The West Regional Meeting falls in between this year’s Quarterly publication dates, so I hope by the time you are reading this I have seen you at our meeting in the beautiful Sierra Foothills at Narrow Gauge Farm.  Alan Tangren graciously agreed to host this meeting and he put together a top-notch day for all flower growers.  Pictures of the day will follow in the next edition of the Quarterly.  I hope your faces are in those pictures.                                

As I was reflecting on my return from the ASCFG board meeting last month, I feel we are in exciting times for the ASCFG.  There seems to be an upwelling of interest refocusing on buying local.  In the U.S. where the bulk of U.S. flowers are now imported, practically all domestic flowers are “local”.  Most U.S growers, I think, can take advantage of this renewed interest in “local”.                                

Speaking of local, there are lovely banners, bags, posters and such available at www.eatlocalfood.com.  I know you might not have clicked on this website because you might think the focus is on food but once you are at the website click on the “Give Local Flowers” link.  If you need a little something to dress up your flower stand or take a bonus to your favorite florist or to the market that sells your flowers, these folks have a very nice campaign.  So check out this website.              

My winter work this year was to focus on the business side of my farm.  Over the last couple of years I have been trying envision when, how and even why to take our farm to the, it is hoped, better level.  I started reading a book I picked up at the airport last summer called “The E-Myth Revisited” with the subtitle “Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” by Michael E. Gerber.  I don’t usually fall for the “self-help” type books because most books really don’t “get it” about agriculture on any scale but I admit the title caught me.        

Early in the book I read the following:  “The work that was born out of love becomes a chore, among a welter of other less familiar and less pleasant chores…the work becomes trivialized, something to get through in order to make room for everything else that must be done.”   This kind of struck home, I kept reading.  I have indeed felt that crushing feeling of not getting everything done and wondering what I can do about it.
    
In the end the book essentially took the path of recommending small businesses set up as franchises.  I am farming because I want to be unique and don’t want another farm like mine, let alone a franchise farm…ugh, that is indeed not the scale I wish to pursue.  I still extrapolated some good information and took some of the guidelines suggested such as having standard operating guidelines and putting together an organizational chart.  “What?”  you say, “I do all the jobs on my farm!”  Even if you do all the jobs on your farm, as I pretty much do, making this chart was very helpful for me to see all those jobs lined out on paper.  Making a description of all those jobs helped me get my mind around the whole business; there are a lot of jobs on a farm.                         

Good record-keeping, especially considering  all the varieties and different ways we grow specialty cut flowers, is crucial.   Vicki Stamback wrote a terrific article in Growing for Market last year on this very subject.  Developing guidelines for each crop is time-consuming; I have started on working on this.  I basically am asking myself this question:  “If I was gone for a day or more, could someone come to farm and keep it running by reading the guidelines I have written?”  It is quite liberating, at least for me, to have things down on paper, in a place that I can find it.  Frees up the mind for other creative thinking.            

Along with working on crops guidelines, I have also signed up for the community college offerings of QuickBooks courses.  I decided after fussing around with that program for 2 years I just needed some help using it, again for better record-keeping.           

I also have in past years been involved with Holistic Resource Management (HRM)which was developed by Alan Savory, primarily for ranchers.  The tenets of HRM, however, can be used by anyone, so I went back through and reworked the Goals Statement that we developed when we started the farm.  It was good to look at where we were 10 years ago and I realize we are still making forward progress.  I picked up another good book from the Fedco Seed catalog, located in Maine—Whole Farm Planning – Ecological Imperatives, Personal Values and Economics—published by the Northeast Organic Farming Association.  This is a short little book and it helped be refocus on what I really want my farm to look like and helps define HRM philosophy in more farming type situations.                     

All in all what I have obtained from my season of introspection of our farm and business is to reaffirm that I want to keep growing!  Including growing the business, especially for the long term.  I ask myself: if I wasn’t farming what would I be doing?  Nothing even comes close.  I also have realized that I need to be continually reevaluating and replanning and thinking of ways to be smarter not only growing but at the ‘business’ side of the farm.  It’s not just about choosing varieties!  But you knew that, right?