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    Colorful Crop | Summer 2011 Out Here Magazine

    The types of flowers you choose to grow for market will depend entirely on where you plan to market them.

    Grow and market your own flowers

     

    By Lynn Byczynski
    Photography by Greg Latza

     

    Don't plant a crop until you know where you're going to sell it." That's standard advice for anyone who is hoping to grow for market. But it's especially pertinent to the flower grower, because there are hundreds of types of flowers, and the types you choose to grow will depend entirely on where you expect to market them.

     

    Fresh flowers and dried flowers are two entirely different businesses, although they can mesh nicely and increase your income if you're well organized. Retail florists, wholesalers, gift shops, grocery stores, farmers' markets — all have different demands about varieties, colors, styles, time of harvest, method of delivery, and so on.

     

    Figuring out what to grow means you have to do your market research before you order a single ounce of seeds. First, consider your own capabilities and limitations. How much land to you have? How much capital? What kinds of facilities and equipment can you afford? If you can work on your flower business only part time, or only during certain months of the year, what are those times? What will those time restrictions mean about the kind of plants you'll be able to grow and harvest? What's the length of your outdoor growing season? When can you plant, and when will you consequently be ready to harvest? How well do these timing issues fit with your marketing opportunities?

     

    Once you've honestly assessed your own situation, look into your community to see what kinds of markets hold promise. Are there several high-end florists in town or in a nearby city? Is there a wholesaler near enough to consider selling there? Is there a farmers' market? If so, is it inundated with flowers, or do you see an opening for a new flower vendor? Are you on a road that might be a good place for a pick-your-own operation? Are you near enough to air transportation that shipping nationwide is feasible? Does your community have summer tourist traffic? Are there gift shops that would sell dried-flower bunches and crafts? How about fall craft shows or Christmas boutiques? Is there a progressive grocery store that would be interested in locally grown bouquets?

     

    These are all questions that you need to consider as you research your market. The truth is, no one can tell you what will be the best market for your flowers. Every farm and every community combine to make a market environment that is unique. The factors that contribute to the success of any horticultural business form a complex web, much like a natural ecosystem, where everything is interrelated.

    And although only you can figure out where your operation will fit into this business ecosystem, you can do it in an educated way by learning about the different marketing options for flowers: retail florists, wholesale florists, shipping flowers, supermarkets, bouquet makers, farmers' markets, subscription programs, pick-your-owns, and weddings.

    As you begin to understand each type of business, you'll get a clearer vision of the path you should pursue.

    Reprinted with permission from The Flower Farmer; An Organic Grower's Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers by Lynn Byczynski. She is the editor and publisher of the website Growing For Market.