Dos Gringos does things a little differently than most cut flower setups.
Founder, owner and CEO Jason Levin explains that most sunflowers are grown for their oil and seeds, like those in Ukraine’s now-enlightened sunflower industry. Sunflowers grown by Dos Gringos and its contractors in the United States and Mexico are used only for bouquets and other cosmetic purposes. In fact, Levin believes they were the first and are now perhaps the largest grower of ornamental sunflowers in the world.
When he started the company in 1986 (“actually it’s only one gringo, but dos gringos just sounded better,” he says), the affable and easy-going Levin decided to throwing yourself all the way into this big flower for one important reason: it’s native to North America, no matter how the flower industry evolves, the company’s growing practices would at least, he says, ” aligned with mother nature.
That’s no small feat considering that the cut flower industry, unofficially headquartered in California, has heavily redistributed its crop fields to Colombia, Mexico, Kenya, Ethiopia and other countries over the past 30 years. Levin says there are only “maybe five or six” flower businesses of comparable size to Dos Gringos still based in San Diego County, and the rest are contract or small farms.
Dos Gringos’ US headquarters and main processing plant sits in an industrial park in Vista, where every west-facing window has an ocean view; they have a second fulfillment and shipping center just outside of Valle de Guadalupe. The company sources its supplies primarily from its contract farms in San Diego County during the warmer months, and from various locations in Mexico that can produce sunflowers year-round. They also offer in-house design services to their clients, genetic patenting and seed sales, and a swanky event space in Rancho Santa Fe called, naturally, the Field House.
“The cut flower industry is tough,” admits Levin, especially given the cost-cutting measures taken by competitors, such as outsourcing to Africa or South America, which he is not. unwilling to do. He is very committed to his workforce, his ties to San Diego, and the natural climate advantage offered by growing in Mexico and Southern California.
So doing things differently worked for them. It’s even in their motto: “Different by design”. In fact, Levin asserts with a smile, if someone buys sunflowers at a San Diego County supermarket, “they’re almost certainly from Dos Gringos.”