By Lynn Byczynski
October 29, 2014
Among the many season extension structures in use on vegetable farms today, one of the least expensive is the caterpillar tunnel. Caterpillars — so named because of their segmented appearance. Caterpillars are easy to build and move. They are inexpensive compared to permanent hoophouses and most of the materials can be found locally.
Lorna Jackson started flower farming intensely relatively later in life at Ninebark Farm on a century-old hayfield in Metchosin at the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. Now 64, she plans to continue into her 70s. To keep going, she makes adaptations to ease the toll on her body.
Another part of the farm’s longevity plan is profitability. Value-added, naturally-dyed silks are contributing to the bottom line along with the Island Flower Growers, a co-operative on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, which Jackson helped launch last year. All these experiences — including recent adaptions for retail and wholesale sales in the time of COVID — offer lessons and inspiration to other farmers.
Until recently, I was a food farmer, plain and simple: if I couldn’t eat it, I didn’t care about it. But last spring I was looking for ways to increase sales to my existing customers. I figured that someone who already gets their week’s vegetables from me might spend extra to get a bouquet of flowers as well, so I could sell more with the same marketing energy.
With that admittedly materialistic motivation I planted a couple of short beds of flowers. And from my first bouquet, I was hooked.
Marketing is the other half of the battle
My first few years as a flower farmer were a thrilling mix of hard work and overwhelming beauty. Through trial and error, and a staggering amount of work, I slowly learned how to grow top quality flowers. But once I figured out what my key crops were and how to grow them in my climate, the real work began. I had finally cracked the code on how to grow an unbelievable amount of flowers in a really small space, but what I didn’t realize is that growing is only half of the battle.
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