As I write, we are emerging from the mildest winter we can remember. We undoubtedly have more cold weather ahead, but signs of spring are definitely in the air. By the time you read this, we will all likely be elbow-deep in the dirt once again, preparing for the excitement of another growing season and the challenges, frustrations, and joys that each season inevitably brings.
Thanks to a suggestion from Missy Bahret of Old Friends Farm (Northeast Regional Director), we emailed a Survey Monkey survey to the Southeast membership to get their thoughts and suggestions for the Regional Meeting. We had interesting and extremely helpful responses. Of the 23 responders who completed the survey, 60.9% prefer the Meeting to be held during the off season (December–March), and 52.2% prefer a one-day event. Based on the overwhelming desire for an off-season Regional, we are foregoing a fall meeting, and instead will go forward with plans for a March 2013 Regional Meeting in or near Lexington, South Carolina, where we will tour Floral & Hardy Farm. We had many great suggestions for topics and offers of help from members, so we have a great base to begin the planning process. The ASCFG Board has decided that Regionals should be done with a two-day “Grower School” format, since the National Conference Grower Schools are always very well attended.
Some of our members’ comments included:
“Love the opportunity to visit another farm, even if it is in the winter or off season – there is always something to learn.”
“I’m a relatively new grower and would love the opportunity to visit with other local growers on a regular basis to reduce the ‘learning curve’.”
“Networking is the best way to learn who to go to for help. Farm tours help you think and say ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ I learn best by doing and making mistakes and it is really nice to have someone help overcome the mistakes (been there, done that) and be encouraging (not asking ‘why did or didn’t you do that?’).”
“I love flower growing and want to share my enthusiasm and knowledge, and hopefully make some money at it before someone has to send me flowers. But when they do, I will not be growing them, and I do not want flowers grown in South America.”
Twenty out of 23 responders want to network with other growers (87%). Twenty-one want workshops; active learning (91.3%), and 78.3% want a farm tour. We hope to meet expectations, and look forward to seeing many of you in March 2013!
Thanks to an article in the January 2012 Growing For Market, we applied for the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative, which was available in all 50 states this year according to the GFM article. Hopefully we may qualify for funding of a new high tunnel.
The District Conservationist who took our application also told us about purchasing crop insurance at a reasonable price. She said we could not purchase the insurance until later in the year, so we will definitely be looking into that. We definitely need it because of the threat of hurricanes where we live near the coast. She also gave us a nifty aerial photograph of our farm. If you are interested in learning more, contact your local USDA office.
If your local office isn’t very helpful, contact a neighboring county. Our experience was that the local office was not very interested in helping us, but we got the opposite service in our neighboring county, where they were very helpful. Since I go there regularly anyway to florists, it did not matter to me to deal with another office. The Conservationist there could not have been more helpful, and all I had to do was sign a “Transfer of Farm Records Between Counties” form. (Footnote: If you do not subscribe to Growing for Market you should. Excellent resource.)
It appears that there are glimmers of hope that the “Great Recession” might be loosening its grip as the economy seems to show slow signs of improvement and unemployment slowly declines in some areas. Times have been tough for many of us, some worse than others, probably depending on many factors individual to each of us. I end this report with the hopeful comment from one of our fellow growers:
“… hold ON in the tough economic times…..things WILL turn around……and we all ….those of us who CAN hold on…..will be sitting pretty as pretty can be……..yes??……STAY focused……TRIM down…….do whatever it is to be the BEST you can be…….”
Hang in there friends!