I Can't Wait to See you Again - in Person!

Hello, everyone, and welcome to 2022! I’m more than a little excited—and feeling more than a bit intimidated—to be writing my first column as your new ASCFG President.

This organization is a HUGE reason that our little flower farm has been successful, and I’ve been very thankful to try to give back by serving as the Southeast Regional Director, and an active member of your board for the past five years.

In this time, I’ve been so pleased to see our Regional membership grow from 138 to nearly 450 people, and I’m totally astonished that our global membership has gone from fewer than 1,000 members five short years ago to more than 2,700 today. The ASCFG’s greatest asset is our members, who include the finest flower farmers in the world!

I feel the amazing growth we’re experiencing is a direct tribute to your association’s leaders.

I’ve been able to see in person how your Board of Directors (who are all volunteers) and ASCFG staff (notably Executive Director Judy Laushman and Managing Director Linda Twining) have worked relentlessly to build on the Association’s 30+ year heritage, working hard to create the best growers’ association possible.

None of this is a cinch; after all, your board members are also full-time flower farmers and business owners, parents, partners, and caregivers. Yet, they set aside the time and effort at the end of their work days to participate in Zoom board and committee meetings (can’t wait until we can reconnect to meet in person again) to move the ASCFG forward.

When I mentioned that I feel more than a bit intimidated coming into this role, it’s because of the president I’m succeeding—Jennie Love.

Jennie’s served on the board, first as Vice President and then as President, the entire time I’ve served as Regional Director, plus an additional four years before that! Since the very first time I heard of her, I’ve been in awe of Jennie, who played a major role in putting the flower “farmer” together with “florist,” creating a new role in our flower world.

As President, she has pushed us to create our first-ever strategic plan—a major building block and road map for the ASCFG. It’s posted on the ASCFG Members site, under Membership —> ASCFG documents. In fact, while you’re at it, take a few hours this month to look at everything available to you on the site. It’s a major benefit of your membership and you’re cheating yourself if you don’t take a look.

Also take a minute to get acquainted with the Board (you’ll find us under Contact) and our responsibilities. Our terms are three years.

If you’re not already following your board members on social media, please take a second and do that!

While at this brand new stage, it would be foolish for me to say what I plan to accomplish as your President, but I CAN tell you that I’ll continue to do what I’ve tried to do as a Regional Director: connect people, share best practices and feedback, GO and SEE, meet people and see places in person, listen, keep learning, and then share what I see and hear.

Like Jennie and others on the board, I’m especially interested in our longtime members and learning how to keep them engaged and excited about being part of the ASCFG.

When I said that our greatest asset is our members—among the finest flower farmers in the world!—I feel it’s our longtime members who hold an essential key to this. We never want to lose them—their influence, experience, knowledge and voice are vital. Yet, what can we offer them in exchange for what we, and our hundreds and hundreds of new members, ask of them? It’s definitely something to put some work into.

The last two years have been exceptionally challenging for all of us, and amazingly rewarding for many of us, too. While we’ve learned a great deal about how to connect virtually, we also realize just how much we miss connecting in person … and we hunger for the time when we can do that again.

For now, no matter the size of your business or how long you’ve been at it, this is a GREAT time to be a flower farmer. It’s an even better time to be part of the ASCFG.

Let’s stay in touch!

We’re on track to surpass 1,090 new members in 2021, eclipsing 2020’s 644 record for new members — a big reason that retaining our experienced, seasoned growers is essential. We need the balance, perspective, knowledge and experience they bring.

Executive Board _____________________________

Val Schirmer, Three Toads Farm, Winchester, Kentucky — Brand spankin’ new President (succeeding Jennie Love,
Love ’n Fresh Flowers, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Mimo Davis, Urban Buds City Grown Flowers, St. Louis, Missouri—Vice President
Lennie Larkin, B-Side Farm, Petaluma, Califonia—Treasurer
Laura Beth Resnick, Butterbee Farm, Pikesville, Maryland—Secretary
John Dole, North Carolina State University, Raleigh—Executive Advisor (We’re SO lucky to have him in this role!)

Regional Directors ____________________________

Bailey Hale, Ardelia Farm & Co., Irasburg, Vermont—Northeast
Michelle Elston, Roots Cut Flower Farm, Carlisle, Pennsylvania—Mid-Atlantic
Linda Doan, Aunt Willie’s Wild Flowers, Blountville, Tennessee—Southeast
Susan Rockwood, Arcola Trail Flower Farm, Stillwater, Minnesota—North and Central
Shanti Rade, Whipstone Farm, Paulden, Arizona—South and Central
Erin McMullen, Rain Drop Farms, Philomath, Oregon—West and Northwest
Janis Harris, Harris Flower Farm, St. Thomas, Ontario — Canada

Val Schirmer

Three Toads Farm

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