This post is in response to Aaron's questions. Thank you, Aaron for asking them.
Where do we sell flowers? We have 3 year around market days at two farmers market locations in Fresno, California. This Sunday we will begin at a seasonal market near Yosemite and we are considering taking on another market on Saturday afternoons.
How do we sell them? My adult son and his significant tiptoe through the posies putting bouquets together in the garden. They go from the field to an evaporative pad cooler until they are loaded in the van for market. There was a time when we could sell as many as 30 buckets [5 bunches x 30 buckets x average price of $6 = $900] on a Saturday morning [weekday sales much less] but the times they are a changin' under pressure of imports and poliferation of retailing by non-floral sellers: Sam's Club, CostCo, Trader Joe's, every drug and grocery and 7-eleven. Now a major part of our business is in plant sales. We're working harder but sales stay flat. I might add that harvesting and marketing are far more labor consuming than production and, if anything, a highly integreated garden [integrated by species, age, annual/perennial, etc.] is at distinct disadvantage because of all the walking around required. What we do most is walk: get a washer, turn a valve, drag a hose, etc, etc.
How is it farming near Fresno, California? Fresno County is #1 in the US for farm income. For the most part soils are deep and good--hardpan and red soils [as I am on] are considered less desirable. Ditchwater is widely available. You can buy some family's 40 acre dream for a song, a vineyard for example. Prices for raisins [already dried, mind you] run as low as $600 a TON. Just think of the labor it might take to pick, dry and pack a ton of raisins! This is the third year of such prices--100 year-long legacies are literally turning to dust. You can check values and prices on internet--perhaps even shop for specific properties too. Our major newspaper is the Fresno Bee, www.fresnobee.com, I'd recommend starting here. Archived articles on agriculture are available. The paper did a piece on our farm a couple of years ago. If list members would like a copy, please send your mailing address to me at daddyoat@...
Although it is true that many new farmers markets are opening up, the implication that demand for farm-fresh produce and flowers is correspondingly up is an outrageous lie. The fact is that many people are so poor they can't afford to buy frish produce [unemployment 16% here] On the other end of the economic spectrum lots of the people with PhDs and MBAs don't even know how to cook. Home ecoomics hasn't been taught in schools for years and they eat mostly at restaurants or frozen, highly prepared foods from CostCo. The new markets in upscale shopping centers feature the farmer as entertainer, even cop [displacing space taken up by unruly teenagers on Friday night]. Their purpose is to provide a down-home local atmosphere for the national and multinational retailers. These retailers pay no more than 10% or so of gross for rent while farmers pay 15%. Let me give you an example: Next Saturday a brand new market is opening up a few miles from our main Saturday market which will pull some of our regular Saturday customers away. If we follow them there we are just competing with ourselves by selling little more at two markets than we formerly sold at one.
Yet, there are still opportunities. Among the best, I think is selling to florists. There are other niches too. I recommend the monthly trade publication "Growing for Market", www.growingformarket.com published in Lawrence, Kansas. A subscription is $30 a year--don't start without doing a lot of reading here. There is lots and lots of information on growing flowers and collected articles from back issues are available. The view from there is more optimistic than you've gotten from me so far. Please don't be discouraged--keep your wonderful enthusiasm, Aaron, but don't be fooled either. Don't start without a full deck of information. Things seem to be better in other parts of the country.
I would be very pleased to host you for a visit. I want to help in every way possible. Our garden is just a few miles south of Yosemite if you are vacationing. Feel free to ask more questions.
In a few hours I'm going in for cornea transplant surgury and may not be able to read my email for a while so please be patient if don't respond to questions.
Best wishes to everyone . . . John
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