2, 2004: Lots of questions are coming in via e-mail,
everything from how to price flowers to how to preserve them,
so I'd like ot share my answers to some of the most popular
Kelly writes: Well I have been enjoying
your column for 2 years now. I have never had a real good
question I wanted to ask you until today. So here goes. This
is also my second year of growing cut flowers, after thinking
about it for 3 years I finally took the plunge. I started
out small. Actually too small as I sold everything I had and
wished I had more. But that’s how ya learn. Anyway my
field has expanded 3 or 4 fold. I have customers to buy, but
how should I go about pricing? This has been relatively easy
last year. I sold all bouquets and priced them at $5 and $7
for mixed. This year I have a customer that is interested
in purchasing one type of flower only. She is a florist. How
would you go about pricing different types? Like zinnias and
Mel says: The USDA’s Market News Service
has wholesale flower prices, issued on Tuesday and Friday
(Go to Market News, then Fruits, Vegetables and Ornamental
Crops. Or you can go through Growing for Market’s ‘Favorite
Links’ page at www.growingformarket.com.)
Remember, this is wholesale prices and it’s only a
guide. But it gives you a good clue to what’s hot and
what’s scarce, and a general figure. The May 11 Boston
Ornamental Terminal prices, for example, showed that offerings
were light for bupleurum and hydrangea and delphinium, and
the market higher for godetia and lisianthus, and steady for
sunflowers with prices varying for large, medium and small
head varieties. Price listed for medium head varieties, long
stem, was $5.50-6.50 for bunched 10s. We got $8 from our local
florist. The florist paid $5.50 per bunch of 10 dianthus.
Many local florists like dealing with local growers because
they know the product is fresher, the smell won’t be
lost in shipping and some flowers (like zinnias) don’t
ship well. Two florists we’ve dealt with have been great
(and very fair) in helping with pricing items we aren’t
sure about, too. Remember, also, that florists like long stems,
even though they usually cut most of the stem off).
If you sell straight bunches -- one variety of flower in
a bunch (terminal prices tell you the number in a bunch) --
at a farmers’ market, the price should be higher than
the wholesale price! If your flowers are selling too quickly,
ask yourself if you are charging enough for them. (Don’t
forget to figure in sales tax as part of your price, if applicable
in your state.) Check local prices in grocery stores, floral
shops and at other area farmers’ markets to see what
people are getting in your neck of the woods. Don’t
give your flowers away. You worked hard to grow them!
Jennifer asks: What do you use for floral
preservative since you’re certified organic? I asked
the man who certified the farm where I’m growing and
he said there aren’t any available to organic growers
as far as he knows.
Mel says: Our certifier, NOFA-NJ, told me
last year if common floral preservative is used (and florists
often have Floralife incorporated in a tap in their shop)
the flowers can’t be sold as ‘organic.’
BUT -- there is a product called Vita Flora (www.vitaproducts.com
or phone 1-800-874-1452) which has a hydrating-conditioning
solution for fresh cut flowers and nutrient solution and more,
and literature says the product is USDA National Organic Program
Compliant. (Always check the most current OMRI list or check
with your certifier to make certain a specific product is
allowable.) I double checked with Erich Bremer, our certification
administrator at NOFA, and he was kind enough to call the
company. He found that Vita Flora is certified with an accredited
California certifier. He said he, and many other certifiers,
just like to double check ingredients.
I haven’t tried Vita Flora yet, but I will. The hydrating
solution is said to open and unclog dirt and bacteria in vascular
bundles of flower stems to allow uptake of floral nutrients.
The product is said to prevent bent-neck and extend vase life.
Vita Flora 2000 nutrient solution allows for uptake of nutrients
and is used in arrangement vases.
As I’ve said before, plain old water has served me
well at Pheasant Hill Farm in Emmaus, PA. But I’ve been
told we have good water! Most experts say you need floral
preservative. Our farmers’ market customers have always
said their flowers last into the second week and beyond. (And
we want them to buy more, right?) We tell customers to change
the water every other day to prevent bacteria buildup, or
to use the homespun flower food formula: Add 1 teaspoon vinegar,
1 tablespoon sugar and one crushed aspirin tablet to 24 ounces
When my flower partner and I sell flowers under ‘The
Flower Ladies’ at our local farmers’ market, we
sell our flowers as ‘sustainable’ and tell customers
via display information how we grow the flowers, from seed
starting in organic potting mix to post harvest handling.
Since Linda’s property is not certified organic, although
she doesn’t use chemicals, and occasionally uses a hydrating
solution, and since we combine flowers, we can’t use
the organic label.
A lot of research has been done on each flower variety as
to whether floral preservative is benefical. The Association
of Specialty Cut Flower Growers offers the latest information
in their Cut Flower Quarterly.
Permits for flowers?
Bonnie asks: What kind of permit would
I need to grow and sell cut flowers at farm markets and my
Mel says: That varies from state to state,
and municipality to municipality -- and farmers’ market
to farmers’ market! To find out regulations for a farmers’
market of your choosing, get the name of the market manager
or a farmer in the market and ask if they are taking new members.
Some markets charge a fee for the year, some a weekly fee.
Most have a list of rules for you. To sell from your home,
check with your local zoning officer for specifics on the
zoning of your farm or residence. We are zoned rural agricultural
and selling farm products from our farm is an allowed use
here in Pennsylvania. If your zoning does not allow sales,
you may be able to attain a variance. Your local official
can also tell you if there are any weird restrictions in your
state or municipality regarding sales of cut flowers.