I am amazed how fast this year seems to be flying by. I’m not sure why that is, but before we know it, the National Conference will be upon us. I want to tell all of you about this year’s Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma and I hope you will all give the thought of attending serious consideration.
First, just a small bit of history regarding conferences in general. For each of the past four or five years, we have seen a decline in attendance, yet on surveys, national conferences always rate highly on how important they are to you, the members, and how valuable they are. Not to mention the face-to-face networking. We have tried conferences on various dates with mixed results, probably because we have met at the chosen location when there is something to see on the tours.
So, in Tulsa, we are trying some new things. First of all, the Conference will be in November (8-10), after most markets are finished and most growers have had a freeze, yet before the holidays. The Oklahoma weather can be absolutely wonderful at this time too. Second, the main part of the meeting will be two days, to keep the total costs to attend down and to keep it affordable.
Something special this year will be an on-farm Growers’ School. It is designed for growers who desire more information on the basics: seed sowing, succession planting and planning, insect I.D. and control, etc. This will be held at Bear Creek Farms in Stillwater, where attendees will be able to actually see insects, touch soil and plants and learn at an on-the-farm setting.
We’ve also planned some new workshops for growers wanting detailed information on other topics. These meetings will include a QuickBooks training session (50 laptops provided), and a social media talk that will compare all of the different ones, what they can and can’t do and ideas how to use them the best for your business. The afternoon workshops will include current and future wedding trends with lots of demonstration and will be presented by Anne-Marie Foy, a designer in Tulsa who does only weddings. You will learn lots of tricks and receive tons of ideas! The second afternoon session will be presented by Bernadette Hammelman. Bernadette will discuss different ways to improve your marketing and give a great demonstration on how to successfully pack flowers for shipping.
The main conference will be the 9th and 10th. There are many topics, including sessions on organic/sustainable soil health, insect control and hoophouse management. We are trying to cover topics and to do different things at this conference that YOU have told me personally that you would like to have, primarily more organic topics.
Finally, on the afternoon of the 10th will be an optional tour of Bear Creek Farms. This visit will offer more in-depth information on some of the things we always do and some new things we are trying. Since Bear Creek Farms has six heated greenhouses, there will be lots to see. Some crops will be blooming, some will be growing and you will get to see how it’s all set up. We will have time to cover more information on specific crops and answer lots of questions.
Let me quickly (if I can) tell you how excited I am about all the speakers we have and why. Dr. Carl Whitcomb will talk about some of his latest horticultural projects and new plant material he has been breeding. Bear Creek is going to test this new plant material this summer to see if it will make a great new cut. Lynn Byczynski will also be speaking. Lynn always has great information to pass along as well as her knowledge, experience, positive attitude and love of flowers. How can anyone not be excited about that? MaryLee Johnson will be speaking and for those of you who don’t know MaryLee, she is a walking, talking plant encyclopedia and is a wealth of information. I challenge anyone to stump her when it comes to plant material.
Patricia Banner will be talking about dahlias and Bear Creek should have a lot of their dahlias blooming in the greenhouses which you will be able to see up close and personal. If you need help or ideas for dahlias, Patricia is your answer. Janet Foss will be speaking on cut flower mums, which is a “new” crop for many growers and worth looking at. I put Janet in the same category as MaryLee. Janet has been growing flowers for many years and knows so much about so many different flowers, you won’t want to miss her talk. Lane Greer and Diane Szukovathy will talk about new woody plants with tons of potential…that means ones that make money! I promise this talk will be filled with energy and so many ideas you’ll want to record it so you won’t miss anything.
Mark Cain will be speaking on organic hoophouse management and organic soil management. Mark is certified organic and has been doing great things at his farm in Arkansas and producing fabulous flowers. Darrell Johnson will be speaking on moneymaking greenhouse crops and believe me, you will leave with lots of information and ideas to make great money with your greenhouses. And Ray Cloyd will be discussing IPM ideas for all growers wanting to move from traditional chemicals to organic. He will also discuss many organic pest control ideas for the field and hoophouses.
Those are just a few for starters. Beware of one fact about this conference: since we are meeting for two days, we are offering as many sessions and options as we possibly can in that time period so you will get the most for your money. Be prepared to be brain dead when you leave and I hope everyone can function on just a few hours of sleep.
We have special things happening at the banquet and live auction which are a secret and I can’t tell you. And for those of you that are new to conferences and our organization, we have a silent and live auction to raise money for the ASCFG Research Foundation. All of this money goes to more cut flower research. Members donate items for the silent auction and our wonderful vendors donate items for the live auction and bucket raffle. So, does anyone want to have a stephanotis plant to take home with them? We will have some there! How many of you need bulb crates? Are you able to drive to Tulsa and in a van or truck to haul crates home? We will have them there, as many as you want. More details on that to come.
If anyone has any questions about the Conference or the auctions, please email me at [email protected] and I will be happy to answer anything. Start planning to attend the Conference and plan to bring something from your farm to put in the silent auction. It can be anything but you know that other growers love plants, seeds, and bulbs, anything that’s different and fun.
With all that said, I think I am out of space. Come to Tulsa in November and join us for tons of fun and so much information it will make you dizzy. I’d love to see you all there!