This fall marks my 10th anniversary of growing flowers.  I would like to share with you my Top 10 List of what I’ve learned while being in the flower business.  

1.  I’m actually more in the business of killing weeds than in the business of growing flowers.  For every one flower I produce I’ve killed numerous weeds.

2.  The profitability of this business is based more on managing the risk of losing money than about making money.  I think all of us would be retired by now if we lived in a perfect world.  But there are always greenhouses blowing down, an abnormally wet spring and summer, a mysterious insect coming through, or a herd of elk tromping through to make sure that our profit is kept to a minimal level.  In politics this is called “checks and balances.”

3.  Selling flowers is all about making friends.  Not only get to know how many kids they have, but find out their names and when the playoff softball game is.  If you’re like me and have trouble making friends, then hire someone who can.

4.  The harder something is to grow, the easier it is to make money on it.  Some people look for crops that are easiest to grow.  I think the key is to find something that is difficult to grow that gives you a competitive advantage against the vultures.

5.  Feeding the soil with bugs is more effective than feeding the soil with chemicals.  I’m not your typical hippie organic flower grower, however, compost tea has been effective in replacing chemical fertilizer and fungicides on my farm.  By feeding the soil, the soil will feed your plant.  

6.  When working with government agencies, you always get further by being nice and playing their game rather than demanding to get your way.  When Fish and Wildlife said no to water rights, I proposed trading them with something they wanted .  Now I’ve got water rights and trees along the river.  

7.  The best way to get a discount with FedEx is to sign up with their competitor.  With no discount, I first switched to UPS—FedEx offered me a 30% discount.  The next time I switched to Airborne Express (don’t ever do that)—FedEx offered me a 50% discount.  Those new yellow trucks running around are beginning to look better and better all the time.    

8.  The flower business is a lot like long-distance running.  You have to be in it for the long haul to capitalize on investment and experience.  There are very few quick and easy ways to make money in this world.  The flower business is no exception.  It’s the eighth and final lap where profit is made.

9.  Paying attention to the details is the key to being successful in producing flowers.  When walking through a greenhouse of calla lilies, I see the two rotted plants rather than the 100 beautiful tall flowers.  This trait may not make for the best personality, but essential in managing problems.  

10.  As frustrating growing flowers can be sometimes it is still a whole lot better than milking cows.