter and Behe, 2013; Yue et al., 2011; Zaffou and Campbell, 2016). There is a lack of understanding among consumers of where agricultural and horticultural products originate and seasonality of products (Gairdner, 2006). One study found a majority of consumers would buy less imported products if they knew the distance products had traveled (Gairdner, 2006).
Although state regulations vary as to the definition of “local,” 64% of consumers agreed that that products labeled “local” should be produced within 100 miles of where they are sold. One quarter of consumers felt that “local” included anything produced within the state (Rushing and Goldblatt, 2014). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines local as a product sold within 400 miles of its origin or within the state in which it was produced (Willcox, 2015). In Texas, the “Go Texan” campaign was developed by the Texas Department of Agriculture and is used to promote Texas products and producers. Guidelines as to the requirements regarding the use of the “Go Texan” campaign vary based on the product being sold (Willcox, 2015).
The sunflower is a plant native to North America domesticated by Native Americans. Evidence suggests the plant was cultivated by the Native Americans in Arizona and New Mexico as far back as 3000 BCE and was used as a source of food, dye, and medicine (National Sunflower Association, 2015). It was in Russia that the sunflower became commercialized because sunflower oil could be used during Lent while most other oil foods were forbidden (National Sunflower Association, 2015). The specialty cut cultivar of sunflower, Firecracker, is described as a dwarf (16–36 inches stem length), bicolored (red and gold) sunflower, which produces multiple flower heads and is appropriate for pot cultivation (Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Fairfield, ME).
Because of the wide range of flowers grown in the cut flower industry, a broad range of climatic conditions are needed for the growth of SCFs. This need provides growers in many regions an opportunity to take advantage of the potential SCF market, as well as to diversify their operations and improve profit margins (Kelly, 1991; Starman et al., 1995). According to a 2009 census of horticulture specialties, production of cut flowers in the United States is worth over $400 million annually (Bogash et al., 2012). The vast majority of cut flowers are currently imported from the Netherlands, Columbia, Kenya, and Israel (Bogash et al., 2012). Most flowers grown locally are those that do not ship well or have shorter vase lives and are grown on a smaller scale (Bogash et al., 2012). An increase in demand for a wide cultivar of fresh cut flowers has kept the market growing (Bogash et al., 2012). The production of SCFs has the potential to fit well in a small scale farming operation as supplemental income (Bogash et al., 2012).
One research study investigating the productivity and profitability of annual and perennial field-grown SCFs found species that began producing shortly after planting and continued to produce many flowering stems per plant throughout the growing season resulted in the greatest profit potential (Starman et al., 1995). There are many cultivars of fast growing sunflower, some blooming as early as day 50 as well as many that will produce multiple stems (Cutler, 1997). Currently, the average cost of a standard sunflower is $7.50 for five stems wholesale (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2017). The suggested wholesale price for specialty cultivar of sunflowers is $6.00 for three stems (J. Gonzales, personal communication; Scoggins, 2014). If the standard markup of three times the wholesale price is applied to the wholesale price (BloomNation, 2012), the retail price for a single stem of the specialty cultivar would be $6.00 in comparison with $4.50 for a standard sunflower.
The purpose of this study was to test the consumer willingness to pay rate of a locally grown SCF sunflower for the wholesale and retail cut flower industry.
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