When I stepped into the role of Board member for the ASCFG I really did not know what to expect. After a whirlwind week in Denver I feel the need to let all of my fellow ASCFG members know what a great group of people we have working for us. There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes, the boring stuff that has to happen in order to keep this organization moving forward. So, a hearty thank you to each and every person who works so hard, for all that you do and for welcoming me (and my entourage) so warmly.
After Denver, we flew home to get cracking on the next conference, the OSU Small Farms Conference and the PNWCFG Meetup which happened the next weekend.
This is the fourth year I have been involved with the OSU conference, and it has been really neat to watch this relationship blossom. The conference is put on by the OSU Extension service. As one of the original Land Grant universities in the U.S., Oregon State University has a long history of service to the community and outreach through our Extension Services. The Small Farms conference hosts 900-1100 attendees each year.
Cut flowers weren’t included in a mainstream way until 2016, when Elizabeth Bryant of Rose Hill Flower Farm was asked to help coordinate a cut flower track. Over the last four years we’ve expanded our presence at the conference to include three cut flower sessions during the day. Over the years we’ve had lots of wonderful speakers join us, many of whom are ASCFG members. This year we were fortunate to have Mimo Davis and Miranda Duschack join us.
It’s always so interesting to talk to people at this sort of event. They hear that we are flower farmers and many times I can see the mental eye roll, as if they’re thinking, “Right, you grow flowers, but are you really a farmer?” Then they attend one of our sessions and you can see that understanding occur, that yes, flower farming is a thing and we’re doing it, and doing it well. So a big thank you to all of those speakers who have helped over the years to bring the light of flowers to the mainstream farming community!
Our fellow growers in the PNW joined us on Sunday, after the Small Farms Conference, for a deep dive into flower farming. This year we celebrated five years of the Pacific Northwest Cut Flower Growers group and meetup with a new venue and greatly expanded class offerings. We were inspired by the top-notch conferences, like the ASCFG, to enhance our session offerings to try to include classes that would cater to newer farmers, but also something for the more experienced farmers in our ranks. This took the form of classes on crop profitability and analysis, a session on hiring employees and writing contracts (facilitated by one of our growers who also happens to be an adjunct law professor!), and a session on integrated pest management.
Alongside talks on season extension, woodies and roses, and crop planning, we offered a two-part sustainable floristry class led by the fabulous Tobey Nelson, of Tobey Nelson Events in Seattle. This is a topic that is near and dear to Tobey, and many of our attendees and the knowledge that she shared was phenomenal. During the hands-on session the class created an amazing piece of “foam-free floristry” which is something that we are seeing more and more traction for here in the PNW, and hope to see across the nation as we start to see more and more people looking for better, more sustainable ways to put together large-scale floral installations.
With 125 attendees, this year was the largest group that we’ve hosted for the PNW Meetup. It was wonderful, and exhausting, and invigorating. Farmers, florists, and industry reps from five states and British Columbia joined us. We ate, drank, learned, shared, laughed, and enjoyed each other’s company. It’s something that I highly recommend—getting together with similarly-minded people to learn is never time wasted. So, if you have the opportunity to go to a conference, meetup, class, drink night, garden tour, do it! There’s nothing more inspiring than learning!