Valentine’s Day is far from a typical day in the rose business, says Petaluma farmer Lou Neve. Alongside his sons Chris and Nick, Lou runs Neve Brothers, a fourth-generation cut-flower business.
Each year for Valentine’s Day, Lou and his sons sell upwards of 20,000 roses, an increase in production of more than 30 percent. Behind the scenes, workers arrive at the greenhouses extra early in the days leading up to the holiday to cut and sort the roses into bunches of 25 and wrap them tightly before they head off into the world.
“Red roses used to be about 80 percent of what we grew, and while they are always in demand for Valentine’s, we are seeing customers branching out to other, more vibrant colors,” Neve says. Good sellers for the big day are the ruffled, peachy “Helios Romantik”; soft, yellow “Catalina” spray rose; and fragrant, white “Norma Jean,” named for Marilyn Monroe.
Neve acknowledges that the cut-flower business can be a tough one. Even within the controlled environment of their 460,000 square feet of greenhouses, growing roses is all about the light. Too many cloudy days can affect production. And there are the pressures of imported roses, especially from South America. “There used to be a hundred big flower growers in California, and now we are one of five left,” explains Neve. “But I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about that. The import roses are more of an industrial product — they are not that one-hundred-dollar bottle of Cabernet.”
A love of the local landscape and people helps keep Neve going. “It’s beautiful here in Sonoma County, with all the diverse agriculture and terrain. At the end of the day, we have tried to remain the real deal, to create our own niche.”
Look for roses from fourth-generation growers Neve Brothers at these local stores
Nugget Market, Sonoma
Cal Mart Calistoga