From the Farmer's Tractor
November 23, 2008
How did you get into flower farming?
I grew up on the family vegetable farm and worked on it since I was a kid, but I fell in love with plant production in my high school FFA class. My wonderful teacher, Tommy Harmon, encouraged me to pursue my passion and I was awarded the Star Greenhand as a freshman. I purchased my first greenhouse eight years ago, when I was 22.
How have your farming practices changed over the last 10 years?
Advances in technology have changed farming more than anything else. Five years ago we added a Corn Maze to the farm, and over this short time period, a GPS system has cut down on the time it takes to cut out the design from several days of work for three to four people to only four to five hours of work for just one man.
How will flower farming evolve in the next five years?
Irrigation and chemical applications are improving daily. Also, pest control materials are evolving to be more effective.
What is your greatest challenge as a flower farmer?
Just like all other farmers, the greatest challenge we face is making a profit. The cost of production has skyrocketed, while the price paid for the product has only risen slightly.
How does a farmer know what a retailer will want a year from now?
I have always relied on a good working relationship with my customers. Many of them will tell me how many hanging baskets they will need for the upcoming spring. Keeping records of years past also helps to know what to produce.
What steps are you taking toward conservation on the farm?
We do a lot of scouting for pests. That way we can lower the amount of chemical applications in our greenhouses. Drip irrigation instead of spray is utilized when possible to conserve the amount of water we use. Recycling of the plastic pots helps cut down on the amount of material we put in the landfills. And this recycling program is popular with our retail customers. They know they can bring back plastic containers to our store and that they will be reused.
Do you sell any of your products locally, and if so, what is the process?
All of our plants are sold locally. They are sold at The Farmer’s Shed, which is our retail operation, and at other local garden centers.
What kinds of reactions do you get from consumers when they meet you in person?
Many of our customers at The Farmer’s Shed come to purchase our flowers because they know they are grown locally and are going to perform well in their yards. They also know that we are knowledgeable about the plants we sell.