Three pieces in this issue have intersecting points of interest.
I had a ball transcribing the New York Times article about the status of the United States—at least the northeastern sector—floral industry in 1870. One of my favorite images is the one of “putting the unsold residuum of a day’s itinerary in a wet mop over night and saving it for the next morning’s traffic”. We did our best to find original photos representative of the people, flowers, events, and designs mentioned, but didn’t come up with any of flowers stuck in mop heads.
The narrative describing the “Floral Bohomians” (sic) and the “Bedouins of Flora”, as impolitic as those terms may be considered, sounded familiar. It seems parallel to the often-discussed topic of the North American floral industry returning to its original roots, where the farmer was also the transporter, the seller, and sometimes the designer. Here we see the personifications of those long-ago growers, which dovetail with much of the ASCFG membership: small growers doing it all, many as one-person businesses.
All growers, regardless of experience or farm size, need assistance when production issues rise to a level when they can’t be managed in house. But, as Peter Konjoian and Raymond Cloyd discuss in this issue, it’s no longer the case that the friendly neighborhood extension agent will stop by your farm or greenhouse to diagnose a pest or disease issue, recommend treatment, and even come back later to check on the results.
The nature of our “specialty” cut flowers, as compared to bedding plants, poinsettias, or even nursery stock, means that pest and disease problems aren’t always familiar to the few remaining extension personnel. The ASCFG is extremely fortunate to have entomologist Stanton Gill from the University of Maryland system, Wisconsin’s plant pathologist Brian Hudelson, and James DelPrince, Mississippi State University, who generously share their expertise at our meetings, in publications, and through social media. Let’s hope that future USDA budgets will continue their funding.
At the same time, and as always the case for this organization, our members know that they can turn to each other for advice and shared experience. The ASCFG is well known for its uncommonly generous population. Using our sixteen-year-old, but still relevant, online Bulletin Board, and Members Only Facebook page, as well as face to face networking at meetings and on farm tours, our growers do their best to make sure their colleagues may share the most accurate information on all kinds of topics.
One issue with social media, as Mimo Davis alludes in her Regional Report, is that the soft-focus, sun-kissed images often seen on web sites and blogs can create unrealistic expectations for new growers, or frustrations for established growers perhaps exhausted by summer heat, early frosts, or incompetent labor. It’s almost refreshing when people share the reality of unexpected weather events, deer or insect damage, or just plain plant failure. It happens, at some point, to everyone. Flower farming, like old age, is not for sissies.
No matter your stage in the cut flower business, please don’t store unsold bouquets in wet mop heads.