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ASCFG Grower's School Conference

I had the opportunity to attend a professional conference (ASCFG Grower's School) at the beginning of the week. I thought I would give you a brief look into this past Monday and Tuesday including the topics and presenters.

I put Koy on the bus Monday morning, uncovered all of my tunnels to give them some fresh air since the temps were to be in the 70's, packed and was on the road by 10:00 am headed for Oberlin, Ohio where the conference was being held. I was loaded up with snacks, podcasts and an audiobook to keep me company for the next 4 1/2 hours. It rained the entire trip and was extremely foggy on certain parts of I-80, I just kept telling myself it could be snow. That audiobook was a lifesaver!

When I arrived at the hotel (after texting my mom and Clint to let them know I had arrived), I checked in and made my way to the room. My head was pounding from the drive and I had about 2 hours before I had to check in for the conference so I decided to take a quick rest and immediately fell asleep.

When I did wake up I made my way downstairs and was still a little early for the meet and greet prior to the first class. I was starving by this time and decided to get something to eat. While I was waiting for my order I bumped into another lady attending the conference and we hit it off right away. Strangely enough her name was Kate and she was from Florida (my happy place). Check her out on instagram @greytabbygardens, her designs are dreamy!

After we had dinner we made our way upstairs where I almost immediately bumped into Jenn(@cedarhillflowerfarm) and Page, two ladies I had met in Virginia when I took LynnVales class this past summer. After catching up with them we made our way into the conference room to hear Susan McLeary (@passionflowersue) do a design presentation. She is just amazing. She is not a grower but fully supports the local farmer and is constantly and consistently pushing the box. She makes all types of wearable jewelry from wrist cuffs to belts, to floral hats, you name it, she even makes floral tattoos. This was probably the highlight for me learning her secrets to this. I think these would be awesome for girls to wear at prom. She also did a design tutorial on centerpiece work. The style today has definitely moved from blooms being in a round ball with no life in them to a more natural textural look that can actually move. She gave us a lot of tips on techniques that she uses such as how she "layers" flowers.

Tuesday was a jam packed day. We learned from many of the top growers in the industry such as Jennie Love, Lisa Mason Ziegler, Gretel Adams, Mimo Davis-Duschak and more.

First up Tuesday morning was Mimo Davis-Duschak from Urban Buds. Her business is located right in St. Louis Missouri. Her presentation was titled: Marketing: Boundless Choices and Boundless Optimism. She is one cool marketing chic! She took us through the steps of having success at a farmers market as well as tips for selling to florists and some unique ideas for wedding work.

After Mimo, we learned the basics of seed starting from Jennie Love and Lisa Mason Ziegler. I previously had the opportunity to take a class from Jennie in 2016 and saw Lisa at the Mother Earth News Fair in the fall of 2016. They each have their own way of starting seeds but it is always such a pleasure to hear them speak and I always take away something new. Lisa does a type of seed starting called soil blocking and has a ton of free video tutorials on her website and blog. I plan to do a blog post on soil blocking sometime in March.

Next up was the bug guy. His name is Stanton Gill and he is an entomologist from the University of Maryland talking to us about the good and bad bugs that we find on our blooms. A little fun fact (or not so fun) is that when we have a very rainy June and July the Japanese Beetles will be very bad the following year. He stated this is due to the fact that when the soil is very wet and moist the females can burrow deep into the ground to have their babies but during a dry year they cannot go very deep and the ants eat the larvae. I don't know why this was so interesting to me, maybe because I despise the darn things.

We next heard from Gretel Adams of Sunny Meadows Flower Farm. She talked with us about post harvest care of flowers. They have a huge farm and rock out an amazing number of blooms each week.

We then heard from Jennie again on pricing. She vividly explained that price and cost are not the same thing and we must know what our cost into the product is before we can determine a minimum price. This is something that a lot of new farmers are struggling with. She also talked about finding our niche or specialty and then sticking to it, whether it be selling to florists, doing weddings, etc.

Rounding out the day was a gentleman by the name of Bob Berry who talked with us on the legal aspect of owning and starting a business and Lisa Mason Ziegler on clearing the clutter to flower farming success.

Overall this was a great seminar, especially for someone who is maybe just planning or wanting to get started growing.

I really have a great husband who is so willing to hold the fort down when I am away and is so 100% on board with helping me build this dream.

Have a great weekend everyone, the tulips are starting to pop through and I will be starting seeds in less than two weeks! So it begins!!

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