I will be your new Regional Director, re-placing Josie Crowson who did a wonderful job, and I hope I can do as good of a job as she did. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of our regional members and if I haven’t, one day I hope too. Please feel free to email me at [email protected] if you have any questions or I can be of any assistance to you. If I don’t have the answer, maybe I can point you in the right direction. My goal as your Director is to build a close-knit group of growers to help each other. Facebook is a great way of communicating with each other and seeing how other growers in all regions produce and market their flowers is a great benefit.

As everyone reading this article knows, Texas and Oklahoma have had the worst drought in history and getting through last summer was a challenge for every grower. Kim Haven of Billabong Fresh Flower Farm reports having a good year because she chose not to grow during the drought. Vicki Stamback says her expenses were up last year mainly due to the huge water bills because of the drought, and says her year was worse. Irrigation and deer fencing seemed to be of importance to all. Kim Martin and Laurie Bostic of Barking Cat Farm report the same problems with deer and drought. They are concentrating on better water sources and a good irrigation system.

My head is still on overload from an amazing National Conference. There were so many great motivational and informative speakers that rejuvenated us to start a new growing season. My season for the New Year is usually marked by the planting of the ranunculus and anemones which are our first flowers to bloom. We have ours in the ground and they are coming up nicely. This year they won’t be eaten off at the ground because we put in a deer-proof fence.

We visited Bob Wollam’s green-houses where he grows a lot of eucomis. It had already frozen but he said it will all be coming back next year and he is really excited about this crop. Vicki Stamback tried eucomis last year also. She planted it in bulb crates in the summer but moved it to the field where she thinks it will do much better. Linda McCall tried it this past year also but with little success and thinks it was mainly due to the heat and lots of wind.

I tried gomphocarpus (hairy balls) and my customers at the farmers’ market loved them. They were quite the conversation. So many customers would stop by just to ask what they were and some bought bouquets just because I had a stem of the gomphocarpus in them. I had one of my customers buy two arrangements for church and I said “Oh my, don’t tell your pastor what those are.” She had to come tell me that they were a hit even in church. She said people would walk up front and just have to know what those fuzzy balls were. Linda McCall also grew hairy balls and says they were successful for her  with her florists. Last year at Vicki’s was the first time I had seen them and I just had to grow them because of how interesting they were. I have to say they were very drought tolerant and the deer didn’t like them which make them a winner for me.

Vicki also is excited about grape hyacinths and regular hyacinths, and likes a new ornamental pepper series called Rio. She’ll be growing them this year.

A lot of the buzz at the Conference was how we can be more profitable, time efficient and how can we let florists, buyers and customers know we exist? I just finished reading The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, which goes into great detail about being more profitable and efficient. The book is about vegetables but relates to flowers when keeping records of everything you do and spend regarding a crop.

Start thinking about what you would like to hear about at our summer Regional Meeting, which will be held at Nancy Bartlett’s Blue Stem Farm in Folsom, Louisiana. She has graciously accepted to host the meeting; we’ll let you know when the date has been determined. Nancy had a good year in 2011 year despite the drought, which was not as bad as what we had in Texas. She will be increasing her production because she can’t keep up with her demand. Nancy reports that her best crop was her ‘Cramers’ Amazon’ celosia. She sold it in bouquets and bunches. Nancy’s wedding work has also increased from last year and she is very excited about that.

By the time you are reading this article, the New Year will be upon us and what better time to start some new habits that will make us more efficient thus making us more profitable and put more money in our pocket? Black Friday sales were reportedly up by 26 percent, which is good sign that the economy might be getting better, and wouldn’t that be nice?

Rita Anders

Cuts of Color

Rita Anders Cuts of Color Contact at [email protected]