Where did winter go this past season? Here in central Illinois we just did not have the usual snowfall. Once again we were bypassed and other areas got dumped on. In the Northeast, a lot of growers got hit with above-average snowfalls and storms. Damage reports were in the news from landscapers, nurseries, and cut flower growers. Here we had mostly dustings, with our largest snowfall over a weekend with three inches total. As March rolled in, temperatures were more normal. By mid-March last year we were sowing our first bed of sunflowers and enjoying the mid 70s to low 80s. Yes, tee shirt and shorts time.

This past winter we worked on a few new ways to increase sales. Our Holiday Market  (November and December) was expanding to The Middle Market (January-April), the third Saturday of each month. We are able to keep our product in front of the public year round now. The outdoor market starts the first weekend in May. This Middle Market gives us the opportunity to offer items that we would normally move thru wholesalers and retailers this time of year.

We also have been making fresh flower wreaths and pussy willow wreaths, which we have not offered before at markets. They have been selling very well.

Another way we are increasing our sales is by offering willow cuttings. An ASCFG member asked us in January if we would sell willow cuttings. We had never considered doing that before as an item for winter sales. This is an item that we will promote much more next fall and winter. Our willow cuttings have been shipped to Oregon and Washington in the West, to Maine and Virginia in the East, with several states in between. Think about ways you can offer product which you grow and how you can propagate and sell them, e.g. bulbs, cuttings, divisions, etc.. If you have not thought of the possibilities of sales with using your plant material, give it some thought.

Finally, if you have a web page for your farm and do not have an e-commerce page, think about adding a page to your site to offer products. Keep adding pictures and dialogue/updates so you can continue to getting your message (brand) out to the public and growers. Keeping the demand (growth) for your products on the web will expand your customer base. So this spring and summer take photos of what you are doing on the farm whether it be planting, weeding, harvesting or packaging your flowers. People want to see what you are doing. Share them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, Pinterest, YouTube, and get your farm out there. Keep the BUZZ going.

With Blanco and Raleigh meetings completed, our attention turns to the next two meetings. Our October 7-8  “Seed to Sale” event in Wooster, Ohio is shaping up to be a very informative program. On Monday, October 7th we will have a tour of the Secrest Arboretum with its director Ken Cochran. If you are thinking about adding or increasing the woody production on your farm, Ken is the go-to man for what will work in your area. On Tuesday, we will have a full day of speakers, with Steve and Gretel Adams starting us out. They’ll show us how use succession planting at their Sunny Meadows Farm, aw well as their successful marketing methods. Following them will be a panel discussion on woodies. Speakers on lily and willow production will end the morning session. Afternoon sessions will be concurrent with hydrangea, sunflower, dianthus, lisianthus, and others. Speakers will speak on these flowers as to their experiences they have in producing the crop. Sources, varieties, production methods, harvesting and market area will be addressed.

Like previous programs, we are looking forward to members outside the Midwest to attend. Looking forward to seeing you in Ohio this October! Have a very productive spring and summer.

Kent Miles

Illinois Willows

Kent Miles Illinois Willows Contact at [email protected]