Summer 2010! How shall she be remembered? I suppose it depends on what part of the summer and what part of the country you are talking about but here in Iowa, it will be remembered for record rains and record flood levels.

The high point of the summer was the Regional Meeting at Blooming of Beloit in Wisconsin. Shlomo Danieli invited us to his farm and gave a very good group of us a tour of the farm and a very informative, interesting presentation. He discussed the processes that he went through in developing the farm, his business model and his plans for the farm. Thank you Shlomo for a terrific experience.

The summer began with an almost boring weather and temperature pattern. We had a cold spring but in the middle of it we had a couple really warm days that triggered the “Let’s get growing.” instinct in many of our plants. We even had peonies in the unheated hoophouse by Mothers Day. We thought that we were off to the start of a record year. Well, someone said, “Let it rain.” And rain it did. In a three-day period in June, we recorded over 12 inches, and in August we had a 7-inch rain in a couple hours that closed our highway for several weeks. Can you say “Water in the basements.”? On top of that, the sun forgot to shine on us for an extended time.

There were several unpleasant results from this combination of too much water and not enough sunlight and warmth. One was that crops that do not appreciate being overwatered, simply went stagnant. The celosia that we planted outdoors was so poor that we just tilled it under. For a three-week period, the ground was so wet that we were not able to plant any seeds. That meant that we didn’t have any sunflowers for an extended period. However, the grasses, zinnias, and several other crops thrived. Thankfully, we have 6 hoophouses that saved our operation. Another result was that, with all that moisture and coolness, we had a bumper crop of botrytis. We don’t have enough room to put all of our crated lilies indoors, so those that were outdoors were lost, even with spraying.

One very important lesson that stands out in my mind is the need for being diversified. What saved us was the fact that we had a good variety of plants in the hoophouses and they flourished this year. However, that does give us a limited supply of cut flowers. Therefore, we were forced to drop deliveries to the florists near the end of July which cut our revenue stream almost in half. The upside was that I had a lot more time to work on the farm. On the other hand, the Des Moines Farmers’ Market was having a great year, in fact we were having our best year there. The market has had attendance in the 20 to 30 thousand customers on good Saturdays. It also helps that we are the only vendor who only sells cut flowers. We have many loyal customers who tell us that we are the only reason that they come to the market.

We are making plans for next year and part of that planning is to streamline our operation and perhaps cut back on some parts of it. That is going to be a tough decision and one that is going to take a lot of thought and planning. Part of what makes the decision so difficult is that we have two very successful legs of the operation: the fabulous Farmers’ Market and our 45 florists, many of whom depend on us for unique flowers and grasses to enhance their bouquets.

We are planning on converting our lily shade houses into regular hoophouses (and moving them to higher ground) to give us more indoor room for lilies. We are convinced that Dave Dowling was right about raising them indoors in crates, but some of us have to learn for ourselves. The project of moving the hoophouses means that they have to be dismantled, moved and then erected again. The goal is to give us more covered space for the lilies.

Bottom line is that we have lived with the motto “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” So I would encourage any of you who might be having a rough year to hang in there. Plant more, and different things. Experiment with new things, search for new information and knowledge to help you grow and grow and grow.

Quinton Tschetter

Tschetter's Flowers

Contact at [email protected]