Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritime Provinces
Greetings, fellow flower farmers. Ah, autumn. Best time to walk the field and fill in the blank “notes” section of your sowing schedule from this past spring. You know what I’m talking about: prioritizing just a couple hours to walk the beds, to jot down reminders now, while memory’s fresh and crop residues are right there in plain view.The field walk is devoted to recording, on the sowing schedule and crop map, various things we’ve noticed that we really want to be sure we remember, so next year’s crew doesn’t find itself re-inventing that wheel all over again. In agriculture, it’s inevitable that every year each crop fares differently than others, plus the school of trial and error often comes into play as well. I read somewhere “A mistake is a mistake only if you make it twice.
” To ideally avoid those frustrating repeat scenarios, this is the right time to record, in the right place, things like:
• Support mesh over tall, wiry crops (pincushion, ammi, gomphocarpus, snaps, lissies) one week after first cultivation, because in just two weeks the plants will be sprawling into the path. Super-inefficient to be reining in crops gone sprawly!
• Prune soon-dwindling crops that produce a strong second bloom (annual dianthus, annual delphinium, ageratum, pincushion) or chop them down (we use a machete) and scuffle in a quick cover crop that produces either cuttable material (oats, grains) or fixes nitrogen (field peas, whose mature foliage holds up well once cut—bonus!).
• Harvest one-third of anything that you can sell dried while it’s still coming on strong in the field (nigella pods, celosia, sea holly, statice, gomphrena, grains, grasses) because tired field flowers equals brittle, dull dried flowers.
• Adjust your sowing schedule and transplant numbers to fill in any gaps in production, or to avoid over-production. This is tough for me, since I don’t like composting living transplants. Better to sell them as “cutting garden six-packs” at the farmers’ market or farm stand. I believe that’s called “creating a niche” in marketing lingo.
This Summer’s Farm Hop Was Great!
Nothing like touring farms to learn about farming, eh? (except for actually farming, perhaps). Or in the off season, getting together with other growers to jaw about whatever comes up (planting a seed here for winter road trips and fireside chats).
In early August, a bunch of folks from the ASCFG’s Northeast Region gathered in Ontario, about an hour west of Toronto, to tour three ASCFG member farms. I would like to acknowledge the host farms for accommodating the Hop: Green Park Nurseries, William Dam Seeds, and La Primavera Farm. Thank you all for taking time to show us your farms, introduce us to your crew, answer all sorts of questions, and provide snacks and beverages! Plus shelter when the heavy rain came—precisely at 5:30 after an afternoon of looming thunder and lightning.
The first stop on the hop was Green Park Nurseries, where the Vahrmeyer family produces cut ornamental branches for the wholesale market. Some of you may have seen Karl Vahrmeyer’s presentation at the Rhode Island conference. What a pleasure to stroll acres of well-maintained shrubs, just prior to their busy autumn harvest season when all that material is cut and trucked to the Toronto Flower Exchange!
After lunch we stopped at William Dam Seeds, where the William Dam family trials seed and plant performance, maintains display gardens for Fleuroselect and All-America Selections, and packages and ships seed. Their website tells the interesting history of this family business, and of the seed importing industry as well. The photo on the left shows a quick way to trap Japanese beetles—no climbing out of that sippy cup full of soapy water!
Our last tour was at La Primavera Farm, where father Juan Feddes and daughter Joanne Feddes produce cut flowers for five farmers’ markets and for wholesale to the Toronto Exchange. Joanne also designs for weddings and events. La Primavera was fascinating to me because of their extensive experience in several different ag businesses; a farming family for sure!
All these businesses keep active Facebook pages, worth checking out to get a glimpse of their commitment to both quality and community. I love it that all three farms are run by generations of family; that to me is something special.