Ah, January, the season of “Ooh, that sounds pretty.” and “Let’s try adding that market/truck run/major new client”. Most of us are less busy in January, and idle hands can make for busy summers. The catalogs, the seed trials in this very volume, the articles we’ve been saving to read more thoroughly all combine to tease us into new crops, and the fiscal reality of the farming life leads us to try new income streams and improve the ones we are in. Gotta love it! As my companions have heard me say before, “We farm because we bore easily”.

For the folks who trekked to Tacoma for the National Conference last November, we have a whole bunch of things to try for 2013. Thanks ever so much to all the generous folks out in Washington who opened their farms to us nosy farmers, or came and presented on topics it took them years to master, or just got us on and off the buses or into the sessions on time! The conference committee did an amazing job of bringing us the beauty, agriculture and the fabulous food of the Pacific Northwest.

Thanks also to Kasey Cronquist of the California Cut Flower Commission for a fantastic keynote, a real call to arms. You can see a video of the talk under the Events tab at the ASCFG web site (see 2012 Presentations). The creators of The Fifty Mile Bouquet each gave terrific talks about Slow Flowers. You do own a copy, right? Joan Thorndike of Le Mera Gardens gave a copy to each of her florist clients at the end of last year.

All in all, the conference is an amazing resource, a time to get face to face with other growers who aren’t your competition and share ideas and tips, and learn those 3 or 4 things that are really going to help you back home to make a better living.

I spoke to a lot of members at the conference about the meeting plans for 2013, and there seemed to be some confusion, so I’ll lay it out here. Face-to-face meetings are one of the very best things we offer through the ASCFG, and yet we have a lot of members who just don’t come out, or come rarely. The board and staff have worked hard to find out what we can do to reach more folks in this way: surveys, board retreat on planning, brainstorming session at the Reston Conference. We made a decision to try stronger local  programs for one year and see if that brought more of you to the table. The folks who come to National regularly know how great it is. We miss the rest of you!

The plan is to “super-size” our regional meetings into intensive conferences across the country: Texas, North Carolina, Ohio and New England. This puts a two-day conference closer to you with a variety of programs. We’d really like you to come to more than one. I know I’ll be at the first and the last for sure, and maybe more. We’ve set the dates for the spring and fall to avoid the crazy months, and we have fantastic speakers and tours. A quick editorial viewpoint (all the the information and specifics will be up on the website and in your inbox by the time the CFQ hits your mailbox):

• Blanco, Texas, with the main part of the meeting at the Frank and Pamela Arnosky’s farm, some of our most famous specialty cut growers. Old home days for long-term members, and a great way to see a larger farm operation, with great sessions.

• Raleigh, North Carolina, at the seat of cut flower research for the U.S. Equipment, tours and plant diseases, and a view into postharvest research. This is applicable country wide due to the rigorous work by John Dole and his team. Incredibly valuable stuff!

• Wooster, Ohio, where we’ll go literally seeding to sale of some of our most popular and pain-in-the-butt crops in specialty cuts. Great speakers, tour of some very cool folks.

• Saunderstown, Rhode Island where we’ll have two tracks: our ever-popular grower’s school format with lots of hands-on learning and a track on the business and record-keeping end of farming.

All the meetings will have ample time for networking and gabbing and catching up and meeting people and all the parts we love the best. We will have great partnerships with vendors that are some of our best experts in these areas as well. And for the national conference junkies out there, just hold the 2014 conference at the resplendent Longwood Gardens close to your heart. I hope to meet many new people next year, and warm my heart with familiar faces, no matter where you are. Please save the dates and come to at least one meeting for 2013. Our strength as an organization is ALL of you.