Cuts Bloom In Missouri

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Cuts Bloom In Missouri

Cut flower growers are alive and well in Missouri. Not carnations or long-stem roses, but specialty cuts that are field grown in the spring through the fall. Each season brings to market new colors, textures and fragrances in a variety of annuals, perennials, grasses, wild flowers and woody plants. They sell to florists, wholesalers, supermarkets and farmers’ markets.

Success Stories

•  For 10 years, specialty cuts have built the business of Susan Jones, Wild Goose Gardens. “Our biggest priority is quality and freshness,” she says. Twice a week, she loads her van with fresh cuts for scheduled visits to the florists in Springfield who hand-pick their orders. “They get excited about really fresh flowers they can’t get from other sources,” she says. Some of their favorites are zinnias and lisianthus in the summer and ranunculus and snapdragons in the winter. She also sells to a Kansas City wholesaler. On two acres, she grows 60 to 70 varieties which vary year to year.

•  Ron Chaskelson found St. Louis wholesalers very receptive to his fresh and dried specialty cuts, and they have been his primary market since 1989. Current offerings include celosia, allium, larkspur, yarrow, sunflowers, cockscomb, mountain mint, broom corn and Queen Anne’s Lace. Seeding starts in mid-January for harvesting in May until frost on his seven acres. He is always looking for new varieties. The challenge this year has been drought.

•  Carolyne Anderson inherited a garden of tube roses and often used them to decorate her church. One Sunday, their sweet fragrance prompted a member who is a florist to place an order. That started her business, A Heaven Scent. While the short shelf lives of tube roses limit her sales to markets, florists and grocery stores in mid-Missouri and St. Louis, she has few competitors. Peonies are another specialty in addition to annuals and perennials. She has 2½ acres in production with part-time employees for help to tend to these field crops.

•  Guy Clark, Fertile Crescent Farms, grows fruits and vegetables. In 1997, he started selling subscriptions for weekly deliveries of produce from April through November. Now he is promoting subscriptions for seasonal cut flower bouquets in various sizes for delivery or pickup to restaurants, offices and homes. In addition to the exposure he gets at the market, he has a Web site and advertises locally.

•  Bedding plants and perennials are the primary crops of Flowers So Fair. Two years ago, Faith Kropt added cuts for their potential income. At the farmers market, she offers prepackaged bouquets of cuts in assorted colors and textures. She sells to florists, too. Ads in local newspapers bring customers to her farm in the spring.

Many growers are cashing in on the popularity of local farmers’ markets flourishing throughout the United States. The promise of “locally grown, farm fresh and healthy” draws crowds. Bedding plant and cut flower growers have found these outlets add exposure and potential to increase income.

Today, more than 200 species of cut annuals, bulbs, perennials and wildflowers are being sold to wholesalers, florists, supermarkets and direct to consumers. More state universities and extension agents are offering suggestions for local climates. With all the advantages of specialty cuts, they may be easier to grow than to sell. Plans for financing, sales and marketing are essential for success. Some states offer alternative crop loans, but there is no free money except for non-profits, so it is important to be aware of scam lenders who promise more than they can deliver.

Statistics show sales of cuts are steady, but not increasing. The extraordinary diversity of colors and textures specialty cuts bring didn’t just add income to plant growers. They could revitalize the cut flower market. Local markets offer greater visibility and the possibility of overcoming consumer resistance with the promise of farm fresh longer shelf life.

The Association of Specialty Cut Flowers Growers has been an excellent resource for many growers. It was organized in 1988 by Allan Armitage and Judy Laushman when they saw their field trials of cuts at the University of Georgia were drawing an increasing number of visitors and more inquiries from growers. ASCFG provides information on culture, marketing strategies, current research, new varieties and networking to its 620 members in the United States, Canada and New Zealand. Check out www.Localharvest.org for local farmers’ markets and ASCFG’s Web site at www.ascfg.org.

Mary Lu Parks is a garden writer in Columbia, Mo. She can be reached at maluparks@centurytel.net.

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