Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia

The Vancouver, B.C. conference and tour was the most informative and enjoyable conference I’ve attended since I joined the association five years ago. Like many of you, I came away very excited and geared up for another season ahead of us, another opportunity built upon what has been successful in our business, and another chance to fine tune some things that haven’t been working well for us.
Perhaps the notion that I was most impressed with came from the tours. At each of our stops, I heard from the hosts “The last time I went to Holland I bought this piece of equipment,” or “I read this in a Dutch publication, and “These plants were purchased in Holland.” Well, not all of us are lucky enough to be Dutch, but we can learn a lesson from this. In Holland there is an enormous amount of research done to improve many aspects of the floriculture business. There are a lot of new ideas or products born of a result of extensive breeding or laboratory testing, etc, however, many are developed on a daily basis from growers just like ourselves.  
From my observations, the Dutch are extremely competitive (in the dairy business too). However, I see that they share a common goal to move the floriculture industry forward in Holland and they are willing to work together in that regard. For this reason they are the crown jewel of the floriculture business.  
I started from scratch in this business 8 years ago. I had a dairy science degree with no experience in the horticulture business. Furthermore, the rural area I grew up in was strictly dairy production. I was not fortunate enough to have a general knowledge of growing by observing those around me. My first crop of 5,000 hydrangea plants died in their pots, because I didn’t know how to fertilize them correctly. I lost over half of my colored calla lily plants my first year.  
Needless to say, I have improved in my production beyond recognition since then, and every year I continue to improve. When I’m selling calla lily tubers to a beginning calla grower and giving him advice, I often think to myself how nice it would have been to have someone guiding me through these cultural parameters that could have saved me a lot of money.  
At times, though, I feel fortunate that I was independent enough that I was able to rely on my creative problem-solving skills to find better ways of doing things. By relying strictly on my neighbors on how to do everything, I first of all would still be dairy farming, and secondly would not have developed some of the innovative methods of growing and marketing plants for profit. I now have something to offer the ASCFG.
The reality is that each of us, no matter what size or stage in our business, is an innovator. Whether it be on how to pull buckets apart easily (I still haven’t figured this one out) or the best way to attract visitors to a website, we can all benefit from some simple ideas or grand, revolutionary ideas from those before us. In a competitive business, let’s find a way to make each other better.

As your newly elected Northwest Regional Director, I want to help facilitate this. Let’s capitalize on the assets and strength of the members of the ASCFG to further the industry. We will be holding the 2004 Northwest Regional Meeting March 2-3 in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. As discussed at the regional meeting in Vancouver, we will be concentrating on two themes this upcoming spring.
First, how can we as a group collectively work together in marketing? Whether we are a farmers’ market vendor or larger shipper, marketing is the key to making money in this business. How can we assist each other? Printed labels that we could slap on our buckets at farmers’ market or our box being shipped out was one idea. It important to endorse and certify ourselves as an ASCFG member, in addition to branding our own farm. Please forward marketing ideas that you think should be discussed at the regional meeting to me at [email protected] or by phone at (503) 815-3762/fax (503) 815-9326.
Secondly, many of us voiced the need to spend time sharing production tips that can make our lives both easier and more profitable. Kate Van Ummersen, of Sterling Flowers has volunteered to help compile these ideas prior to the regional meeting. I challenge all of us, whether we are able to attend the spring meeting or not, to come up with at least five things that we do in our business that by sharing would be helpful to others and submit to Kate by e-mail at [email protected] or phone at (503) 390-7276/fax (503) 390-1946.
Let’s help make each other better.

Pat Zweifel

Pat Zweifel, Orgeon Coastal Flowers/ZCallas 9455 Kilchis River Road Tillamook, OR 97141 phone (503) 815-3762 fax (503) 815-9326 [email protected]