Well, thank goodness that winter is finally over. It was a weird season in most of the country, and our Region was no exception. It even snowed in Paradise (Paradise, Texas, that is). Amanda Muller (Paradise Specialty Flowers) sent in this photo of their one-foot-plus February snow.

The strange weather prompted many of our growers to think up some new ventures for spring. Amanda & Johann Muller, for example, are taking a plunge into herbs and edible flowers, encouraged by requests from some north Texas chefs. One crop of special interest—zucchini blossoms. Chefs like to deep fry or stuff them with cheese, chicken or other tasty treats. The Mullers also are extending their season by growing dahlias and sunflowers in hoophouses under grow lights and Asiatic lilies in crates year-round.

For Kim Martin and Laurie Bostic at Barking Cat Farm (Heath, Texas), the spring growing season was literally a washout. Constant rain, plus unusual heavy snowfall, kept the soil too wet to work from September 2009 through this February. Not letting bad weather get them down, Kim and Laurie shifted their focus to farm improvements—repairing fences, cutting invasive trees and now building high tunnels with the aid of their handy new pipe bender. With their new hoophouses, Kim and Laurie will be ready for the next wet season. Of course, that may never happen again in northeast Texas, but these growers will be set to extend their season, regardless of the weather.

2010 is the start of all things new for Linda McCall (Nature’s Harmony Farm, Lone Grove, Oklahoma). Linda joined the ASCFG in 2004, and started preparing for a post-retirement career as a cut flower grower. She expected that new career was years away, but a series of unexpected events moved her retirement date up—to 2009. So Linda decided that the time had come enter the cut flower business. Like most of us starting out, Linda quickly realized that there is a big gulf between “head” knowledge and practice. She had attended many seminars, ASCFG conferences and meetings, collected lots of valuable information, and even grew up on a farm—but how to get started in this business was still a puzzle.

Lucky for Linda, her friend and fellow Oklahoman Vicki Stamback came to the rescue with an amazing mentoring program. She invited Linda to come to her farm once a week for 6 weeks. There Vicki provided hands-on instruction on many essentials: how to cut flowers; the proper stage for harvest; postharvest treatment; sources for seeds, bulbs, plugs and supplies; how to develop a field planting guide and planting calendar; proper spacing for plants; fertilizer guidelines; and much more. They walked Vicki’s fields and greenhouses together and had many discussions about how Linda could best use her land for flower growing. Linda is indeed grateful and says “I owe any success I may have to Vicki.” During her mentoring period, Linda also came to visit me for a few days. I gave her some more hands-on experience—I put her to work starting seed, transplanting snapdragon plugs and making bouquets for the farmers’ market. I’m not sure she liked the bouquet part.

Linda came out of Vicki’s program ready to go. She has her field planting guide completed, her seeds and bulbs ordered, her fields plowed, and her irrigation systems started. It’s too bad every new grower can’t go through Vicki’s mentoring program, but I don’t think Vicki has time for all of us. But wait! That’s what is going to happen at the Growers’ School on Monday, November 8. This year’s Growers’ School will have two tracks: one for beginners and one for more experienced growers. The beginning School, held at Vicki’s Bear Creek Farms in Stillwater, Oklahoma, will feature true hands-on experiences in areas such as seed germination, succession planting, equip-ment basics and record-keeping. The more advanced track, held in Tulsa, will include intensive Quickbooks instruction and much more. So regardless of your level of experience, you will not want to miss the Growers’ School this year.

Of course, you won’t want to miss any of the 2010 ASCFG National Conference, November 8-11. It’s going to be an amazing meeting, featuring sustainable/organic tracks, roundtable discussions, terrific speakers, and topped off with a tour of Bear Creek Farms. Vicki says she’s been doing some new, exciting things at her farm this year, but she’s not telling what they are: “Everyone will just have to attend the Conference and see for themselves.” I want to see, don’t you?

Josie Crowson

Josie's Fresh Flowers

Contact at [email protected]