We’re Ready to Roll with In-person Events in 2022!

Happy early spring, everyone!

As I write this column, I’ve just returned from the first in-person Board meeting we’ve been able to hold in TWO years. It’s impossible to describe the pure joy I felt in being able to see just about the entire Board in person, instead of remotely over Zoom.
Can you believe that some of our newer Board members have never been to an in-person board meeting, or met each other face to face? Sure, that’s been the way of the world for what seems like forever, and now it feels like a miracle, just to be able to sit side by side, catching up, planning, chatting…connecting.

Naturally, not everyone was able to come in person due to ongoing COVID restrictions or schedules and I’m especially grateful to Janis Harris, our Canada Regional Director, who stuck with us, actively participating on Zoom for a solid day and a half of meeting—definitely not for the faint of heart!
Before I came on the Board five years ago as Southeast Regional Director, I occasionally wondered what the Board actually did (well, if I thought about it at all), outside of our national conferences and smaller, often regional, meetings.
As we approach 3,000 members (wow! It’s hard to believe we were just a hair over 1,100 five years ago), your Board members keep the ASCFG’s mission squarely in front of us:

Our mission is to support specialty cut flower growers by creating accessible educational opportunities and research for growers at every stage in their development of financially sustainable businesses. We build community through peer-to-peer learning and mentorship. We share an interest in environmental sustainability and the pursuit of personal and financial well-being and success.

The words “accessible educational opportunities” are a particularly prominent theme for us in 2022.

By the time you read this, we hope to have announced the hiring of our first-ever Education Director, an exciting new role for the ASCFG!

As background, in our 34-year history, the ASCFG has produced a wide range of educational events, and we’ve expanded our offerings to online platforms as the organization has worked to unite and educate members across North America and several other countries. As part of our broader strategic plan (yes, we have one and it’s posted on the www.ascfg.org site, under About Us, last summer we contracted with a consultant who created a Comprehensive Education Content Development Plan after evaluating our current membership and our educational programs. The Plan includes a series of recommendations to systematically align our educational content to the needs and wants of specific audience groups within our membership. Central to the plan is the additional of a new staff role: Education Director.

The ideal candidate for Education Director will have a passion for educating growers, along with the experience, skills, and collaborative approach to develop and implement broad-ranging educational offerings for our diverse members—from longtime seasoned growers, to intermediate growers, and to growers who have been at it only a year or two. This is a BIG role and I’m excited to bring her or him on board!

A second HUGE aspect of the “accessible educational opportunities” I mentioned is to bring back in-person meetings for those who can and are able to join in person—just like we did for our spring Board meeting.

At our first in-person Board meeting in two years, we celebrated Managing Director Linda Twining and her 20 years with the ASCFG. Back row, from left: Susan Rockwood, Val Schirmer, Lennie Larkin, Judy Laushman, Shanti Rade, Michelle Elston. Front row, from left: Erin McMullen, Linda Twining, Bailey Hale, and Linda Doan. 

Our Conference Planning Committee has been hard at work putting together a GREAT event!

If information hasn’t come out about this already, it will, very soon.

It will be a two-day conference held in the Boston area on August 1-2, followed by a farm tour the morning of the third. This date was chosen because August is a bit of a summer slump for many growers, who take a break in the heat of the summer (plus it might be really nice to head to the cooler north when it’s steamy throughout other parts of the country!).

The Conference Committee, led by Southeast Regional Director Linda Doan, has put together a STELLAR program with an exciting group of presenters. Our goal has been for it to appeal to beginning as well as experienced growers (which is no small task!).
As soon as the Educational Director comes on board, one of his or her top priorities will be to immediately set to work on conferences (yes, plural) for 2023, held in other areas of the country so more members can easily attend.
Just a heads up: registrations at the Boston conference will be capped at 250 (due to constraints at the venue), so if those dates will work for you and you’re interested in coming once you see the full agenda, please be sure to register as soon as you can.

What does your Board do when they’re not sitting in the Board meeting? They head to the New Orleans Botanical Gardens, of course!

Finally, a word about Farm Tours

Last year’s nine stand-alone Farm Tours quickly became one of the most popular programs we’ve introduced. We are hoping to be able to announce more of these events throughout North America very soon, and add even more throughout the season.

The chance to meet top-notch experienced growers and farmer-florists—in person, on cut flower farms—and mingle with old friends and new also there, is a benefit that no other organization can offer its members.

We will continue to support the farms who host a Tour by helping them organize and produce the event, reimbursing their expenses, and paying them a stipend for the time and trouble they take to prepare for and host the Tour, while keeping the cost low for attendees to register to come.

Last year I was able to go to two (one on the other side of the country and one just a state away) and it was SO incredible to be back together with fellow growers again. And I can’t wait to do it again!

For now, here’s to a great year for all of us, and can’t wait to see lots of you soon!

The Spring Board Meeting, held at an airbnb in New Orleans, also included a visit with Denise Richter at Pistil & Stamen’s new farm location. 

Val Schirmer

Three Toads Farm

Val Schirmer is founder of Three Toads Farm, Winchester, Kentucky. Contact her at [email protected]