Santa Barbara Company team members Kati and Danielle recently took a day trip into the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley to chat with The Starter Farm owner Mark Donofrio. Mark grows some of the most beautiful flowers in the area using organic practices and they are favorites in our bouquets and arrangements! His butterfly ranunculus were magical in the spring and they haves now given way to unforgettably lush summer dahlias and zinnias. One of the joys of using local flowers is the heightened sense of seasonality, even here on the California coast where the changes are more subtle.
Farmer Mark Donofrio of The Starter Farm in Santa Ynez California poses in the flower section of the farm.
A bouquet of yellow and orange flowers including Dahlias and Black-Eyed Susans sit in a glass jug next to an outdoor sink and back house on The Starter Farm in Santa Ynez, California.
We first connected with Mark earlier this year when we kicked off our floral program and it has been a beautiful experience ever since. Mark has always been passionate about flowers and produce. As an Italian American, food and flowers were always a key component of his early memories. He used to help plant tomatoes with his grandfather in New Jersey, and he used to bring zinnias from his garden as a gift when going to someone’s home. Turns out zinnias are still one of his favorites, but if you ask him, that ‘most loved’ list gets long really quickly. We have to admit, ours is too.
Kati from Santa Barbara Company and Mark from The Starter Farm hold two pink Dahlia flowers on The Starter Farm in Santa Ynez, California.
A field of orange and pink Dahlia flowers grow on The Starter Farm in Santa Ynez, California.
Prior to The Starter Farm, Mark owned The Larchmont Grill in Los Angeles and participated in the urban farming movement in the area. His continued passion for food led him to cultivate produce for the restaurant and develop a wine program.
Mark and his husband purchased what is now The Starter Farm in 2011. It was his hope to create a beautiful space to grow fruits and vegetables, and to develop a lovely countryside environment for friends and family to visit. Each square foot of the property is thoughtfully designed offering beautiful vistas and optimal growing conditions. Mark and the team use the farm as an opportunity to also test out different varietals. If something shows itself to be a special contender, it makes it into the crop rotation and becomes part of the regular program.
Floral Designer Kati from Santa Barbara Company and Farmer Mark Donofrio look at purple Dahlia flowers on The Starter Farm in Santa Ynez, California.
A bouquet of yellow, red, and orange flowers with greens sit in a red and brown jug on a cement table on The Starter Farm in California. The scene overlooks the Santa Ynez countryside.
As the farming landscape in the area changed to make way for cannabis, Mark was encouraged by nearby growers to consider adding flowers to his farm, as there were fewer farms growing incredible local blooms. Mark jumped at the opportunity and decided to become a student of Erin Benzakein of Floret Flowers. He took everything he learned about heirloom flowers and sustainable practices to create the flower program they have today.
Bees land on red and orange sunflowers growing on The Stater Farm in Santa Ynez, California.
Farmer Mark Donofrio of The Starter Farm in Santa Ynez, California stands in the zinnia flower section of the farm.
SB Co is so grateful to have this partnership with Mark and The Starter Farm. Like us, Mark believes that flowers don’t need to be grown with intensive pesticide use under appalling working conditions. California is brimming with such abundant beauty and we love being able to offer locally grown flowers that are sustainably farmed.
The Starter Farm brightens our days and adds immeasurable joy to our gift and flower deliveries. It is our goal that when you send flowers - a delivery of love, light and joy - that this is reflected in the life of each flower and its farmer, from seed to harvest. It’s our sincerest pleasure, and we hope yours too, to support such an amazing business as they work to foster a harmonious relationship between the birds, bugs, flowers and our communities.
Image one is a bouquet of yellow, red, and orange flowers with greens sit in a red and brown jug on a cement table on The Starter Farm in California. The scene overlooks the Santa Ynez countryside. Image two is owner and Farmer Mark Donofrio checking on early stages of Lisianthus flowers that are growing. Image three is Mark Donofrio and Santa Barbara Company florist Kati walking through the farm.
Farmer Mark Donofrio of The Starter Farm in Santa Ynez California kneels in the flower section of the farm to check on the plants.
Buckets of colorful flowers on The Starter Farm in Santa Ynez California. Flowers are white, pink, and orange strawflowers, green bells of Ireland, yellow black-eyes susans, and pink and orange dahlias.
Image one is owner and Farmer Mark Donofrio and Santa Barbara Company floral designer Kati walking through the flower section of The Starter Farm in Santa Ynez Valley. Image two is of a burgundy dahlia on the farm. Image three is a field of flowers on the farm.
A rose bush filled with pink roses sits brightly in the sunlight on The Starter Farm in Santa Ynez, California.
A field of orange, yellow, red, and pink pink flowers grow on The Starter Farm in Santa Ynez, California.
Photos by: Danielle Motif Photography
To learn more about our flower delivery services, check out our gorgeous flower bouquets and arrangements. We are proud to be a no foam Santa Barbara florist featuring local and sustainably grown flowers with flower delivery to Santa Barbara, Montecito, Goleta, Carpinteria and Summerland.