Since I think of myself of being a perennial grower, I thought I’d mention some of my favorite perennials for early spring sales. These are good for filling in before the standard annuals kick in for summer. For purple, think alliums and violas. If the violas don’t come back well for you just let them reseed. You will always have them. A bit later we look forward to reseeding larkspur.  For blue try native baptisia and amsonia; both are easier from seed than you think and they not only bloom in spring but they live practically forever. Armeria and coral bells are my choice for early reds and pinks. Again, if you don’t want to purchase plugs or plants these are easy from seed for only a few cents each.
Whites are a bit harder to come by. Other than the wild sweet cicely, I use floppy ‘May Queen’ shasta until the ‘Becky’ shasta daisies start up, along with white yarrow and short-lived feverfew. In general, perennials should be seeded in midsummer, a little later for the deep south. If you are purchasing plugs or plants you can put them in August through October in most parts of the Southeast.
I attended two marketing conferences this winter. Both were very helpful. Once you’ve mastered all the growing and timing you might think you have it made, but if you don’t know how you’re going to sell your flowers, you’re always going to be a hobbyist. I keep going to these talks for several reasons. One, it’s winter, the only time I have to regroup and re-think my business plans. Another is the social interaction. After spending a lot of time alone at the nursery even I look forward to meeting like-minded farming folks.  There are always a few new ideas to mull over.
At the one-day ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project) Conference, I attended two farmers’ market talks. Although I’ve been selling at the same farmers’ market since the 80’s I came away with some new inspiration about signs, setting up, and selling at markets. We had already decided to try a simple CSA or subscription membership for our flowers this coming year. And even though the CSA talk was oriented toward vegetable growers, it was still helpful.
We were fascinated to hear from a former CSA farmer who had 400+ members on a 70+ acre farm getting a big chunk of the labor done by volunteers. Not interns, not members, but volunteers who just enjoyed helping out. I’m thinking personality transplant at this point.
If you are near the Appalachians and not familiar with ASAP, check out their website:   They have links to grant opportunities, resources, the regional food guide  (flower growers too), and information about their ‘locally grown label’ you can adopt. Not to confused with ASD (Appalachian Sustainable Development in Abington, Virginia),  which holds another conference. ASD’s website offers helpful links to articles, resources, organic farming and their array of talks in southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee.
Look around—each state has its own set of organizations ready to help farmers, including agricultural extension agents who have whole-heartedly joined the small farm/alternative agriculture bandwagon.
From both conferences I learned quite a bit about marketing on the web. I thought I’d share a few more website in case you aren’t already familiar with them. Some offer opportunities to list your farm on their site even if you don’t yet have one.

•    (for listing your farm and selling your product)
• farm (from Rodale)
• (from the hard-working agriculture agent Debbie Roos)
•   (USDA alternative enterprises and agritourism)
• (USDA farmers’ market resource guide)
• (offers newsletter and archives for direct market farmers.  Lynn is one of our members. This publication and site is mentioned at every talk for good reason.)
•     (you can make your own logo if you have MS Office)
•  (loads of information that is helpful no matter where you grow)
• (free and almost free logos and business cards)

Speaking of conferences, look for announcements this spring regarding our mid-season Southeast Regional Meeting. And save your pennies for the National ASCFG Conference. I’m sure it will be well worth your time away from the farm. Portland is a great city full of gardens and growers. So buy your plane ticket now.
Get out and enjoy your spring.  I’m still looking for mine.