Island Flowers by Liana opened their doors to American Samoa on May 7, 2008 — the week of Mother’s day — and business has been blooming every since. From humble beginnings selling cut flowers directly out of nurseries from their home in Maloata, this family run operation has become one of the leading florist shops on the island and a growing contributor to the local economy.
Prior to receiving FSA loan assistance, Donna and Pete Gurr sold cut flowers and potted plants from a nursery at their home for more than 20 years. Florists throughout the community would contact them to buy orchids, anthuriums, and other tropical plants.
“The support we received from the community has been overwhelming. Although we import some flowers, the majority of our products are locally grown and this is what our customers prefer for their floral arrangements,” said Donna.
Orders could be picked up at the nursery, but many times the Gurrs would deliver because of the remote location of their operation. For some, the one and a half hour drive on a narrow, windy road from Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, to the nursery was intimidating.
To help centralize their location, the Gurr family applied for a farm operating loan in 2007 from the Farm Service Agency. That loan gave the Gurrs the ability to make minor improvements to an existing retail space near Pago Pago. The FSA loan provided them an opportunity to move away from wholesale and expand the retail marketing of their products.
“Thanks to the financial assistance received from FSA, we were able to move our business to the next level by taking advantage of a value-added marketing opportunity,” said Donna. “Without assistance from FSA, we would probably still be selling from our home, which had limited us to mostly small-scale cut flower and plant sales.”
On Sept. 29, 2009, American Samoa was struck by a powerful earthquake, which set off a tsunami that left untold damage and loss from which the territory has not yet fully recovered. The Gurrs lost a greenhouse to that tsunami but have since rebuilt and expanded by purchasing a commercial bean sprouter to diversify their operation.
“The health of our people has deteriorated significantly as fewer families work the land to raise the crops that served as their traditional food sources,” said Donna. “We need to get back to the more traditional diets that will help us improve our health and farming traditional crops and vegetables will most definitely help us in that area.”
Donna added that FSA is in a position to help with that effort.
“Through FSA funding, our people can better commercialize their farming operations with improved management, technological and marketing practices. When farming thrives locally, we improve our local economy by providing jobs and keeping the money at home,” she said.
Farm Loan Program Manager Theresa Correa agrees. “The Gurrs are an example of how FSA along with its local partner organizations and stakeholders are doing their part to promote the commercial agricultural sector while helping people to return to the land and grow healthy food,” said Correa, who has worked with the Gurr family for six years. “This helps strengthen the health of the people and communities in American Samoa.”
In the past 3 years, USDA has provided 103,000 loans to family farmers totaling $14.6 billion, and under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, the department is expanding the availability of farm credit with a special focus on beginning farmers and ranchers, as well as socially disadvantaged producers:
- Since 2008, the number of loans to beginning farmers and ranchers has climbed from 11,000 to 15,000. More than 40 percent of USDA’s farm loans now go to beginning farmers;
- Over 50 percent of the loans went to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. USDA has increased lending to socially-disadvantaged producers by nearly 50 percent since 2008.