Marketing Your Flower Farm
We as growers and designers are aware of the numerous reasons why everyone should be buying local flowers, but how do we convey that to our customers? We know that because of the way many commercial flowers are grown, some varieties are losing their scent. We know that many of the flowers imported to America have been sprayed with toxic chemicals which the growers, florists, and environment all come into close contact with. We know what it is like to receive with disappointment distressed stems that have been packed and shipped thousands of miles and passed through numerous hands before reaching a sip of water. We know what a socially responsible flower looks like, but what about our clients? How do we educate them? And furthermore, why should they care? Especially when the supply from Latin America is so consistent, providing flowers that we may not be able to obtain locally.
Find your Audience
I suggest we start by asking ourselves, "Who are we selling to?" Are we selling to wholesalers? Farmer’s markets? Designers? DIY brides? What flowers and services might be of most use to each specific client? As a local grower you have an advantage of getting to know your target audience and venues on a personal level, so pay attention! They will give you clues as to how you should be marketing local flowers in your unique community. If you can find your niche in the local market, then you can plant your crops accordingly. You may be surprised, but many people would prefer to buy local and cut out the “middle-man” if given a choice. If you grow what the local market wants, and can provide a quality product, you will sell your flowers. These days the trend is leaning towards buying local in most places, and with farmers' markets popping up on practically every corner, the market is ripe for a local flower movement to elevate things to the next level.
After you determine who your audience is, you must make sure they know who you are. It is vital that local flower farmers stand out. You see the Certified American Grown logo displayed proudly in red, white, and blue at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, but branding is essential to the small flower farmer as well. Create an origin label, add a ribbon to bouquets, or come up with something that is exclusive to your farm. When people see your flowers, they should know the blooms came from your farm.
Communicate with Customers
Your flowers will speak for themselves, but they are not going to do all of the work for you. Beautiful as your blossoms may be, it is crucial that you and your business stand out alongside your blooms. A great example of this is Erin Benzakein of Floret. Her masterful use of social media to elevate her farm has accelerated the local flower movement as a whole. Utilizing the technology at your fingertips will not only help you post pictures of your spectacular blooms at lightning speed for the world to see, but it will also help make people aware of activities you might be hosting such as workshops, farm to vase style dinners, CSA programs, and more. And don’t forget about real life networking! Taking the time to talk to somebody about what you do and why you do it can be more valuable than you might expect.
So grab a bundle of your beautiful delphiniums and tell people why you started working with flowers. Express how growing flowers locally and sustainably helps to protect and preserve the ecosystem, build the soil, and provide sanctuary for endangered honey bees. Give the customer the opportunity to believe that by buying your bouquets they are a part of something bigger. Then, when the customer purchases your blooms, they know they are nurturing their local economy and allowing us to continue caring for the land and the environment as we do. Not only will it give them a boost, but they will inevitably come back to buy more from you!
Do Your Research
The main concerns of large buyers typically surround availability, quality, and price which unavoidably affects the flowers they choose to purchase and ship in. So, how do local flower farmers compete with large buyers? Grow a quality product that people want and need that does not do well shipped. You will have the upper hand in that corner of the market. For example, dahlias, zinnias, baptisia, celosia, cosmos, grasses, sweet peas, and tuberoses hold up poorly when shipped over long distances. However, many of those flowers are in high demand which makes them perfect crops for local farms. Unlike the prominent, beautiful South American roses people pine over, many flowers are of better quality and more fragrant when grown locally. For example, acidanthera, hydrangea, Iceland poppies, lilac, lisianthus, oriental lilies, snapdragons, stock, and Viburnum. Boast in your damage free bunches and the longevity of your fresh cut blooms! Give people a reason to do the thing they already want to do and buy local.
Another thing to keep in mind is the pricing advantage. When purchasing from a grocery store, customers are also paying the middleman, but when buying from a local farm, consumers pay a lower price for more blooms because there is no go-between and no shipping costs. Use this to your advantage!
Don’t forget that you are not alone in your endeavors! Groups of flower fanatics are forming all across the country. If you're lucky, you can connect with one of these communities right in your area. If not, there are many organizations you can join to reach out to your peers like Team Flower, ASCFG, American Grown Flowers, and more. Debra Prinzing, the author of, “The 50 Mile Bouquet,” and founder of Slow Flowers, has created a directory which can connect consumers with growers and designers in their area. If you are feeling really motivated, you can even start hosting flower based events in your own town and become a pioneer of the local movement in your community! Amy Stewart asked, “Should we care that roses have lost their scent? Or that most flowers are sprayed with pesticides? In a global marketplace, is there such a thing as a socially responsible flower?” I think there is, and I believe our customers deserve to know, too.