2009 is going to be an interesting year for sure. Do you know what you want? If not, take the time to make your list now. Vicki Stamback got me into this line of thinking last year and what a difference a shift in perception makes. Remember, it’s what you want, not what you don’t want.

Opportunities abound this spring in the West Region and I hope that all ASCFG members will take advantage of the educational/social offerings before we all get tired in the middle of the season. Coming right up are the California Spring Trials. This is the second annual West Regional Meeting at the Spring Trials because we realized what a treasure of information the seed companies have available during what is essentially their open house. We (myself and our seed company hosts, Bonnie Marquardt, Kathy Cron and Jeannine Bogard) want to strongly encourage everyone to join us for this special, specialty cut flower day to be held on Friday, April 3. We start in Salinas and end up in Gilroy. Check the ASCFG website for details and just make plans to attend. Among what you will find at this day is all the new varieties and tons of technical information on growing cut flowers, exchange information with plant breeders – tell them what you are looking for in cut flowers, and much more.

Another opportunity you might be interested in is on April 24-25, Vicki Stamback and I are going to be holding a cut flower seminar for people interested in developing a cut flower business. It being held at Western Nevada College in Fallon, Nevada. Friday will be an intensive day of classroom work; Saturday will be hands-on in the field at Smith & Smith Farms in Dayton. This is an exciting collaboration and it has come about due to a grant received by the college from Specialty Crop funds made available to states to promote and enhance specialty crop farming. If you want more information on this seminar, contact me at [email protected] or (541) 573-1454. You know it will be good with Vicki being involved.

I wanted to end my column on a not-so-flower-related subject, but I am finding a way to make it flower related. I have been participating in a series of draft horse workshops this winter from a wonderful teamster – Doc Hammill of East Glacier , Montana. He has come out of the hills of Montana to winter in western Oregon where the workshops are being held. (www.dochammill.com, in case you might be interested). Since we have homework for the workshops and I have homework for my Quarterly column, I thought I would get by in the ‘two for one’ category this time.

You all probably have seen or read or at least flipped through the books entitled Everything I Need to Know I Learned from ________ . Well, I’m here with a new title: Everything I Need to Know I learned from Draft Horses. These draft horse workshops are really about life lessons as much as they are learning about driving and working and having draft horses in my life. The horses themselves leave me with so much admiration and I find myself working so hard just to be worthy of them. Here are just some of the life lessons I have learned so far:

1. Set your intention for success. Think only of having positive experiences and visualize what success is going to look like with the horses. Why not do this for flower growing also?

2. Give a wake-up signal before you ask for anything from the horses. Does anyone or anything like to be jolted out of the blue into doing something? Not usually. It is always important to let someone know you are going to ask something of them. Once again, if your intention is to start selling your flowers to florists – give them a heads-up of what you hope to do so they can be ready to buy from you when you walk in the door.

3. Support your horses so they can do their best. Do not set out with a specific goal to accomplish. It is more about the means than the end. If you support your horses you will often accomplish the goal. On the surface you might question this one, but it speaks to not being so focused on the end goal (“I’ve got to this field disced today.” or “I’ve got to get 4000 transplants in by the end of the week.”) but focusing on the process to get to that goal. If anything, it makes life more enjoyable, right?

4. Have contact with your lines but use as little pressure as necessary. This speaks to all relationships where the person or horse knows you are there for them. In the flower business it’s not all growing; in fact when it comes right down to it, it might not even be half of the learning curve. The people factor is crucial too. A team of horses needs to know I am back there and have control of the lines, but with as little pressure as is necessary. Again, I think this is helpful in our day-to-day relationships with our employees or any relationship in the flower business.

5. Your internal message is louder than your external message. Doc Hammill demonstrated this lesson clearly when the group of us students were taking turns plowing with Raye. She was standing and Doc reminded us that we are energy and we have energy and horses can pick up on that energy (positive or negative). So he told Laura, who was holding the lines, to not give Raye a cue but to mentally picture her taking a step forward (of course the 6 or so of us standing around also started picturing the horse taking a step) and sure enough it took maybe a minute for Raye to take a step forward). Be aware that your thoughts affect you and your day-to-day interactions. If you want positive things to happen, start by thinking that way.

6. Be clear in your messages. Who doesn’t want a clear message? Conflicting messages are difficult in all relationships – business or personal or pets or draft horses.

7. And finally, if things are not going the way you wished them to go, go back to kindergarten, if necessary. Go back to the basics, do what you know you can do (with your team of horses or your flower growing).

Hopefully this might be helpful to you this growing season. I’m thinking all those positive thoughts for you all to have a great flower growing year.