Last autumn, I wrote about the need for more ladies with flowers in their hats, and on their kitchen tables.  There may be hope on the horizon. You may have heard about the proposed floral promotional order that is making its way through the planning process.  This marketing effort, started by a group of industry leaders, has been in the works for months under the guidance of the Floral Marketing Funding Initiative Coalition.  In November, Vicki Stamback and I were part of the Development Committee that worked out the details of this program that would be managed by the USDA. Because of our involvement on this committee, we were able to include provisions that exempt smaller growers with less than $100,000 in annual sales and keep the assessment at 2%.  This promotional order will now need to be approved by a vote of those growers and importers who would be subject to paying into this marketing fund. Implementation would not be until 2008, or later. More information is available on page 53.  
There is something that must go hand in hand with any advertising or promotion aimed at increasing flower purchases in this country.  Flower quality must be the most important thing on every flower grower’s and seller’s mind.  A customer, especially a new customer, who purchases poor quality flowers may never purchase again.  All the promotion in the world can’t overcome a poor quality product.  We should always be on the look out for poor quality flowers that should not be sold.  This can be in our fields and coolers, or even in a retail business.   We must be willing to trash flowers that belong in the trash, and not try to sell them.  If you have a retail shop, you need to remember that every order is the most important order and that it receives the freshest flowers available.
As flower consumers we must demand uncompromising quality from wholesalers and growers. If you see a wholesaler or retailer selling flowers that are not up to quality standards, let them know that those flowers should not be sold. Let your wholesaler know that you will refuse deliveries of inferior products.  Don’t be afraid to let the big box store or local grocery store know when you see dead or wilted flowers in their display.  If consumers had only a 50/50 chance that a gallon of milk would still be good in two days, milk sales would plummet.  The milk industry doesn’t have this problem because they won’t allow old, questionable milk to be sold.  The cut flower industry needs to maintain similar high quality standards if we hope to get new flower consumers, but more importantly, keep these new consumers.
I’d like to thank everyone who attended the San Jose Conference, especially those who reached into their pockets and participated in the Research Foundation auction.  I had a blast being the auctioneer, even as the desire to get the highest bid led to some impromptu  networking among one table of growers.