I do have NEWS from the West Region!  We are currently planning a meeting on the West Coast that I believe will be of interest to all the ASCFG membership.  Goldsmith Seeds, Takii Inc., and Sakata Seeds have all agreed to host the ASCFG for a special session during their big spring fling known as the Pack Trials.  The Pack Trials are when the seed companies on the West Coast showcase their new varieties. What will make our meeting unique is the representatives of these companies, Jeannine Bogard, Goldsmith; Bonnie Marquardt, Takii; and Kathy Cron, Sakata (yes, you do recognize these names if you went to the San Jose Conference) are going to have a special presentation for cut flower growers with information specifically on new cut flower varieties. We will be meeting on Friday, April 4, 2007 and taking a tour of each of these seed companies located south of San Jose in and around the Salinas Valley.

This will be a meeting not to be missed.   Make your plans now, as we continue to plan the details of this special day.

I hope this is a successful gathering in April.  My thought is that if we get a good response we can make it an annual affair. The wealth of information the seed companies have is of interest to all cut flower growers, no matter the size of your farm.  Being on the leading edge of new varieties and cultural information is exactly what a ‘specialty’ cut flower grower is all about.

Before I start on the main ordering for next season and looking at all those new varieties, here at our farm we decided to embark on an intensive and introspective farm planning session.  This has come about due to some changes in our personal lives at the farm but is something  I believe is helpful and should be a part of the off-season each year for most farms, certainly our farm.  I admit that we have let this aspect of our farm kind of slide in the past few years, so we are now looking at our 12th year in farming and want to fine tune the farm and examine where we are going with it. It is easy to go along and get bogged down in just the everyday chores on a list that never ends but long-term planning is very important.

What we did was leave the farm to go do our planning.  We invited about 6 extended family members who keep up with our farm and we traveled to Oregon for our session.  We had a great day, poring over the farm and coming up with new ideas.  At the outset of the day, my brother-in-law said “What is the goal for your farm?”

My goal for the farm after 12 years was to be more profitable so I can actually generate a living wage from the farm and I also wanted to have more free time.  These 2 goals would seem to not be mutually agreeable.  In fact, after the day was over, we actually had some ideas that could generate more income while not requiring extra time on my part.

I am currently writing a small grant application for our farm for some monies that are available through the USDA.  These are specialty crop grants and the monies are distributed by the state.  Check with your state agriculture department as all states have these funds available to them.  Keep in mind that each state may have a different method of distributing the funds.  A couple of seasons ago, I was awarded some of this money for the expansion of my perennial flower beds.  Our perennials have easily added an extra 3 weeks of bouquets onto our early season.  They make up the bulk of the early bouquets.  

This grant I am writing now is to have an outside person with expertise in marketing to look at our farm and give us further ideas and information to take our farm to what I would call the ‘next level’.  With the season barely over we have a good framework and vision for where we want to take our farm in the next season and beyond.  Remember, this long-term planning is an important part of farming.  I speak from experience here.  Plan well and grow good.  Wishing you the best in your growing and farming in 2008.