Greetings fellow flower growers. In early February I attended my first ASCFG board meeting; a full two-day agenda that moved along at a productive clip due to the snowstorm, and last-minute scramble to get to the airport as flights were being cancelled in every direction.

It was a pleasure to be in the company of five other Regional Directors, our new President and Vice president, our Executive Advisor, our Secretary, Treasurer, and the gals (Linda and Judy) who manage the daily activities of our association headquarters in Oberlin, Ohio. There we were, 13 flower geeks weighing in on current issues, swapping tales about ‘lemons & lemonade’, and how to best inform and represent the ASCFG membership.

I look forward to our next board meeting in conjunction with the ASCFG National Conference October 19-22 in Newark, Delaware.
Thanks to those of you who responded to the four survey questions I e-mailed back in January. Here are some excerpts:

Are you attending, or presenting at, any ag-related conferences?
“There were two conferences on Long Island in January, but I did not attend because I did not find the sessions relevant to me as a small cut flower grower. The focus was more on landscape, nursery, vegetable and ‘big-box’ six packs.”

“We are anxiously awaiting arrival of the paper chain pot components that we saw in use at the Rhode Island meeting last fall.”

“I gave talks on cut flowers at meetings in Delaware and Ontario counties (New York), and at the Empire Fruit and Vegetable Extension Show in Syracuse.  Interesting from all those meetings is that the participation by males seems to be increasing.  Traditionally, audiences for cut flower meetings have been predominantly women, and I don’t know what is causing this change in gender of people interested in cut flowers.”

“I gave a presentation at the New England Vegetable Growers Conference in December entitled the ‘The Tipping Points of Growing Our Flower Business: Taking Cut Flowers from Sideshow to Main Event’.”

“I attended UVM Extension’s ‘Holistic Farm Management’ workshop and connected with three other cut flower growers (one of whom is a new ASCFG member). We also created a Vermont cut flower growers group e-mail list to refer customers to, since we get a lot of requests for bulk DIY flowers and can’t accommodate them all.”

Garden club, horticulture club, or university extension events?

“We teach design classes during our slow time in late February and March. This year we are trying out a new class: how to arrange the bouquet you just brought home in your vase or other container, with  tips to make it look like a floral design. We’ll hand everyone a bouquet (or two) and show them some  tricks of the trade.”

“We do give several design presentations throughout the year (using as many of our own flowers as possible) to garden clubs, church groups, women’s groups etc.; part promotion, part public service.”

“I have been doing some public presenting: I gave a talk to a regional Cooperative Extension Cut Flower Conference about growing my top ten favorites and promoted the ASCFG. I have also been giving my ‘sharpest tool in the shed’ class on choosing the right tools and keeping them sharpened to several garden club groups as well as at several libraries.”

“I have three more cut flower presentations to make this winter; one is at Plantasia, our regional garden showcase, and one is at the Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin Martin House where I manage the landscape.”

“Around Christmastime I did a design demonstration for a garden club about making seasonal arrangements without Oasis. We used a lot of twigs, so that was fun.”

“I’m doing a design workshop at one of our wedding venues, Shelburne Vineyard.  We’ll be making a ‘living arrangement’ using spring flowers on the bulb, dogwoods & willows, and succulents. Anytime you’re doing a presentation, contact Judy or Linda at the ASCFG office and they’ll send you promo materials to spread the word about our association!”

Anyone dabbling in winter production during this deep freeze?

“I decided to make an effort to have product available for Mother’s Day.  The first lily bulbs should arrive this week and hopefully after a few weeks rooting the “Polar Vortex” will have passed and the days will be longer. Ko Klaver says keep the heat up. If I succeed it will have cemented relationships with my florists and wholesaler. If not, at least I will have learned what I did wrong.”

“I successfully tried season extension in my small greenhouse this past fall. My last farmers’ market was the last Saturday in October, but I was still picking lilies on December 17th.”

“I am thinking a lot about these cold temps, this week is when I usually start my greenhouse minimal heat.  I am considering building a mini hoophouse within my greenhouse and heating the mini house only.”

“We planted pre-germinated anemone and ranunculus in mid-December in our high tunnel. Much to my surprise, the anemone is already coming up. I hope they survive the frigid conditions we have been having. We are also trying to overwinter eucomis (pineapple lily), both in the tunnel and outside. This should be a good year to test winter hardiness.”

“No winter production of cut flowers besides twigs. I’ll plant some anemones in February/March and I’m going to try some ranunculus and poppies for spring, so that’ll be a fun experiment.”

Are you accessing the Bulletin Board and/or Community Network?

“Bulletin Board almost daily as messages come in; not accessing the Community Network as often.”

“I like the Bulletin Board because it is searchable.” (editor’s note: the Community Network is also searchable.)

“I’ve had some struggles getting the Bulletin Board from the new website. The new page does not fully show up on my computer, the top of the page does not display.”

“The Bulletin Board and the Community Network are great.”

“Yes to both. Here’s a peek at one of many important conversations you can join on the Bulletin Board (I copied this post from Jello Mold Farm): ‘FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER – the White House featured American Grown Flowers at a state dinner last week! This is a really big deal and bodes well for the growing awareness for our industry. Details are on the USDA Blog here http://blogs.usda.gov/2014/02/18/an-american-grown-state-dinner-featuring-americas-cut-flower-indust ry/. Please go on there and leave a comment letting USDA know this matters. Let’s flood ‘em with comments!’”.

“Looking at recent activity on the Community Network page, I see that several ASCFG members join the forum every day! Whenever I visit either the ‘BB’ or the ‘network’, I’m compelled to add something useful. The stronger each of us is as individual growers, the stronger our industry becomes as a whole. Definitely a win-win situation.”

Hats off to the regular contributors on both of these pages who are doing the lion’s share of info swapping.

In conclusion, the Northeast is approaching the end of this fabulously wintery winter, placing high in the record books regarding inches of snowfall, thickness of ice, number of flights cancelled, trees down, power outages, schools closed, and ‘yak-trax’ purchased (named after the sure-footed Tibetan yak, these are strap-on cleats for your boots that get a grip on the ice so you can actually go outside!). I hope you enjoyed the winter break as time well spent, as an opportunity to reflect on last year’s operations, and a lull in field production when you can gather info and connect with other growers. Best wishes for a productive season 2014!

Diana Doll

StrayCat Flower Farm

Diana Doll StrayCat Flower Farm Contact her at [email protected]