This is my final column for The Cut Flower Quarterly, and in fact, my final season as a commercial cut flower grower. I would be mourning a loss of identity if it weren’t for the fact that I am so darned excited about what is next!

Sometime shortly after Thanksgiving, Thomas and I will be relocating permanently to the island of Madeira, Portugal. My asthma simply can’t handle another Vermont winter, and Madeira has a mercifully mild climate. The whole island is in full flower 12 months a year, and temperatures rarely stray from a narrow 55-75 degree range. Call me Goldilocks, but I’m excited to live where the weather is “just right” for the first time.

The reasons for the move are myriad. I have dreamt of growing a tropical garden for approximately 40 years, which I have found difficult to do in New England and New York! While Madeira is technically subtropical, nearly all plants flourish there, from temperate to tropical, and everything in between. Bananas with delphinium? No problem. Tree ferns with potatoes? Easy.

Janis Harris, Linda Doan, and Bailey Hale shared their floral design expertise at the conference in Framingham.

It would be hard to list all of our failures in our farming journey, but fortunately a few things have worked. My favorite developments through the years have been the evolution of our plug brokerage firm Farmer Bailey, and our foray into sweet pea seed production. Both enterprises have brought me closer to growers all over the world, and I cherish these interactions. I take great pride in seeing folks post photos of their successes grown from seeds and plugs we helped them access. These two ventures will very much continue from our new perch on a tiny rock in the Atlantic Ocean. Madeira is equipped with lightning-fast internet (quite unlike rural Vermont), and the climate should be ideal for my beloved sweet peas. I plan to continue to supply the U.S. to the best of my ability. I will also increase my orchid collection and look forward to growing proteas, birds of paradise, gingers, and all sorts of other cut crops of which I have long dreamt. We will have a cut flower garden, not a flower farm, and I am at peace with that notion.

You will still see me at ASCFG events and I will continue to track down the latest and greatest new varieties for all of you back home. If anything, I will have more time to research cut flowers, and greater access to the horticultural centers of Europe where the newest varieties are often developed and introduced. The cut flower industry is truly global and what happens in Europe, Japan or Kenya directly affects you and your business. I will be in the middle of it all, advocating for American growers just as I have been doing.

I must take this opportunity to thank the ASCFG for its instrumental role in my farming career. Participation in this group has changed the direction and quality of my life and I will always feel a debt of gratitude. I have deep appreciation for Judy and Linda for keeping this association active, organized, and relevant for nearly 35 years now. They have truly facilitated the movement that has swept the nation and launched thousands of new careers and businesses. I would also like to thank every person who has served on the board through the years. I was unprepared for the amount of work it takes to help guide an organization such as ours, and I appreciate all of the time and effort freely given by so many growers who have previously served on the board.

Most of all I want to thank you, my fellow ASCFG members. You have become my friends and my family. Nobody else understands what we do like our flower farming colleagues. I was so tickled to reconnect with so many of you in August at the recent conference. People are what make this organization so incredible. If you have gained knowledge from other ASCFG members I encourage you to keep showing up and to keep sharing your knowledge freely. There is a temptation to take what you have learned and profit from it without giving back. Speaking as one who has profited from the free knowledge of others, I view it as my duty to continue to share what I have learned along the way and I hope you will join me in keeping this tradition alive.

Keep on growing, keep on learning, keep on sharing, don’t work too hard, keep in touch, and by all means, let me know when you’re in the neighborhood. I think we’re long overdue for the first international ASCFG meeting!

Bailey Hale

Ardelia Farm & Co.

Contact him at [email protected]