Spotlight on specialty cut flower sessions at 2020 Great Lakes Expo

Cut flower program features pro tips, sage advice and insight from the academy.

Woman holding flowers
Have you ever dreamed of growing cut flowers but weren't sure where to start? Here's your chance to learn from some of the best in the business! Photo courtesy of Adrianne Gamie.

The floriculture and farm market teams at Michigan State University Extension are pleased to present an educational program for specialty cut flower growers at the Michigan Greenhouse Growers/Great Lakes Expo event Dec. 8-10, 2020. Although it is traditionally held at the Devos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Expo will be presented in an exclusively online format this year, making it accessible from almost anywhere in the world.

The selected schedule of education sessions includes practical advice on starting a cut flower business, flowering woody perennials, a market bouquet workshop and more. This program features a combination of cut flower growers, university researchers and industry specialists, and has been designed to help anyone interested in operating a specialty cut flower business.

Program highlights

Bootstrapping a New Cut Flower Farm with the Time, Space, and Money You Have

Dave DowlingThursday, Dec. 10

Dave Dowling
Photo courtesy of Dave Dowling, Ednie Flower Bulb.

What does it take to start a cut flower farm? Highly-acclaimed grower and educator Dave Dowling will show us how to create a viable cut flower operation in a smaller space with minimal startup expense the first few seasons. Learn how to avoid making the same mistakes others have made and hear about some time-saving tricks that everyone should try. Topics covered will be useful for new growers as well as those with years of growing experience.

Dowling produced and sold hundreds of thousands of cut flowers every year for two decades at his farm in central Maryland. In addition to field production, Dowling used greenhouses and high tunnels to enable a year-round production schedule that supplied farmers markets, retail florists and Whole Foods Market with blooms for every season. Dowling was also a founding member of Capital Flower Growers LLC, a cooperative that supplied fresh, locally-grown flowers to florists throughout the greater Baltimore–Washington D.C. metropolitan area.

Dowling has served in variety of roles within the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG), including Regional Director, President, Industry Liaison and chairperson of the national conference. Dowling remains fully engaged with the community as a representative of Ednie Flower Bulb, a division of Fred C. Gloeckner & Co, where he works on marketing and promotional projects while advising cut flower growers on small- and medium-sized farms across North America.

Shrubs as Cut Flowers: Simple, Versatile, Profitable

Stacey HirvelaThursday, Dec. 10

Stacey Hirvela
Photo courtesy of Stacey Hirvela, Spring Meadow Nursery.

Looking for a way to diversify your market offering? Adding shrubs to your cut flower production can extend your sales season, provide a long-term income stream and utilize areas of your property that may not be

suitable for growing other cuts. Join Stacey Hirvela, Proven Winners shrub specialist and marketing manager at Spring Meadow Nursery, to learn which plants to choose, how to grow them, and how and when to harvest for maximum profitability with minimal effort.

Hirvela is a life-long gardener and finds as much joy in the insects that visit her garden as the plants she puts in it. A graduate of the School of Professional Horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden, she has worked as a Manhattan rooftop gardener and as the horticulturist for Tavern on the Green restaurant in New York’s Central Park. In 2005, she became a garden editor at Martha Stewart Living magazine where she created, wrote and edited garden content and co-hosted a call-in radio program. Her first book, Edible Spots & Pots, was published by Rodale in 2014. She currently works as the marketing manager for Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs.

Do High Tunnels Make the Cut for Specialty Cut Flowers: Top Crops, Production and Handling Pointers

Roberto Lopez – Thursday, Dec. 10

Roberto Lopez
Photo courtesy of Roberto Lopez, Michigan State University.

Are high tunnels worth the investment and potential headache over producing specialty cut flowers in the field? Roberto Lopez from Michigan State University will share research information on how timing, yield and quality of a wide variety of specialty cuts are influenced between these two production techniques. Methods for prolonging the life of these varieties will also be discussed.

Lopez is an associate professor and controlled environment/floriculture extension specialist in the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University. His research focuses on propagation and production of young and finish plants, including bedding plants, specialty cut flowers, leafy greens and culinary herb crops. His cut flower research aims to increase yield, quality, stem length and caliper, and to reduce production time by manipulating the growing environment.

Pick-Your-Own Flower Field

Adrianne Gammie – Wednesday, Dec. 9

Adrianne Gamie
Photo courtesy of Adrianne Gamie, Marilla Flora and Field.

Strolling through a field of flowers is intrinsically pleasing to the senses. As agrotourism becomes an increasingly important source of income for small farms, cut flower growers can harness the natural beauty of their production fields to attract customers and create new revenue streams. Michigan flower farmer and florist Adrianne Gamie shares her experience with setting up a Pick-Your-Own (PYO) flower field. Cultivars, pricing, packaging and marketing considerations will also be discussed.

Creating Beautiful Market Bouquets (a virtual workshop)

Adrianne GammieThursday, Dec. 10

Does the thought of creating bouquets and other flower arrangements leave you feeling a little stressed? If so, you're certainly not alone. Adrianne Gamie from Marilla Flora and Field applies a designer’s eye to this topic, sharing tips and tricks to bring out the best in your floral arrangements. Be sure to join us for this delightful virtual workshop on creating beautiful bouquets for market!

Gammie is a flower farmer and florist based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She grew up on a fruit farm in Ohio, and after a 10-year career in fashion, combined her agricultural and design backgrounds into Marilla Field & Flora and works to spread joy in the world through flowers. Her sustainable, no-till operations supply flowers to a variety of sources including wholesale to florists and designers, grocery stores, flower subscriptions sold through her farm, and design for weddings and events. She has served the Michigan Flower Growers Cooperative in many capacities, most recently as the Chair of the Board of Directors.

Online registration for the Expo is now open! Attendees and exhibitors can find the full session schedule and trade show information at the Great Lakes Expo website.

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