Happy Spring! I hope you’re all well on your way to another glorious growing season! This past long, cold winter has given me ample time to reflect on the 2018 season and plan for 2019. Learning opportunities and time for research have been abundant and I’m feeling ready to tackle this coming season.
Unfortunately, winter weather caused us to cancel our little gathering of the Midwest Farmer Florist Collaborative in Omaha. It was very disappointing as January is such a great time to dig into business planning. February brought the next great opportunity for learning in Denver at the “Focus on the Business of Cut Flowers” event. Wow, what a great lineup of speakers to get us all thinking about how we run our floral ventures.
After years of attending conferences and coming home with copious numbers of notes, I’ve finally determined that I’m much better off if I can take away just a handful of very obtainable goals. As an ASCFG member you will have access to videos of many of the sessions, but in case you don’t have time to watch them, here is a speed version of a few things that I want to apply to our business.
- Check on the profitability of a few crops. Wondering if I’m making any money on a specific crop is always in the back of my mind, but who really has time to give it much thought during the rush of the season? Diane Szukovathy of Jello Mold Farm got me thinking about it again and I’ve decided that if I can do crop costing/enterprise budget on at least three of my top crops this year I will be happy. That will be three more than I did last year! And if you’re wondering what crop costing is it’s just a fancy way of saying “How much money do I actually make on this crop after expenses?”
- Take at least one step towards better bookkeeping. Thank you Laura Beth Resnick of Butterbee Farm for that little prod! Our little business started as just selling a few veggies from one small table at a tiny farmers’ market, and I feel like parts of our bookkeeping are still at that level. We didn’t really have a plan when starting our business, and now going backwards and trying to develop one is not always easy.
- Get some legal advice. Once again Poppy Davis has convinced me about the legal end of running our business. New tax laws have changed things up a bit and consulting with a professional is the only way that I think we’ll feel comfortable with where we are. We’d much rather grow a few extra flowers to pay a professional than to try to wrap our brains around it all.
- Improve profitability by decreasing expenses. That bit of advice came from Lily Schneider and sounds so easy but is so hard to implement. With all the new varieties of seeds, plants, bulbs, and tubers it’s pretty hard to say no and decrease expenses in that area, but I’m going to be keeping an eye out for ways that money is leaking away from our farm.
- Make sure we’re running a professional business in all our interactions with our customers. Steve and Gretel from Sunny Meadows Flower Farm, and Anna Jane Kocon with Little State Flower Company all had some great points on dealing with our customers, keeping it professional and making it work for all involved.
I encourage you to pick one area of your business this year you think needs improvement and focus on it. There are still two more ASCFG learning opportunities this year. Do your business a favor and attend one of them if you can.
It was so nice to get together with a few of the North and Central Region members while in Denver, to make new flower friends and put a face and farm name together! Hopefully our paths will cross again in the future.
After all of the great sessions in Denver my brain was feeling a bit overloaded but the board meeting was just what I needed to get super pumped about the future of the ASCFG. Jennie Love has stepped into the role of president of our organization and, along with the other board members, is putting many new projects and plans into motion. I can’t wait to see how they all develop!
As I write this, our dahlia tubers are still looking great in storage and we’ll be starting to pull them out of our cooler soon. Time to wake those babies up! We’ve invested in a few new varieties this year and as always, I can’t wait to see them bloom. A picture is great but there’s nothing quite like seeing the first bloom open on a new variety. With the huge increase in the number of flower farmers in recent years, the demand for dahlias has skyrocketed. It was like a treasure hunt this winter seeking out those coveted tubers from near and far! I hope you were all able to find a few new treasures also.
After taking a few years off we are once again participating in the ASCFG Cut Flower Seed Trial. If you’ve never done this, and you’ve got a bit of growing experience, I’d encourage you to give it a whirl. It’s so exciting to be involved with bringing new varieties to the commercial market. Those Vincent sunflowers we all love? We trialed those before they were commercially available and we gave them rave reviews! Of course there are always some duds too but that’s what keeps it interesting. Trialing involves diligence and record keeping but it’s rewarding to see everyone’s results at the end of the season, and know that you played a part in getting beautiful, new varieties out into the flowering world. Here’s hoping you have a flower-filled summer!