AMES, Iowa — Raising cut flowers can be a profitable way for farmers to diversify their farm enterprises, add value to existing marketing channels like CSA boxes or farm stands, and access a growing niche market, according to experienced flower farmer Jeanie McKewan. But she says that success with flowers will require farmers to learn some new production and management techniques.
“Flowers are a very different crop than vegetables, with a different set of challenges,” says Jeanie, who has been growing cut flowers at Brightflower Farm near Stockton, Illinois, since 2006. “Flower seeds, for example, are very tiny and whatever kind of seeding systems farmers have, they’ll have to implement some changes.”
Marketing methods and storage needs are also different, Jeanie says, and some flowers are particularly sensitive to the elements. “The perceived value of a cut flower is its stem length, and wind is the worst – it makes the flower stems shorter and stronger. Some flowers are damaged by the rain, so you really need high tunnels to grow them.”
But for farmers who can adapt, Jeanie says there is a payoff. “There is a niche with florists right now, and a lot of interest in locally grown flowers, which are fresher, more fragrant, last longer and are not full of pesticides.”
Learn from Jeanie the skills needed to tap into this profitable niche market at Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2017 annual conference, “Pass It On,” Jan. 20-21 at the Iowa State Center Scheman Building, on the Iowa State University campus in Ames.
- In “Cut Flowers for Beginners” (Saturday, Jan. 21, 10 – 11:10 a.m.), Jeanie will teach the basics of flower production, and arm first-time flower growers with the knowledge they need to start or improve a cut flower enterprise – including tips on which flowers are best for beginners.
- In “Cut Flowers for the Experienced Grower” (Saturday, Jan. 21, 4 – 5:10 p.m.), Jeanie will delve into more advanced aspects of cut flower production, from propagation and germination techniques to working with some of the fussier – but potentially more profitable – flower species.
These sessions are part of a suite of dual-track offerings for fruit and vegetable farmers at this year’s conference geared specifically to introductory or advanced levels.
Register at practicalfarmers.org, or contact Erica Andorf: email@example.com or (515) 232-5661. Those who pre-register by Jan. 12 will save $10 per day. Special rates are also available for students and PFI members. This year’s conference celebrates the impact of farmer-to-farmer learning on farmers’ confidence to explore new or different farming practices, and their ability improve farm profitability and land stewardship.
Additional horticulture sessions at the conference include:
- Getting Started in Your First High Tunnel – beginner track
- Deep Winter Greenhouse at Lida Farm – advanced track
- Farm Financial Record Keeping and Planning
- Improving Understanding Between Specialty Crop Farmers and Pesticide Applicators
- Introduction to Cover Crops for Vegetables – beginner track
- Lessons Learned: First 5 Years of Farming – features a CSA farmer
- Digging Carrot Production: Lessons from the Carrot King
- Profitably Managing Your Market Mix – beginner track
- Lessons Learned: First 10 Years of Farming – features a CSA farmer
- Record Keeping for Organic Vegetable Production
- High Profits With a No-Till Farming System
- Intercropping for Multiple Goals in a Vegetable System
- Building Soil Fertility on a Vegetable Farm
- Lady Boss Panel: Hiring and Managing Employees – beginner track
Perennial Fruit Short Course: The conference will also feature a pre-conference short course on growing alternative berry crops – “Production, Processing and Marketing of Alternative Berry Crops” – on Thursday, Jan. 19, from 1-6:30 p.m., and Friday, Jan. 20, from 8-11:30 a.m., at the Scheman Building. This in-depth course will explore how to grow, process and market elderberry, black currant, blueberry, aronia and honeyberry, as well as how perennial fruits can add diversity and long-term value to a farm landscape.
Keynote Address: On Friday, Jan. 20, three renowned Iowa farmers – Susan Jutz, of Solon; Vic Madsen, of Audubon; and Dan Wilson, of Paullina – will deliver this year’s keynote address. These long-time Practical Farmers members – and guiding stars – are all past presidents of Practical Farmers’ board of directors and recipients of PFI’s Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award.
During the keynote, Susan, Vic and Dan – who together represent the diverse range of farm enterprises Iowa is capable of sustaining – will each share words of wisdom from their decades of farming experience, including three insights they feel are most important to pass on.
Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2017 annual conference is supported by several major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Organic & Natural Meats; Grain Millers; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy and Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Rimol Greenhouse Systems; and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
— Practical Farmers of Iowa
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