As I’m writing the season is starting to ramp up. The plants are mostly planted, the tubers are all in, the irrigation is almost set—the freight train has left the station and any moment it will be barreling full force at us. Once flowers start rolling in I feel like the only thing to do is hold on and try to enjoy the ride.As I’m writing the season is starting to ramp up. The plants are mostly planted, the tubers are all in, the irrigation is almost set—the freight train has left the station and any moment it will be barreling full force at us. Once flowers start rolling in I feel like the only thing to do is hold on and try to enjoy the ride.For us, that ride encompasses a vast range of markets, and I thought it may be helpful to break it down as to where local flowers are being sold in our region. Keep in mind that our markets may vary greatly from where you are growing and marketing, in terms of product demand, price point, venues, and overall interest.

Once we decided to embrace flowers as our main crop it became very clear that we wouldn’t be able to make a living selling flowers at our local farmers’ markets, so we started looking for other opportunities.

So, where else do we (and can you) sell those beauties that you’ve got planted?  

Grocery Stores

So many grocery stores sell flowers, from the biggest chain stores down to the mom and pop corner store. But, how to get your foot in the door? Though it is awkward and uncomfortable, that’s exactly what you should do—get your foot in the door! Go into the store and check it out, do some recon. Do they have a stand-alone floral department? Is there a manager? Do they sell wrapped bouquets or straight bunches of single varieties?  Where are they getting flowers from now? What are their price points? Finding out all of these things before you make contact can give you time to form a plan of attack, allowing you to go in armed with price points and bouquet or bunch size.

Setting up for a successful grocery season starts in the winter planning. Making sure  you have sufficient flowers that fall into the three categories of focals, fillers, and foliage can mean the difference between success and failure when it comes to providing consistent bouquets to grocery (or at farmers’ markets for that matter). It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of thousands of sunflowers and dahlias, and forget to plant that statice to put around them!

Wholesale/Designers

This is a hugely varied avenue and people are successful with a great range of tactics to sell through. Bucket trucks are a popular way to sell your flowers to florists and we started driving from store to store with a car full of beautiful blooms. It’s a great way to make connections, show off your product, and get an understanding about what your local florists are looking for. Doing research about pricing and bunch size is imperative for success in selling directly to florists. As is having the right product going in the door. We find that our event designers lean towards blush, pinks, whites, and saturated colors (think deep jewel tones). Brick and mortar stores tend towards a little more color. Being able to provide unique flowers or colors to our designers and florists helps to set us, as local growers, apart from the product that is flown in and can help to bridge the gap in pricing that you will inevitably hear about.

While the bucket truck is a great way to get your product out there, it is time consuming. Sending out availability ahead of time is useful, and there are some great platforms to help with online ordering (like Shopify). We also found that as we established relationships with florists in our area we shifted many to on-farm pickup, and were able to eliminate that bucket truck and the time that it took off farm.

The wholesale avenue has been the game changer for us. We are fortunate to be part of a thriving farmer-owned cooperative in Seattle, and we’re incredibly grateful to those hard-working farmers who put in the blood, sweat, and tears to get the market going.

We also have a stall at the Portland wholesale market that allows us to control our product and connect directly with designers. Once we increased our volume and output we started looking at larger, more conventional wholesalers to sell direct to. Mayesh has been a great connection for us, allowing us to sell large quantities of product as flushes come on. As with all other sales channels, knowing the functionality of a market is key to being able to navigate it successfully, so go to your local wholesaler. Get a day pass and check it out!

Bulk Buckets/Weddings

We do some design, and it’s fun, but generally more stressful than I’m up for. So I’ll leave that discussion to the pros, and just say that there’s plenty of work if you’re interested.

What we have found success with is bulk buckets and direct sales, aimed at the DIY crowd. Our bulk bucket sales made up 80% of our direct wedding or event sales last year, and they’re easy! We offer “farmers’ choice” buckets for a base rate of $85 each. These include ample focals, fillers, and foliage to create 5-7 bouquets per bucket. We allow for one color exclusion. The beauty of this system is that we can glean through our coolers for things that we have lots of, things that we won’t sell through our wholesale channels, and still provide high quality product that brides wouldn’t have access to otherwise. We do offer color palette buckets as well:  brides can give us a color range and we’ll build buckets for them in those colors—those buckets are closer to the $115-125 range. We also sell straight bunches of product for a 2.5% mark up over our wholesale pricing.

The majority of our bulk bucket brides come to us through our social media, farmers’ market, and word of mouth.

Farmers’ Markets

The first place we sold flowers is still one of my favorites. Although it is not the most profitable avenue for sales, it is the most fun. Nothing beats spending the morning chatting with customers and slinging flowers. We’ve found that for our market having 2-3 price points is perfect. We try to always offer a mixed bouquet, a posy, and a few straight bunches. As I mentioned above, we get great exposure and word of mouth through our farmers’ markets and continue to attend (this year marks our 20th season!), to build and maintain those relationships with our community.

Flower Share

Offering some sort of a flower share is a great way to build clientele and get the word out about your flowers. We partner with a local coffee shop to drop bouquets for our members once a week, at two different locations. In exchange, we provide their shops with fresh flowers throughout the season. It ends up being a win-win. We get to have a pleasant central location for people to pick up our bouquets, they get beautiful flowers, and we get our flowers in front of hundreds of people, every day.

Lastly…

There are a few miscellaneous places that we sell/use our flowers that are worth mentioning.About 10 years ago we put out a roadside stand—really just our old chicken coop with a cash box attached. We diligently stock it throughout the summer as we have overflow and sell hundreds of bouquets every week.

Business subscriptions are a bit of a hustle for us, since we aren’t a “florist”, but we deliver alongside our flower shares, and have flowers in offices all over town.

Flower workshops and pop-up shops are fun, and for us, fairly easy with a built-in venue at our partner coffee shops, but we have also partnered with yoga studios, vineyards, and non-profits to bring flowers to the people.

Trades. Okay, while technically not selling our flowers, trading with other local businesses lets us attend a great gym, take yoga classes, eat out at our favorite brewery (‘cause who has time to cook in the season, am I right?), and have fresh, local, organic produce all summer long.

So many places to sell your flowers. Where do you sell them? Where are your successes, and failures? I’d love to hear about other people’s creative outlets for their flowers!

In the meantime, happy growing!

Erin McMullen

Rain Drop Farm

Erin McMullen Rain Drop Farm [email protected]