Field-grown cut flowers have always been a staple in the floral trade. Many farms across North America have specialized in growing cut flowers for generations, and it continues to be a big part of the business.
There is often confusion about what constitutes field-grown versus greenhouse-grown flowers and where they come from, but I will try to simplify that here.
The flower must be grown in the ground outdoors to start, but whether they are grown under cover or not can make a huge difference to your bottom line and your success as a producer. Depending on the crop, you will either grow undercover and sell wholesale, which also means selling to florists and grocery stores, or undercover and sell retail at farmers markets or roadside, or you will grow outdoors and sell retail to consumers on-site. What does it take to venture?
The first question that comes up in discussions of growing field cut flowers is, “How do I get into this business?” The answer depends on the flower.
You plant acres in early spring to produce sunflowers and harvest them in mid-fall when they dry down (make seed). Most other cut flowers such as peonies, lisianthus, and delphiniums are started in the greenhouse for transplant in early- to mid-spring. Larkspur, sweet peas, and alliums can be directly seeded in the field but more likely from transplants.
For flowers that come from cuttings or divisions, such as irises and bleeding hearts, you only need a fraction of an acre and come up with creative ways to manage them on a small scale.
The second question is more about how much do I need to get started? Each crop has different requirements, but generally, if you have half an acre or less of direct-seeded crops, you can produce enough flowers to sell at farmer’s markets.
Larger wholesale accounts require five acres or more of production. If you produce larkspur, sweet peas, or alliums for cutting, then you need about an acre to grow out the plants for a summer harvest, and these are good crops to start with if you’re interested in growing cut flowers.
The last thing is how much money do I need to get started? It’s a lot less than you might think! In Ontario, field-grown cut flowers can be grown on rented or leased land. To start, you will need to cover the cost of seeds and transplants, which range from $1,000 to $2,000 per acre for most crops. An acre is 43,560 square feet which means that if you’re only growing half an acre of one crop, then your initial cost is about half that amount.
Once you’ve grown the plants and harvested them, there are costs associated with drying them down for storage, but these can be relatively easily managed by using fans and hanging the flowers in rows or on drying racks so that air can move freely around them.
Growing flowers for cutting is only one facet of producing field-grown cut flowers. You may decide to grow for wholesale, retail, or both. Wholesale means you sell direct to florists or grocery stores. Retail selling is as simple as setting up a roadside stand with a few buckets of flowers or selling at farmers’ markets. You don’t even need to sell your flowers yourself – you can sell the whole crop to an agent who will then wholesale them for you. Flower delivery services similar to Pearsons Florist are another option for selling wholesale flowers.
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