By EFAO Member Stephanie Scott
Started out by discussing what the EFAO is and how it helps connect small scale organic and ecological farmers in Ontario. We all hope that the EFAO will help connect Ontario flower growers so we can better share information that is applicable to our climate and growing conditions
- Discussed certification vs. not being certified, how a lack of organic standards for cut flowers impacts organic flower growers, growing more cut flowers than other certifiable products results in little incentive to go through all the work and expense to become certified
- Theresa Schumilas of Garden Party, St. Agatha ON (host) has been growing organic vegetables, bedding plants and running a CSA, expanded into cut flowers in 2014. Sells to florists and DIY weddings
- Stephanie Scott of Petals & Sprigs, Baden ON third year growing cut flowers part-time, has flower CSA and does a few weddings/year
- Jennifer Penney – grows cut flowers for her son’s vegetable CSA near Neustadt, ON
- Kerri-Ann Peet-Harris – Flamborough, ON, Mainly an organic hay grower, has a cut flower garden and is looking for ways to expand it around haying season.
- Melissa Winkler – New cut-flower farmer, had a roadside stand last year, planning sales at her neighbour’s on-farm store this year.
DIY weddings – cut your own flowers offer a lower cost option for brides, but may require more time and help than the price reflects
Talked about potential for other pick-your-own flower events to provide flowers for weddings, funerals, as a memorial event, as a party idea. On a farm with a good set-up to host events could offer an additional revenue stream. (Good idea to keep a separate garden for pick-your-own flowers, and expensive and high effort flowers kept away from the public)
The discussion came back to the problem of finding customers that value locally grown flowers, that may be more expensive, several times. How that changes during the seasons and how awareness of conventional flower growing methods is increasing slowly.
- Mother’s Day is first holiday Ontario growers could easily have flowers for (if you don’t have a greenhouse) but demand may be higher for potted plants than bouquets of flowers.
- Thanksgiving biggest holiday that we experience for flower sales
- Possible year-round of long-term customers could include restaurants, offices, realtors (that stage houses for sale), hotels
Discussed different flowers for different needs, shorter stems for posies or small tabletop arrangements, longer stems for florists and hand-held bouquets. Large woody stems needed for large scale arrangements eg. big urns in a hotel lobby
Touched on the difficulty of managing cooler space with flowers and veggies in it, as many flowers are ethylene sensitive and can’t be stored with anything that releases ethylene gas. If managing both at the same time need to know the sensitivity of the flowers you are dealing with. Best source we have found is the book ‘Specialty Cut Flowers’ by Alan M. Armitage and Judy M. Laushman
List of favourite perennials:
- Yarrow (can pinch some of each variety to spread out flowering times)
- Bleeding heart
- Sweet peas
- Hyacinth beans
Everyone agreed getting cockscomb celosia to germinate and thrive as transplants is much more difficult than the plumed version. No one had any brilliant tricks for guaranteed success.
Early and late season flower ideas:
- Flowering shrubs
- Fruit trees
- Pussy willows
- Flowering Kale
- Winter greenery, woody branches
Favourite Seed Sources:
- Geo Seeds
- Swallowtail Seeds
- William Dam
- Since the flower industry focused seed houses only have large volumes of each variety, we should work together to pool orders. Can be hard to be a small grower.
Raker’s Truck plug orders:
- Also mostly in large volumes, makes sense to pool orders, but wholesale prices are very low, even after importing from USA.
- Easier to go through a broker
- Has huge variety
Business Growing Ideas:
- On farm event on how to arrange flowers, would pay for flowers (possibly pick-your-own) and the instruction time
- Theresa sometimes hosts Herbal Tea events, has many herb beds, people go pick things to try out the flavours as a tea, just need a tent, hot water and lots of tea pots
- Workshop educating potential DIY brides about how to do your own wedding flowers
- Growing starts or a few specialty flowers to sell to other flower growers who do more arranging work
- Connecting with wedding planners to get more bridal customers
- Propagating perennials to sell to other growers and the public (perennials need dividing every few years anyway so it’s a good way to make money out of a task that needs to happen anyway)
We talked about the growth of the local flower movement, Slow Flowers in the USA, and educating customers. Flowers are slowly following in the broad awareness of local food.
Best foraged material ideas:
- Goldenrod (buds, still green, before flowers open)
- Milkweed pods
- Pinecones and tamarack branches with cones on them
- Spindle bush
- Burning bush seed pods
Mistakes and learning experiences:
- Spacing, getting the right spacing for the size of flowers you want to produce, and so plants can support each other
- Staking musts: Bells of Ireland, dahlias, delphiniums, foxgloves (sometimes), peonies. Need to account for the wind at your location
Transport and display strategies:
- Tall straight sided buckets for transporting in car or van best. Or if flowers are chilled dry packing in flower boxes (best for those with shorter cars)
- Places to find display buckets; garage sales, thrift stores, dollar stores, flower supply warehouses
We think more flowers are sold at the end of the week, before the weekend, than earlier in the week. People want them for entertaining on the weekend, or to take to the cottage in the summer. Might get better sales with a later week market, or having a roadside stand filled at the end of the week.
We all hope for more flower-focused events from the EFAO in the future!