As you know, I don’t usually address you on a personal level.  There’s my Letter from Oberlin in The Cut Flower Quarterly;  I send  personalized messages with monthly membership renewals; and I hope I inject some character into individual correspondence.  But that’s about it.  I don’t have a blog.  I don’t have time to write one, and you don’t have time to read one.  
However, I want to share something that happened recently.  I was speaking to a representative of a company I was hoping would take a Trade Show booth.  She had received  the San Jose Conference brochure, but apparently had not read it thoroughly.
Her area of expertise was postharvest handling, and she mentioned that Dr. Michael Reid had been involved with the development of one of her company’s products.  “Oh yes,” I said, “He and George Staby are on the speaker program.”  She seemed surprised, and clearly impressed.
As we discussed what ASCFG members needed to know about postharvest, she brought up Gay Smith of Pokon & Chrysal, an industry expert and sought-after speaker and writer.  “Well, Gay’s speaking on Saturday, “ I told her.  She was even more impressed.
When the conversation turned to the fact that we were meeting in California for the first time in several years, she wondered if we had been working with the California Cut Flower Commission. “As a matter of fact, Kim Morrill, who developed the American Floral Trend Forecast with the CCFC, is presenting her famously popular session.”  She practically squealed.  “I love Kim’s  program – it’s fantastic!”
“And Mike Mellano, Sr. (one of the most important figures in the California cut flower industry) is the keynote speaker.”  
I think she fell out of her chair.
I guess she did not know much about the ASCFG, and assumed we were not a “serious organization”.  Or something.
As a meeting planner, your mind becomes filled with such minutiae as compatibility between laptops and projectors for PowerPoint presentations, food and beverage calculations (this year’s hotel single cup of coffee—$4.47) and which attendee is most likely to miss the bus after the third tour stop (this year’s nominee—Matt Gerald), you tend to forget the big picture, the reason you spent so much time and effort recruiting  those speakers.  It took this phone call for me to realize that yes, this year’s program is indeed impressive.
 “Well,” you’re saying to yourself, “Those big-name guys are all well and good, but how does this help me in my little business out here in Iowa/North Carolina/Vermont/Washington? I  want to hear from growers like me.”
That’s the beauty of the 2006 National Conference. Not only have we brought in “the big-name guys” (don’t forget John Dole, who needs no introduction), we have people like Joan Thorndike, a “small” organic grower, like you.  She deals with brides and their mothers and will tell you how she does it serenely and successfully.  Karen Pendleton has created one of the most successful agri-tourism site in Kansas, while growing three acres of cut flowers for sale at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market.   Andi Zierer grows five acres of certified organic flowers, sold to markets and local stores in northern California.
These are growers “just like you.”  Fortunately for us, they’re also willing to stand in front of 300 new friends and share what they know about growing and selling cut flowers.  
You’ll also learn from other industry professionals like John Jenkins, Roger Styer, Bonnie Marquardt and Jeannine Bogard.  Academics who specialize in cut flowers like Bob Stamps, Steve Tjosvold and Mike Parrella have agreed to speak.
And if you sell at farmers’ markets, there’s no better expert than Gail Hayden, who heads the California Farmers’ Market Association, one of the country’s largest.
Each year I’m pretty pleased with the quality of our Conference program, and each year I encourage members to attend.   Professional development, camaraderie, networking, supporting your own membership organization—these are all reasons to make the trip.  This year’s alignment of floriculture stars is particularly outstanding.  We may not see it again soon.
So here’s my personal invitation: Come join us in California.
You just might fall out of your chair.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Judy,

I won’t be renewing my membership this year because I am retiring from the flower business at the end of this season.  Thirteen years of growing cut flowers for twenty-eight florists in the Albany Capital district has been very rewarding after teaching elementary school for thirty years!
I usually receive big smiles when I arrive in the spring with tulips, and frowns when the season is over in the fall.  The florists have a deep appreciation of good quality product, which I have been able to deliver with the knowledge I learned through the ASCFG over the years.  I was fortunate to be able to take “personal days” to attend ASCFG conferences in Kansas City, Baltimore, Worcester, San Jose, Raleigh and Burlington. Each Conference got better than the next, just as the Quarterly has grown up to a glossy publication.
Over the years, I had three competitors enter my market and none survived more than couple of years; I guess they should have joined the ASCFG!  I knew nothing about growing cut flowers when started with a quarter of an acre, which quickly grew to three acres.  I soon had irrigation, a cooler, van, small rototiller which was quickly substituted by a larger Kubota tractor with tiller, and sources for plugs and bulbs.
   For all this, I thank the ASCFG!

James Link, Sandgate Flower Farm, West Rupert, Vermont