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As More Va. Farmers Grow Flowers, VSU’s Cooperative Extension Program Positions Them For Success

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Cut flowers—the kind you can pick up at the grocery store or are found on many restaurant tables—is part of the “green industry,” the fastest growing sector in U.S. agriculture and the second most important in terms of economic impact, according to the USDA. “People don’t often think of farmers growing flowers, but the cut flower industry is significant in Virginia,and is often an excellent source of income for farmers with small acreage,” said Susan Cheek, Virginia State University (VSU) Small Farm Outreach Program (SFOP) agriculture management agent. 

To meet the demand for knowledge and training in this growing industry, the SFOP, part of the Virginia Cooperative Extension program at VSU, is hosting its second cut flow growers conference in as many years. The conference is one of close to 200 programs the Cooperative Extension program offers through VSU to assist small, limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers across Va. to own, maintain and operate farms and ranches independently. 

This year’s conference will be held March 13-14 at the Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center, 2371 Carl D. Silver Parkway, Fredericksburg, Va. The theme is “Beyond the Bouquet.” 

“We are excited to host this conference again in 2019. Our 2018 conference reached capacity quickly, and we know that small farmers in Virginia and across the U.S. are extremely interested in learning how to incorporate locally grown flowers and herbs into their farm operations,” said SFOP Director William Crutchfield.

Per acre, flowers are one of the most profitable crops to grow, and they are especially suited to small farm operations. A 2014 University of Wyoming Extension publication indicated specialty cut flowers achieved gross yields as high as $25,000 or $30,000 per acre. At the 2019 Cut Flower Growers Conference, attendees will learn more about the positive results they can get from starting a cut-flower growing operation or adding cut flowers to their current farm products—not only for their profit margin, but for the benefit of human health, insect and wildlife habitat, and the environment.

The two-day conference will bring together new and experienced growers, buyers and representatives from government agencies to help attendees learn how to improve the production and marketability of a cut flower farm business. Local and national growers will explain how to build relationships with wholesale and retail buyers; provide tips for growing and marketing pollinator-beneficial plants and flowers; and share insights about establishing a high tunnel operation to extend the growing season. Participants will also learn how to add value and profit with herbs and medicinals, and see hands-on demonstrations for floral design with native wildflowers and herbs. 

In the opening keynote, Brent Heath, owner of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, Va., will discuss best bulbs for cut flowers selected for longevity of blooms, ease of harvest and added value of fragrance. In the closing keynote, Dave Dowling will share his experiences and insights from 20 years of cut flower farming and five years as a sales rep and advisor to cut flower farmers. Dowling is employed by New Jersey-based Fred C. Gloeckner & Company, Inc., a horticulture wholesale distributor.

Registration is $150 per person, with a 10 percent discount for groups of three or more. To register, visit www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, click on the event and then click on the registration link.

Persons needing further information or have a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, can contact the VSU Small Farm Outreach Program office at smallfarm@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-3292 / (800) 828-1120 (TDD) during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations no later than five days prior to the event.

The SFOP provides outreach and assistance activities in production management, financial management, marketing, available USDA farm programs and other areas to increase farm profitability and promote sustainability. It has recently added an additional 10 counties, bringing the total it serves to 74. It has also hired additional agriculture management agents and offers public events across the state. For more information, visit https://www.ext.vsu.edu/small-farm-outreach-program/.

Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. VSU is an equal opportunity/ affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

 

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