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U-Pick Flower Business Offers More Than Money
Omena Cut Flowers pays off for owner Carolyn Faught with money as well as personal enjoyment and customer satisfaction. Over the past 20 years she has built a healthy sideline selling flowers from her acreage in northern Michigan. Her U-pick business operates from dawn till dusk seven days a week from May through October.
  “For me the garden is a spiritual thing,” says Faught. “After 9/11 people came out to the flower fields to recover; others write in my guest book about picking flowers to take to a gravesite or for the mother of a newborn baby. Some write that it reduces their blood pressure just to come and pick.”
  Faught credits her mother for introducing her to flower gardening as well as an article she read years ago about a U-pick flower farm in Oregon for getting her started. The first year she and a friend planted six 4-ft. wide flower beds, adding a few more the next year. Although her friend drifted away from the business, Faught persevered and the beds and the business grew.
  “This year I’ll have 26 beds, all 4 ft. wide and some up to 50 ft. long,” says Faught. “I have 3/4 of an acre under cultivation with beds and grass paths in between.”
  The bed width makes it easy to reach in from either side to weed and tend to the perennials. She puts landscape fabric on beds of annuals, burning holes in it to place transplants. At the end of the season she pulls it up, tills, plants a cover crop and layers the beds with compost for the next season.
  “The landscape fabric has been a blessing for reducing weed pressure and labor,” says Faught.
  She admits her grass paths have a downside. Keeping the grass from spreading into the flower beds is difficult, and the grass takes up space that could be planted. However, she says they are a blessing in their own right.
  “They are lovely to look at for me and for my customers,” says Faught. “The aesthetics are why people come here. It’s what makes our U-pick a place to come.”
  A continuous palate of flowers coming into blossom is another reason customers come. Faught has more than 50 perennials and annuals. Every year she tears out a bed or two, dividing and replanting perennials. She also sells potted perennials in the spring that have been dug from her beds in the fall.
  Faught warns against expanding faster than you can handle, recalling one year she dug up too large an area.
  “Don’t get overwhelmed,” she adds. “Master one thing and then go on to the next.”
  She also advises finding a niche that works for you and your lifestyle. Faught works four days a week as communications director for a local nonprofit. Operating the U-pick fits her available hours well. Her customers come when they like, go to the well-stocked shed to pick up containers, clippers, and a form to track the type and number for flowers picked. When they finish, they total up their harvest and leave money in the lockbox. They can also pick from bouquets and check chalkboards on the shed doors for specials.
  “I’ve tried a lot of things in the past, including farmers markets, weekly subscription deliveries and selling to florists,” says Faught. “I now focus on the U-pick, though I still offer some subscriptions. You can’t do everything, so learn the niche that is most profitable and enjoyable for you.”
  The enjoyment part is key to Faught. Not only does she enjoy working around the flowers, but also she reports loving to weed. She admits to also being fortunate that her husband works out of their home. His idea of a work break is to mow the grass paths and till the beds when needed.
  Faught puts social media to work for the business. The Omena Cut Flowers Facebook page has nearly 4,000 likes.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Omena Cut Flowers, 12401 E. Freeland Rd., Suttons Bay, Mich. 49682 (www.omenacutflowers.com).

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2017 - Volume #41, Issue #2