Getting Started as a Flower Farmer
Shared From MOTHER EARTH NEWS Written by:Lynn Byczynski
I get up at dawn and drink a cup of coffee on the porch as the red sun inches over the hillside. Then I head down to the field, just a stone’s throw from the house, and wade into the neat rows of zinnias, sunflowers, salvia and celosia. As I focus on cutting stems and counting the flowers, all other thoughts drift away. It’s a typical summer morning in the life of this flower farmer.
My husband joins me in the field, and by 8:30 a.m. we’re ready to load the buckets of flowers into the van. I eat breakfast with my two children. take a quick shower, then drive the 30 miles into town to the florist. I spend a few minutes hanging around the shop, chatting with the designers, then I pick up my check — usually $300 to $500 per delivery — and head home.
Flower farming may be the perfect home business. You can set your own hours, work outdoors and earn a decent wage. Your spouse and/or children can help. You can work as much or as little as you choose — you really are your own boss.
Even after 14 years of running my own flower business, I still enjoy almost every aspect of the job, from studying catalogs and planning crops during the winter, to cutting thousands of stems from spring until fall.
I don’t want to suggest that flower farming is easy — it is farming, after all. You have to bend, stoop and sweat. Your hands get callused and dirty, and your back gets sore. And you don’t get rich doing it. As a beginning flower farmer, you probably won’t make much money at all. But as your knowledge and skills increase, as you learn what to grow and how to sell it, you’ll find that flower farming can become a profitable endeavor for your family.
Cut flower growers in the United States report that an acre of well-grown and marketed flowers is worth approximately $25,000 to $30,000 in sales. Net income is much less than that, depending on factors such as equipment and supply expenses. whether or not employees are hired (all you’ll need is one person per acre to handle production) and whether or not money is put back into the business. As a general rule of thumb, an established business that grows flowers for profit will net 50 percent to 60 percent of its gross. or about $15.000 an acre.
Getting Started as a Flower Farmer
If you think flower farming might be the business for you, there’s no time like the present to get started. You need to do a lot of research before you buy a single seed. so winter is the perfect time to plan your strategy. My book, The Flower Farmer, provides a guide to starting a cut flower business. including information on production, harvest, marketing, pricing and suppliers.
First consider where you will sell your flowers. Study the options available and get a general sense of your area’s market for flowers. Here are the most likely buyers:
1. Farmer’s markets. Flowers sell best in urban markets, but even a small community can have a good farmer’s market where customers are eager to buy flowers along with their produce. Identify the markets within driving distance, contact the managers to learn whether or not they have space for a new vendor, and find out what you have to do to get accepted. Be familiar with the market’s opening and closing dates, so you can focus on flowers that are blooming during those months.
2. Retail florists. Go through the phone book to identify upscale florists in your market area. They are the people who will be most interested in locally grown flowers. Visit the shop, tell the fresh-flower buyer your plans, and leave a business card with a promise to get in touch when your crops are ready. Don’t expect commitment from a florist — he or she will need to see your flowers before deciding to become a customer. Just try to gauge the florist’s level of interest so you’ll know who is most likely to buy when the time comes.
3. Floral wholesalers. As intermediaries between growers and florists, wholesalers pay the least. But in many cases, they can buy the most, so if you live in a remote area and want to only occasionally drive to the city, a wholesaler may be the best choice. It never hurts to pay them a visit, especially because most floral wholesalers also sell the supplies you will need, such as floral preservative. Ask to talk to the local flower buyer and tell them your plans. Again, don’t expect a commitment: At this point, all you’re looking for is a contact person you can call later when you have something to sell.
4. Supermarket sales. Most big grocery stores now have floral departments, and some may be willing to buy from a local grower. Be aware, though, that your products are not the typical flowers sold at supermarkets, so you may have to do some educating to get the buyer interested. If established floral department buyers don’t show any interest, you might be better off trying to introduce flowers into a store that doesn’t currently offer them.
5. On-farm sales. If your farm is near a well-traveled road or tourist area, you may be able to sell your flowers fresh from the field. You can set up a roadside stand, with an honor system pay box, or you can offer flowers on a pick-your-own basis.
Start with one of the five markets listed above, because you can sell there consistently. Over time, once your flower growing talent becomes known, you might branch out and sell to restaurants, brides and business offices.
To continue reading about Lynn Byczynski home based business, check out Grow Flowers for Profit on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.