Knowledge is power, and the power to succeed requires know-how. Creating a successful business requires useful, reliable, expert knowledge so joining an organization that connects you to the expertise of others is a no-brainer.  The ASCFG was formed twenty years ago to make such connections. Aptly named, we are an association of growers dedicated to providing the best specialty cut flowers—membership gives you a main line to this pool of expertise.
    
We fell into this business by accident, but turning Bindweed Inc. into a thriving business is no accident. Flowers were the by-product of an attempt to supplement the leaf-cutter bees Ralph had sold since boyhood. After a couple of fun and rewarding seasons selling this by-product at local markets the bottom fell out of the bee business, shifting our focus to flowers. With degrees in education and sociology we were ill prepared to farm but we did know how to gather information so Ralph began looking for others who grew cut flowers and found the ASCFG. For a moment we were stalled by the dues—membership equaled five percent of our earning—but we needed to be connected to an information source and knew that if we considered ourselves professionals we should belong to a professional organization. So we joined.

    
We had talked about growing tulips but did not think it possible to compete with Holland. Through the Association we got information on hoophouses and forcing tulips, making it possible for us to grow and supply fresh tulips for the spring demand. The first year we grew 2000 bulbs; pleased with the results the next year we planted 8000, and the following year we doubled again, planting 16,000 bulbs. Arriving home with an empty truck Ralph asked me how many tulips we should plant for the next season. High and stupid from a powerful dose of “seller’s rush”, I said we should double our numbers—and we did! And for the past several years we have planted and sold 30,000 tulips. Tulips have become one of our most successful and profitable crops turning our “hobby farm” into a business.
    
After farming in two different locations on borrowed and leased land the tulip success enabled us in part to buy land and set up a proper farm. We envisioned permanent perennial and annual beds; a barn for storage, postharvest care and a cooler; some greenhouses; an efficient drip irrigation system and a home someday. Growing flowers takes much more than vision—it requires real practical information specific to a particular climate. Living in an agrarian state, loads of information and help was available to us, but was for the most part useless. Growing flowers is not the same as growing spuds, grain or sugar beets. The county extension agent was nice and very enthusiastic about our efforts but it became clear early in our conversation that he knew little or nothing that could help. Local garden centers and master gardening programs were no help either. There are two universities within 100 miles, but they came to us for information.
    
Consider how much information is needed to set up a farm— sustainable farming practice, reliable seed and plant sources, cutting information, postharvest care, information on proper soil mixes, fertilizing, composting, crop rotation, cooler specifications, greenhouse management techniques, information on storage and delivery, the art of selling and the list goes on. ASCFG is the authority we rely on. We get the information we need through our many contacts with the association—the list serve, bulletin board, Quarterlys and generous people throughout the membership. When we needed help to set up our drip irrigation system, Paul Shumaker, a grower in Pennsylvania, very graciously helped Ralph set up the entire system, via e-mail.
    
Membership in the association puts you in contact with hundreds of experts. When posting a problem on the bulletin board you access a nationwide base of knowledge. Try searching the same issues on Google and chances are you will be directed to the ASCFG! So if knowledge is power, membership in the ASCFG gives you a powerhouse of information right at ,the tip of your hard-working green fingers.