First of all I would like to thank Judy, Linda and the entire Conference Committee for a wonderful national conference. It was fun informative, well-run, with great food. What else could we ask for?  I’m looking forward to the Long Island Conference Committee topping this one.
I’m already thinking about the 2009 Southeast Regional Meeting. I’d love everyone’s input on dates and places. So far Memphis, and the Charleston, South Carolina and Gainesville, Florida areas have been suggested. I’m thinking January or February of 2009 so please send me your comments or suggestions on these dates and locations. Suggest places, farms and topics you’d like to see, as well as local speakers.
Here at Shady Grove we’re thinking about the economy just like everyone else. My humble suggestion is to diversify. If at all possible, don’t sell to just one wholesaler or florist or even one type of business. We all know wholesalers and florists in financial trouble. Many of our members are now selling direct on the internet and many, many florists are now buying their flowers that way.
In talking to ASCFG members, I’ve learned to grow some vegetables (you can’t go too wrong growing food in a downturn), some also grow medicinal herbs, dried flowers, wreaths, or have a farm stand. I personally used to be a landscape gardener. I’ll point out that there is a reason why farmers get grants and not nurseries or landscapers. They make money. It is a good source of income if you are in the right area for it; and if you can take time away from the farm.
Another somewhat recession-proof addition is weddings. Large or small, cheap or expensive there are some out there for all of us. I’m seeing simple buckets of flowers going for $45-75 each, with design work making the most money. This winter check out florist and member web sites. You’ll see a wonderful array of flowers, prices and ideas. I often look back through old Quarterlys to get ideas on how to better diversify. There are many ideas I simply wasn’t ready to implement when I first read the article.
Here in the mountains we are working with more and more event florist and wedding planners. I like these florists the best; they are creative  and open to suggestions of new flowers, textures and substitutions for the flowers or colors they need. It is easier to develop relationships with these florists because they are planning ahead with specific budgets. We have made an effort to not only be a source of flowers, but also of information and ideas.
On a different note, our farm was just added to the North Carolina Birding Trail. Complete with workshops and a web site this will help us get more agritourism dollars. We are already running hay rides, and a few butterfly walks each year. But this will help us reach the birding and photography hobbyists, well-known for spending money. If you have a good site with a natural area you might consider this option even if you have to hire a college kid to be your naturalist guide. Needless to say, developing a good trail system is on our long list of winter projects.
This fall and winter will be the perfect time to re-organize your market mix, learn how to ship, arrange flowers, grow your own plants or plugs, take up landscaping, plan workshops, fix your website, spread the word about local flowers, offer wedding packages, read up on new cut flowers and raise your prices.