Die-hard flower growers plus a good contingent of new growers braved the heat and drought for our Regional Meeting at Rita Anders’ farm in Weimar, Texas. It was well worth the trip. Rita provided a great tour and lots of good food, and we had some terrific speakers. Many thanks to Rita and to her family and friends who helped make this meeting such a success!
Not surprisingly, many of our informal conversations at the meeting focused on the weather. We were all hoping that we would soon see a break in the heat and drought. That was not to be. Now a month after our meeting, conditions in our region are much worse. By August 31, for example, Austin, Texas had recorded 80 days of 100 degrees or more. Austin’s historical yearly average is just 12 days of triple-digit temperatures. And, of course, while other sections of the country have faced massive flooding, we can’t buy rain here.
Rita Anders (Cuts of Color) has “never looked at water use as I am this year.” She has been struggling to use water from her wells more efficiently—installing more timers and drip tape—but “the lack of rain not only means constant watering, it draws the deer and birds to your yard to feed on your flowers.” Rita says she now looks at “flower growing as a competition with Mother Nature.” Along with the factors that have made growing flowers more difficult this year—heat, drought and critters—has come the sagging economy which has made selling them tougher as well. For many of us, this combination has meant working harder for less money. So why do we keep going? Because the non-financial rewards from being a flower farmer are so much greater than from, say, selling nuts and bolts. We see how our flowers lift the spirits of the sick, bring joy to the brides and smiles to the faces of those who are sad. These things inspire us and keep us going.
When Rita missed a market because the heat slowed flower blooming, her customers told her how much they missed their weekly flowers and how glad they were to see her the next week. That meant a lot to her and made Rita more determined “to somehow come out ahead and have those flowers for my awesome customers.” Cynthia Alexander (The Quarry Flower Farm) says “After working in the corporate legal world for 35 years, I’m finally able to ‘follow my bliss’ and spend my days doing what I love—growing and selling flowers. I’m still able to say this with joy and conviction, even after 3 months (so far) of Texas temperatures hovering around 105 with virtually no rain.”
Marilyn Arton (Les Dames de Fleurs) writes: “The thing that has touched us the most is the loyalty of our customers, week after week. It makes it all worthwhile! We usually bring extra flowers in a bucket and give them to the children, even if the parents don’t buy flowers. It is such a joy to see their little faces light up! We may never be rich financially, but we are rich in so many other ways!”
Of course, these difficult conditions won’t last forever. Hopefully, by the time this Quarterly reaches you, weather in our region will be more tolerable and maybe the economy will be looking better too. However, by this time, I will be fully retired and will have completed my move from Texas to Virginia. There I will be just a home gardener and no longer a commercial flower grower. My term as Regional Director is also coming to an end so this is my last Regional Report. It has been a great honor to serve the ASCFG in this capacity and I am so thankful to have had such a wonderful opportunity. Although this may sound like a big goodbye, it really is not. I will keep hanging around at ASCFG events and hope to see all of you at the National Conference in Reston in November.
With a garden there is hope. – Grace Firth
For me, here’s a story that says it all: I provided flowers for a conference at the Nacogdoches Boys Ranch. This is a home for boys who have been abused and/or abandoned, many of whom have serious learning difficulties. These children have suffered a great deal in their short lives. For the conference, I brought one large arrangement and small arrangements for each of the dining tables. After the meeting, Bill, the director, put the large arrangement in his office and left the smaller ones on the tables where the boys have their meals. Bill wrote to me: “Now, a little over a week later, the large flower arrange ment is looking well worn….However, when I went over to the kitchen to talk with the cook, there are still six of the little bouquets on the tables and every one of them looks as fresh as the first day you brought them. Incredible! So, I paid attention at lunch time as the boys were cleaning up after they had eaten. They removed each bouquet from the table, took it over and carefully gave it fresh water. No one told them to, no one taught them how, they had just done it. My personal thought is that it comes from the innate love for beautiful things that is born within us all and these little boys whose lives have been so filled with ugliness and horror had instantly responded.”
I treasure this letter. It means more to me than the most profitable sale I could ever make. I’m sure that many of us have similar stories. These are the rewards that make uswilling to put up with heat, drought, critters, a bad economy and whatever else gets thrown at us.