Everyone is thinking about the economy. We’re no different. My only advice: If you can save time you’re saving money. Most of us who love flowers and work for ourselves don’t enjoy rushing around or analyzing things. But it seems to be what it takes to stay in any small business today. Always be looking for a better, more efficient way to do things. Our new motto is not so much do-it-yourself but if it takes longer to explain it than to do it yourself…well, you should be doing it yourself. We’re moving helpers to only simple, labor-intensive tasks such as washing buckets, mowing and, I hope, cutting.

For my part of the business I’m looking forward to a new warm water outside faucet. It should save me a lot of time watering the seedlings. I grow all my own transplants without a heated greenhouse. Crazy, it is. But I have a heat mat and now, yeah! heat cables. After we dig up all the rocks in the yard and lay a water line to our potting shed and a hydrant; I’m looking forward to no more days of dragging warm water out of the house to water thousands of seedling. Oh, I can’t wait. But my real point here is not to spend money in this economy but rather solve some of those simple problems that will save you money in the long run.

I recently had the chance to speak to the Virginia Cut Flower Growers about various marketing opportunities. This is old news for anyone who has been growing flowers for awhile. But for newer growers or those considering different markets here are a few thoughts to consider.

How does your current product mix fit with this new market? What are the startup requirements? For example: sleeves are generally needed to sell to grocery stores.

Farmers’ markets: Are an easy way to start, with instant gratification, but they offer low potential income, lots of competition and weather-related concerns. You must work every Saturday all season. If you have kids this may not be for you.

You-pick flowers: This can work in the right location with excellent succession planting but requires liability insurance, regular hours, and a ‘people person’. They make it hard to take advance orders for other markets.

Regular florist: These can offer a big pay-off eventually, with regular weekday deliveries. But florists aren’t doing well these days and rural florists are very traditional. You may spend a lot of time growing and cutting flowers only to be rejected.

Event florist: This is a fast-growing niche for us. Most event florists work out of their homes. Mine come to us. These are fun – but a bit scattered – folks you can develop great relationships with. They are looking for unique items and you are it. Alas, they rarely tell you more than a few days ahead what they need. They cut out the middlemen and always seem to call just a few hours before they need something.

Wholesale florist: Let’s be real, these guys are in trouble too. If you are big enough or you want to grow just a few crops in large quantities this is the place for you. Make sure you get paid in a timely fashion. This is a good option for growers who don’t want to deal with the public.

Shipping: There are all kinds of options here, seek out one that works for you. Ship to wholesalers, retailers or individuals. Just remember there are startup costs: advertising and packaging to name two. If you are web savvy this may be the place for you.

Weddings and wedding design: This is somewhat recession proof. However I’m finding more and more cheap brides. They will take up your time because most 20-year-olds don’t know flowers. So my challenge is to remain a quality option while offering value. Perceived value is what it’s all about. Read the online bridal forums. Many brides are using silk or ‘sticks’, we’re in for a long bumpy ride.

Do-it-yourself weddings: Let’s face it: most people don’t have much money to get married. But they will still get married. You may try to focus on these brides by selling flowers directly to them, either by the bucketful or by the bunch. Make sure to set your prices ahead of time. Knowing exactly what you will have when will pay off handsomely. The downside is that it’s a bit hard to get established if you don’t already have a network of contacts or a farmers’ market following.

CSA’s: These are all the rage in the vegetable world. I believe flower growers are next. Offer perceived value or convenience. I ‘m finding many older market goers don’t like the crowded Saturday market. You do have to be an experienced enough grower to provide a great-looking bouquet every week. But you get your money ahead of time. A great plus these days.

An offshoot of CSA’s are subscription and delivery services. This works for growers who don’t mind driving around a day or two each week. Think about businesses, doctors and B & B’s. Keep in mind gas prices could change at any moment when setting your flower and delivery prices.

Add this to all your personal and financial considerations when choosing the best markets for your flowers. Perhaps we will consider those next time.  The ASCFG flickr.com group is up and running. Call or e-mail Judy to get an invite. We decided not to send out a mass invite from flickr.com. It’s simple, just follow the setup steps to join, then add photos or video for other ASCFG members to view. Have fun out there.