Julio Freitas is the owner of The Flower Hat, an event floral design studio and flower farm based in Bozeman, MT.
Julio's passion for floral design grew into flower farming when he realized he could successfully grow flowers despite Montana's challenging climate. Even as his business grows, he consistently develops educational resources and opportunities, teaching others how to succeed in business and thrive in floral design and farming.
Lennie Larkin is a flower farmer, researcher, and farm business coach, whose primary goal is to help farmers keep farming. She started B-Side Farm & Floral Design in 2013 and served the Bay Area with unique flowers and bouquets for a decade before recently relocating the farm to just outside of Portland, OR.
Lennie has served on the board of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers for seven years as both a regional director and the board treasurer. She teaches Horticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College, and conducts grant-funded research on the cost of production for cut flower crops.
Her first book, Flower Farming For Profit, will be published by Chelsea Green Publishing in November 2023.
Amy Balsters is a classically trained, award-winning floral design educator with vast industry experience spanning two decades in retail floristry, weddings and special events. She specializes in teaching the romantic inspired, "loose and airy style" and is the creator of Bouquet Bootcamp®, a comprehensive design course and hands-on workshop. Amy has taught all over the U.S. and has trained thousands of florists how to design more confidently and efficiently using professional design techniques.
Featured on Design Sponge as one of the “20 Florists to Follow on Instagram,” Amy has won multiple design awards including “Mastery in Principles of Design” chosen by the Senior Style Editor of Martha Stewart. In 2018 Team Flower named her “Designer of the Year”. Her work has been featured and published in major national and international wedding publications including Martha Stewart Weddings, Once Wed, Florists Review and many more.
Valerie's background started in lodging and events. She is an event planner by trade and studied hospitality at The Dedman School of Hospitality at Florida State University. Upon graduation, she relocated to Atlanta and began a vibrant career in hospitality working at the St. Regis Atlanta. She has worked in event planning, ultimately assuming the Event Director position at The Hotel Clermont while simultaneously working as the lead designer and event planner at her own company, One Soul Events.
During the pandemic, Valerie hoped to find community in the floral industry and sought out florists who looked like her. "That is when I started Black Girl Florists. This is an organization with the goal to support and celebrate Black women in floristry. In this community, we develop our businesses and talent, all the while connecting with other Black women florists and sharing with the community."
Gina Lett-Shrewsberry is a sustainable floral designer/event stylist with Inspirations by Gina. This year she was the first African American floral designer to participate in 38th years of the Bouquets to Art at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. Gina was also the only African American floral designer in Northern California to be featured in the ground-breaking book “Black Flora”. Gina has been featured in national and local publications and blogs such as the Washington Post, Munaluchi Bridal, Real Weddings Magazine as well as making numerous appearances on KCRA TV, Good Day Sacramento and Channel 58 in Sacramento. Also, Gina has been on numerous national podcasts such as Mornings with Mayesh, the Sustainability Defined Podcast and the Slow Flowers Podcast.
Gina is fierce and focused with each event and loves to shake up the floral and event world with her unique eco-friendly and sustainable style of design and interpretation of how an event should look and feel.
MERMAID CITY FLOWERS
BLACK FLOWER FARMERS
Dee Hall is a floriculturist and CFO (Chief Flower Officer) of Mermaid City Flowers in Norfolk, Virginia. She is the founder of the Tidewater Flower Collective @tidewaterflowercollective and Black Flower Farmers @blackflowerfarmers. An avid lifelong gardener, she draws on her family’s heritage in horticulture across the Black Diaspora. She focuses her work on community building and educating the public about the importance of locally grown flowers. She serves on the President’s Council for Inclusion and Diversity at the Norfolk Botanical Garden where she recently helped institute a Green Industry scholarship . Additionally, Dee is a member of the ASCFG, Slow Flowers Society, Virginia Native Plant Society and The Garden Club of Norfolk. Dee has appeared in numerous publications, recently including Bloom Imprint’s “Black Flora.”
Tracy Yang is the co-founder of JARN Co. Flowers, a specialty cut flower farm based in Monroe, WA. Since March 2020, Tracy and her partner Nick Songsangcharntara apprenticed with Tracy’s mom (Mama Yang), a Minnesota-based grower, who taught them everything they could learn about floriculture. "Through the learning process, we became closer to our family and our roots, and the flowers we grew connected us to our local community. Seeing the impact our flowers had on people let us know we had found our new passion and purpose," they explain. JARN Co. Flowers' sustainably-grown flowers are found at various pop-up markets and retail stores throughout Snohomish and King County, and at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle.
Becky is a gardener-florist from Calgary, Alberta, and owner of Prairie Girl Flowers. She is the Canadian Ambassador for the Sustainable Floristry Network and a proud member of Slow Flowers Society.
Becky is an outspoken advocate of sustainable techniques, ethical practices, informed foraging, and supporting local flowers.
Becky has recently returned to graduate school at Harvard University to complete her ALM (Master's degree) in Sustainability. She is passionate about sustainability issues affecting all parts of the floral industry and is particularly interested in invasive species management, the elimination of single-use plastics from florists' toolboxes, understanding the true carbon footprint of local vs. imported flowers, and helping florists and flower farmers understand the significance of environmental and social justice issues in the floral industry. Her Master's thesis will be focused on calculating the carbon footprint (and other associated environmental and social costs) of local vs. imported flowers in North America.
Slow Flowers advocate Sarah Reyes is the owner of Wildflower & Fern, a flower shop in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, sourcing primarily local, sustainably grown blooms.
Sarah’s passion for local flowers moves through both retail and wholesale channels. She calls herself a botanical liaison, a term that sums up the role she plays for both customers of her 240-square-foot retail flower shop, and for fellow florists who turn to Sarah for her connections to unique, local and seasonal flowers sourced from farms and fields outside of San Francisco.
JOSEPH ABKEN + JAMES GAGLIARDI
BELLEVUE BOTANICAL GARDEN
Joseph Abken, Bellevue Botanical Garden Society Director, was raised in White Salmon, Washington. He earned an associate of arts degree from Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, and relocated to the Seattle area in 2004. He joined Sky Nursery in 2005, where he began as merchandiser/buyer and was promoted to general manager in 2008.
In 2017, he was named Executive Director of Kruckeberg Botanic Garden in Shoreline, where he served for more than five years. When he’s not at the helm of BBGS, Joe enjoys gardening, cooking, photography, travel, and walking his two dogs.
James Gagliardi, Bellevue Botanical Garden Director, hails from Berlin, Connecticut. He previously served as as supervisory horticulturist at the Smithsonian Gardens in Washington DC, where he was responsible for the landscapes and programming at the Smithsonian Castle, Enid A. Haupt Garden, Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, National Museum of Asian Art, and National Museum of African Art.
James received his bachelor’s degree in Horticulture from the University of Connecticut, and went on to earn a master’s degree and certificate in Museum Studies as a fellow in the Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture at the University of Delaware. In his free time, James enjoys expressing his creativity through photography and ceramics, and looks forward to exploring the arts, culture, and outdoor recreation this area offers.
Debra is the producer of SlowFlowers.com, the online directory to American grown farms, florists, shops and studios who supply domestic and local flowers. Each Wednesday, approximately 2,500 listeners tune into Debra's "Slow Flowers Podcast," available for free downloads at her web site, debraprinzing.com, or on iTunes and via other podcast services.
She is the creator of American Flowers Week, launched during the July 4th week in 2015 with more than 5.0 million social media impressions in 2017. Debra has authored 12 books, including Slow Flowers and The 50 Mile Bouquet.
Debra is editorial director and co-founder with Robin Avni of BLOOM Imprint, a boutique publisher that identifies and develops creative book ideas by and about members of the Slow Flowers Movement.