30 Years Young!

1988. The year the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers was formed.

When I think back to that, we were still two years away from moving to the country, to a small farm we named Three Toads Farm. One thing I just learned that we have in common: the notion for the ASCFG was conceived in a bar, and the idea for our little cut flower farm was conceived over some Kentucky bourbon on our front porch. That just might say something about the force behind every big, totally far-fetched idea! Sometimes we just need to get our courage up.

As you all know by now, the ASCFG is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018, the same time Three Toads Farm is celebrating our 20th anniversary. I don’t recall if in 1988 I’d heard of the ASCFG, but I sure did two years later, when we were making just about every mistake known to man in our attempt to grow Oriental lilies! That’s when my flower farm partner (our good friend Charlie Hendricks, who still enjoys a good bourbon on our porch) and I said we need to either get a LOT better at this flower farming, or find another weekend hobby. So we recruited a third partner to help Charlie with the growing end, and I joined the ASCFG to figure out what in the world we were doing.

And THAT was our turning point.


The first year I joined the ASCFG, I went to the National Conference in Texas. Wowzer. I came back bursting with newfound knowledge, insights, and ideas from the presentations, excited about what I learned firsthand in the farm tours—and full of confidence that, yeah, we just might be able to actually do this.

And you know, I feel the very same way every time I go to another conference or meeting, visit another grower’s farm and talk with other farmers and, now, farmer-florists, whether they’re long-time growers or itching to get started. There’s just no other organization like this.

At one time, I got too busy with work and had to step away from flower farming for a few years. When I came back, I immediately rejoined the ASCFG and was so excited to see that things had not changed at all; in fact, they have just gotten better.

When I think back on a couple of big things the ASCFG has meant to me, these three things really stand out

• Branding. At my very first meeting in Texas, I listened hard when Frank and Pamela Arnosky talked about the power of branding and how that sets you apart: naming your business, creating a logo and promoting who you are and why you’re unique. We had our farm name, and I paid a landscape architect who I knew had an undergraduate in art, to create our logo. I totally bought in to what they were saying, and it’s made a big difference in the reputation we’ve built over the years. Today I see so many members who have done the same thing, and more.

• Growing lisianthus. If it wasn’t that first conference, it had to have been the next one where Bob Wollam gave a presentation on growing lisianthus. I came back, talked my partners into giving them a go, and we planted our first lisianthus that year. We put them next to the sunflowers so they wouldn’t take up a bunch of space, and we didn’t net them because at that time we didn’t net anything else. We loved them, our customers loved them, and we gave them a whole lot more respect the following year, and every year since. Lisianthus is one of those cool flowers that just keeps getting better and better. I was so excited at our Board meeting last November when Linda Doan agreed to give a presentation on the crazy gorgeous new varieties of lisianthus at our National Conference in Raleigh this year. The learning never stops!

• This community is like no other. From the very first meeting, to every one I’ve been to and just about every contact I’ve ever had with another member, I continue to be astonished by the kindness and generosity our members have for each other. We don’t keep secrets; we share our secrets with one another. We learn from our mistakes and our successes, and then we share it.

This is an amazing organization, and a wonderfully astonishing group of people. Bring on the NEXT 30 years!