One of the most popular questions to flower farmers from prospective customers is
I’m getting married/having a party/christening in May/June/July/August, I’d love to have locally grown flowers, what will you have available?
If you can answer confidently and give a list of flowers and foliage they might be able to buy from you at that time of year, you’ll appear calm confident and in control and you’re much more likely to get an order.
So how can you create this magical confidence when the world of flower farming is so uncertain, the weather, pests and diseases might rear up and bite you and you don’t know whether any of your seeds will make it to blooming?
The answer is Record Keeping!
I have notebooks from seven years of growing flowers. They aren’t fancy as you can see, but they give me information on the weather, what I did when, when seeds and bulbs were planted, any issues with pests and diseases and crucially, what was flowering in the field and tunnels in each week of the year. If I’m asked what I’ll have available I can easily check either my notebooks, or the handy availability list I’ve created using the information I’ve recorded. Yes, the weather might be terrible, too hot, too cold or windy. But that’s part of the record, so if I’ve had anemones in flower for seven years on 20th March despite extremes of temperature, then I’m likely to have them on 20th March in the eighth year too.
For the past five years I’ve taken wholesale orders from florists in January, before the seeds are even out of the packet. I know that if I get them sown when I planned and look after them properly, they’ll bloom, and I’ll be able to cut and sell them.
Yes, there are always going to be times when the best plans go awry, but that’s the case in any industry. If you have good records it will give you the confidence to commit to supply your customers, which in turn will give them the confidence to order from you.
If you don’t already keep records, start NOW!
Record what you can remember from this season, start to build a picture of your growing across the year, and keep it up. There will be times when you miss a week but even if you only manage every fortnight you’ll have enough information to answer that question. The What Ifs can be dealt with by your Terms and Conditions, but that’s a whole other topic…
If you need more help to learn how to keep records
Record Keeping is Module 7 of The Business of Growing Flowers where this topic is covered in more detail
Managing Customers and Suppliers is Module 5 of the Business of Growing Flowers and includes a section on Terms and Conditions
Terms and conditions are also included in the Introduction to pricing and costs
The British flowers book, will help to remind you of the flowers available during each month of the year