Greetings from south-central Pennsylvania! I am quite honored to be appointed as your new Mid-Atlantic Regional Director. A tremendous thanks to Lisa Ziegler and her many years of generous service to the ASCFG and to each of us as growers. I have such big shoes to fill!

I made an assumption that much of this Quarterly will be about COVID-19, and decided to write about something else; so here’s a little bit of my personal story and perspective. 

My first ASCFG meeting was in Worcester, Massachusetts, I believe in 1999. Fresh out of college, working my first real job, wrangling teenagers for John LaSalle in his dahlia field, I had never experienced so many kind people. Worcester was about an hour from where I lived, and although I cannot remember her name, one ASCFG member even offered to share her hotel room with me so I wouldn’t have to drive home late at night (I was of course way too shy to accept)! This truly summarizes the generous spirit of the ASCFG!

And I’m going to go straight to an emerging topic as our membership mushrooms: membership generosity does not equal asking other people to do your groundwork. I can honestly say that my farm would not be anything without the ASCFG and all the knowledge I’ve gained through it. And yet, my farm and my knowledge did not materialize overnight.  My farm is 14 years old, I’ve been growing flowers for 20+ years, and I still have sooo much to learn! Be patient, new growers! Make mistakes, run trials, do lots and lots of research, go to every conference you can, don’t expect to be profitable that first year, take copious notes, make more mistakes! Tenacity is my favorite characteristic of farmers. You’ve got this.

Here are a few quick facts about me and my farm. We grow about 6 acres of flowers on our 10-acre property. Our main product is a mixed bouquet to supermarkets, but we also do design work for local colleges and businesses, bulk buckets for DIY events, attend one farmers’ market, and have on-farm pop-up shops. I love the business aspect of farming and could talk numbers all day long. This year, we’ve got two full-time workers plus about eight part-time, all seasonal. My family is always my first priority; the shape and direction of my business is greatly influenced by this.

Sustainability for us means growing what naturally thrives in our climate, using as few inputs as possible, having time off in winter, and always being fiscally sound. My husband, Mike, has a separate landscape company. We are each other’s sounding boards, but we do our best to keep our businesses separate.

And a final truth: as with many other surprises in my life, Roots is so much more than I ever could have imagined. Honestly, when I started, it was going to be just me going to one or two farmers’ markets. But I really believe that when doors open, it is always best to walk through them.

The newest doorway is me writing to you! How can I serve you? How can I support you? What information do you have the most trouble accessing through the ASCFG? What unique challenges do you face in our Region? What is the best thing you get from your membership? I am truly excited to meet each of you. Email is the best way to reach me: [email protected] The rest of 2020 is going to be a wild ride, without question. Let’s do this together.

Michelle Elston

[email protected]