As the newly elected Mid-Atlantic Director of the ASCFG, I’d like to thank Dave Dowling for his excellent work over the past three years. We have all benefitted greatly from Dave’s energy and enthusiasm, his knowledge as a grower and willingness to share it, and for being an all around good guy. Well done, Dave!
    
And thanks, too, for electing me as his successor. I’m really looking forward to getting to know and working with each of you over the coming years.  
    
Sparked by the energy of the National Conference in Orlando this past November, if you’re anything like me, you’ve already started planning the coming season as the wheels left the ground on your way back home. I can’t recall a time I’ve felt so excited to get started!
    
Something I’ve been thinking about is getting groups of members who are near each other to combine shipments of plant and plug orders to save on shipping costs. For the coming season, fellow member Andrea Gagnon and I have put together a palletized shipment of plugs (30 boxes of 4 trays each) from Germania Seed Company. I’m sure other producers and suppliers can offer the same service. We believe this will greatly minimize the usually high UPS and FedEx shipping charges that accompany each box of plugs. I’ll give you an update as soon as we learn how it goes. Or, by all means, let us know what your experience has been.
    
Also, in this so-called “off season” I’m thinking about my marketing plan for 2005, and my business identity. I’m looking at my current customer base and farmers’ markets, thinking how I want to expand these (or not), and setting sales goals. I‘ve always found that articulating what I hope to generate in sales helps me make more money than the previous year. Even if I don’t reach that goal exactly my sales always increase overall.
    
And what I mean by “business identity” is this: How do our customers remember Charlotte’s Garden long after we’ve left their shop, or our farmers’ market stall? Do our business cards need updating? Do we need to create another banner for a new farmers’ market, have signage made for our trucks? Does the web site need updating? Do we want to put our logo on invoices, tee shirts, and ball caps? These are the images, the little things that keep our brand in the mind’s eye of our florists and farmers’ market customers throughout the week.
    
It’s another way, besides our beautiful flowers, for our customers to remember us and look forward to seeing us the following week. It’s a good way to give our businesses a professional (not necessarily slick) look and focus. This is a great time of year to work on your business identity.  Try these ideas for yourself, and feel free to share others that work for you.
    
One goal I hope to accomplish as Mid-Atlantic Director is to create a dialog among members on the topic of “doing business”. Let’s continue to share ideas and techniques on being better growers, and also on being better businesspeople, as well.
    
One last bit…please mark your calendars for July 18th, when the 2005 Regional Meeting will be held here, at Charlotte’s Garden in Louisa County, Virginia. I’ll have more details about the content of that meeting over the next few months.