I would like to thank Sybil and Gary Calder for hosting this year’s Southeast Regional Meeting.  The Calders did a fabulous job showing folks their operation.  Despite the July heat, we had a great turnout.

For this report, I thought I would “feature” long-time ASCFG member Janet Nutt.  In the mid-eighties, Janet and her husband Bill bought a 200-acre farm near Cedartown, Georgia for a weekend retreat. They enjoyed getting away there and had a small beef cattle herd and gardened for fun, raising vegetables and flowers. When Bill retired from his aerospace career in early 1995, he expanded the beef operations.                As he became more involved in the cattle business, Janet developed a strategy to avoid the cows—the garden. In addition to growing vegetables, Janet was growing flowers.  She took a few buckets of flowers to a florist outside of Marietta and they bought everything she had and wanted to know when she would have more! That was the beginning of the end.

Janbil Farms currently operates on about 450 acres; 240 owned and the rest leased. JanBil Country Cuttings—the flower enterprise within the overall farm operation—involves about 4 acres producing annuals, perennials, woodies and flowering shrubs with additional acres now being converted to flower production. Bill uses the rest in his beef cattle and hay enterprises.   Janet has specialty cuts available generally year round.  In December and January it may be nandina with berries, holiday greenery or dried flowers.  In April, the tulips make an appearance. Additionally, Dutch iris, sweet William, bachelor  buttons and snapdragons can be found.  In the summer months she grows gomphrena, salvias, celosias, sunflowers, zinnias, lisianthus, herbs and many perennials.   She offers unusual items in the summer like okrazilla and colored broomcorn.

Janet has several avenues for marketing her flowers. She attends the Rome Farmers’ Market on Saturdays at Ridge Ferry Park.  She sells pint- or quart-size bouquets from $8 to $12 and up. She also does a number of weddings and special events throughout the year.  Janet feels that one of her best marketing strategies is to take a weekly bouquet to the bank or the post office.  Folks will admire the flowers and then contact her directly.   She says that bouquets are her mainstay.

Janet believes that one of her top priorities is taking care of the soil.  She starts with a soil sample and amends accordingly.   In the fall, Bill will subsoil and then till the garden area.  Then they will plant a winter cover crop like winter wheat, rye or clover. In the spring, he will till the cover crop in to provide a green manure for the flower crops to following.  Bill designed a tractor implement to make raised beds.  He had seen implements with a similar purpose at ASCFG Conference tours and was able to create a design from that.  Janet then covers the raised beds with landscape fabric; she puts holes in the fabric and plants right through the fabric.  The landscape fabric is porous and allows water to enter and it blocks the weeds.

For irrigation, she lays soaker hoses on the landscape fabric.  She puts down several layers of newspaper in the pathway and then covers that with leaf mulch or wood chips.  Despite several years of drought, Janet does not have to water often, the mulch really conserves water.

Janet has worked hard to improve the condition of her soil and it has paid off.  She is able to work in her gardens year ‘round, even if it has been wet.   She has found that adding lots of compost and mulch annually has reduced the amount of tractor work required.  Janet does not rely on a lot of chemicals.  She uses some fungicides on the zinnias to help control powdery mildew and alternaria and occasionally uses selected herbicides in especially weedy areas.

Janet puts a lot of stock in the information gained from ASCFG.  Her planning for the following year begins in the fall at the ASCFG Conference.  Not only does she find inspiration, but gathers information on cuts that have done well for other growers.  I asked Janet if she had any advice for beginning growers.  She said, “Go to the [ASCFG] Growers’ School”.  Janet told me that she attended several Growers’ Schools and they “helped her to get on track and focus”.

I also asked how this season had gone and she said, “The season has gone well and it has been hot and dry”. Janet said she would rather have it dry and have to irrigate than have it so wet that she has to spray for powdery mildew.

Bill mentioned that Janet is an avid speaker on the subject of flower farming.  She has given a number of talks at Cattleman’s Association conventions illustrating how flower farming can be an added enterprise to beef operations and she regularly speaks at garden clubs and civic groups. When speaking with Bill it is obvious that he is very proud of Janet and how her business has developed.

In addition to all of this hard work and dedication, Janet has another job!  She has worked with Delta Airlines for 39 years.  Three days a week she is a flight attendant leader and flies internationally.  Janet is qualified in French, German, and Spanish. So the next time you see this hard-working woman say bonjour and ask how the cows and flowers are doing!

Go ahead and mark your calendars! The 2007 National Conference will be October 2,3, and 4th.  It will be held in Raleigh, North Carolina.  You can look forward to more details in about the Conference in upcoming reports.

Please feel free to contact me at (919) 452-8987 or [email protected].