Paradise Flower Farms: Acres of Sweet-Scented Beauty
Sometimes you need a lei: for Mom in May, a grad in June, brides, birthdays or visitors any time. Whether you shop at the airport, Safeway or Wal Mart, chances are its a Paradise Flower Farms lei. Even when your son makes you a lei in school or a community center class, the flower heads sewn together in anticipation of your delight were probably grown by Teena and Craig Rasmussen, at Paradise. They have 53 acres of flowers under careful cultivation, timed to bloom when you want them, picked just hours before they are delivered or sent to their final destination.
The strange thing about the flower business is that success requires a farmers big-picture view of acres matched with a jewelers attention to each blossom. So, however big a flower farm gets, it is always a labor of love. That makes the facts about Paradise Flower Farm all the more surprising: It was not started by an idea person, then grown to maturity by a second or third owner or management team. As needs have changed, Craig and Teenathe founders of the Farmshave just changed hats and kept working.
"Leis and lei flowers are our biggest business, we just underwent a 30 acre expansion to meet the demand," Teena says, "we also grow roses, orchids, tuberose and many other flowers. Pretty much everything we sell, we grow ourselves." They do import some flowers from California. Teena explains, "we bring in some Spring flowers and foliage just to be able to provide full service for our customers."
The Rasmussens had other plans for their lives when Maui "happened." Teena was studying speech communications, and Craig was in a graduate program in plant genetics when they came to visit her parents in Kula. "It was supposed to be two weeks," Teena recalls, "that was 26 years ago. We had no money when the land (abutting her parents property) came up for sale, and we were going back to school." Then Craig realized that if he went back, "hed be spending the rest of his life in a lab." Teenas parents were growing carnations and had run a nursery before, so she knew something about flower growing. Craigs degree in botany would be useful too. Starting a flower growing business was a way to buy the land, to be near the family and, above all, to stay on Maui.
All these years later, with three acres extended to 53, with their family grown to include two teenage daughters, the owners of Paradise Flower Farms have become not just involved with Maui but important to the community in many ways. Besides mastering the arts and sciences of flower growing, Craig is an instructor in the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, served on the Maui County Agricultural Park Commission, has been president of the Maui County Farm Bureau and was recognized along with Teena as Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000. Teena is no shrinking violet either. She maintains very active membership in many trade and professional organizations including the Made in Maui Trade Council, the Maui Business and Professional Womens Club since 1980 (serving as president in 1983), the Maui County Farm Bureau for which she produced the newsletter for two years. She has traveled with the Hawaii Visitors Bureau to promote Hawaii flowers and leis, and testified in person to the U. S. Congress, to the House Agriculture Committee and to the House Small Business Subcommittee. The list of her government service, trade activism and community involvement, in fact, sounds like two or more careers, and then theres Paradise Flower Farm as well. And, thats about to grow again as well.
With the help of business enrichment consultant Steve Rose, the Rasmussens are working up marketing plans to distribute tuberose bulbs, and theyre developing new ideas for exporting leis and lei flowers to Canada and the mainland.
If all of that isnt activity enough, theres the world wide web where about 40 different leis, several bouquets and the new tuberoses are already offered by Paradise Flower Farms. Meantime, if someone needs a lei or bouquet and they happen to be in the Kula area, they can call and arrange to pick it up at the Farm.
Teena sees it all as an ongoing Made in Maui success. "We wanted to create a company that served local people and employed local people and gave back to the community. Weve been able to do that. Its just all part of being part of a community."
When the trucks bring flowers to the main building, there are lei stringers waiting, needles in hand. When holidays and celebrations are coming up, Craigs plants are ready to burst into bloom. Nature and artistry are on synchronized schedules at Paradise Flower Farms all day every day. To see for yourself, log on to www.paradiseflowers.com.
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