Do cut-your-own flower operations make money on a farm?

A.D. North Carolina Answer: Because they are so attractive, flowers are certainly a natural for any kind of on-farm market or roadside stand. At a fruit and vegetable grower’s conference 20 years ago, Karen Pendleton of Lawrence, Kansas, told how she came to add field-grown cut flowers to her family’s Pick-Your-Own (PYO) operation. At that time, Karen and her husband John had 12 acres of asparagus in production for PYO sales. When people came to the farm for asparagus, they saw tulips blooming in her yard, and wanted to buy them as well. The Pendletons have since added peonies to the PYO operation because they bloom when asparagus is ready to cut. Another example comes from a Massachusetts farm Web site, where the owner describes the flowers you can pick at the farm. In addition to our wonderful fruits, we offer cut-your-own and fresh-picked flowers from mid-July through late September. We have 15 colors of gladiolus, 10 shades of ‘Blue Point’ zinnias, 6 varieties of beautiful sunflowers, and gorgeous dahlias. Bring some color into your home this summer! Lynn Byczynski, in her book The Flower Farmer, offers pointers for success with cut-your-own-flowers. ? Provide weed-free flower beds with plenty of room to maneuver between them. Nobody wants to walk through weeds or mud to cut flowers, and you’ll increase your liability risk if you don’t maintain wide, clear paths. ? Price flowers in a way that is easily understood by the consumer?for example, all the 25-cent flowers in one section, all the 50-cent flowers in another. ? Pick in advance flowers that are expensive and/or easily damaged in the field. Place them in buckets near the checkout stand, so that customers can add a special flower to their bouquets at the last minute. In addition to tulips, peonies, gladiolus, sunflowers, and zinnias, you may also want to consider daffodils, Dutch iris, ornamental alliums, statice, and goldenrod as PYO flowers. Ms. Byczynski says you probably will not want to offer PYO lilies because customers might cut too much foliage, which means that your costly lily bulb won’t survive to bloom again next year. You will need to provide buckets or other containers with water, scissors for cutting the stems, and wrapping materials. As with any other PYO product, you will need to provide supervision, offering instructions on where and how to pick.ResourcesFor general information on PYO marketing, please refer to the ATTRA publication Entertainment Farming and Agri-Tourism. For general information on specialty cut flower production, the ATTRA publication Sustainable Cut Flower Production is useful. Byczynski, Lynn. 1997. The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower’s Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers. Chelsea Green Publishing. 208 p.