As many of you have heard the National Conference in Delaware was a huge success, and I was so happy to see so many new and upcoming growers in attendance and all the faces of old friends. Even though I’ve been growing flowers for over ten years now, I always come away from these meetings learning something new. The priceless friendships and networking that goes on is awesome. I was so happy to meet many growers that I have gotten to know through Facebook and finally get to meet them in person.
My highlight was the afternoon of design sessions with Jennie Love and Sullivan Owen, as well as the wedding panel discussion. When the doors opened and all the attendees pretty much stampeded in to get their seats, I knew it was going to be spectacular. A huge segment of our ASCFG membership is doing event and wedding work, locally-grown design has become very popular, and it can be a profitable avenue for your flowers. It also can be very time consuming, and it’s not for everyone.
So you have to live your life and make the choices that are right for you and your farm. Sometimes we think that we may want to do farmers’ markets, and then find out it’s not our cup of tea and find another way to sell our flowers, and that’s okay. Family demographics, current employee situations, weather, health, and current trends can change and affect what direction you go.
Years ago when I started growing flowers, all I had was an ASCFG membership, the internet with snail-speed search capability, a couple of books, limited funds due to two boys at Texas A&M, and a huge desire to grow flowers and be successful. And let’s not forget I was younger then.
There was no Facebook, Instagram, iPhones, YouTube videos of how to do about just anything, or high-speed internet. I didn’t have a great group of flower friend mentors that I have now to call upon when I have questions. I firmly believe you get back what you put in. I strongly encourage you to attend meetings, learn how to use the internet, read, read and read, and learn how to use social networking.
As I’m talking and sharing with several members in my Region, I’m happy to say that most are adding greenhouses, adding more florists and farmers’ markets, and some are dabbling in the wedding business. Being Regional Director for three years now, I’ve somehow progressed into this group of flower groupies who seem to talk all the time, and when I know the answers (or my opinion of what the answer is), I share but otherwise I try to point them in the right direction to who know may know the answer. I love that we’ve all become good friends thanks to social media and it’s not just business anymore, it’s lifelong friendships growing.
One grower in our Region, Denise Taft, had to retire because her husband hurt his back so through networking we sold off her greenhouse and pretty much all her supplies, thus helping Kim Stearns of Austin, another up-and-coming flower grower. This is exciting!
On my farm, our growth has been checked by the lack of water. We weren’t able to add any more beds this year but made the ones we have more profitable. I touched briefly on our water situation in the fall 2014 Quarterly, but wanted to share a little more about why our water levels are dropping. In Texas there are a lot of fracking water wells being drilled, population levels are growing daily, and drought issues all contribute to why my two wells are producing half of what they were two years ago. There is also a shortage of well drillers available, which results in us having to wait till next year for our well to be drilled. It also will have to be at least 300 feet deep to find water.
Last November, “60 Minutes” aired a program about water shortages. It was very interesting and educational about how they know what areas of the United States have low groundwater levels. There is a NASA satellite called GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) that measures this very thing, and maps out water shortages worldwide. They showed a map of the low water areas and California and our area of Texas were two areas of several.
Here is a link to the story: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/earth/space-weighing-groundwater-lost-irrigation/
I have always thought that whoever came up with bottled water is a genius, and now that very gallon of water may be worth more than a gallon of gas.
I also want to share some information on making a heated seed-starting table that Frank Arnosky talked about at the Conference. He also had told us about his system in March at the Fort Worth Growers’ School. I didn’t need heat till recently so put that project on the back burner and decided to work on it now. I ordered the 100-foot cable from my Gloeckner rep who in turn had to get in touch with the main office to have it special ordered since they don’t carry it on hand. I received the cable and then went down to the lumber yard and purchased two 4 x 8 x ½” foil sheathing because the cable is enough to do 50 square feet and placed the sheathing over a table that I already had.
I took the cable as pictured and spaced it out back and forth over a sheet and half of the foil sheathing and I used fence staples pushed into the sheathing to keep it in place so they don’t touch. I then put old trays over the sheathing and the cable as pictured. You don’t need a thermometer because it seems to keep it at a steady temperature and it’s working like a charm. It plugs into a normal 110 wall plug. The directions that you get with the cable say to bury in sand, and to ground to a piece of hardware cloth. I spoke with Frank, who says he doesn’t do that, and has used the cable for 20 years with no problems, but if you want to go ahead and add the cloth and ground, you can. I have my table in a greenhouse that is minimally heated, closed and vented all winter. I’ve started one batch so far, and have almost 100% germination of stock and snapdragons which is all I planted this round.
A resource available to all ASCFG members is the online Community Network. It allows you to post pictures of your projects that worked or didn’t work. Sharing these with other members saves so much time for those who don’t know yet, and there is no use to reinvent the wheel if someone already has done it. So please use the resources available with your membership and please chime in on your experiences to help others too.
Another book I want to plug is Cool Flowers by Lisa Ziegler. If you’ve ever wondered “Can I plant this now and do I need to cover it or should I wait?” or “How do I start the seed to these cool flowers?” this book will answer those questions. You can find it on Amazon and I also believe you can buy it through the Gardener’s Workshop Page store front.
I hope all of you have a successful year.