Revenue Ideas for Flower Farmers
There has been a resurgence of new flower farmers and farmer-florists in the past few years, and I am one of them! My name is Pressly Williams, and I am in my third year of vegetable and flower farming at Renfrow Farms in Matthews, NC. Flowers have quickly become a very significant portion of my operation, and I have developed a wide range of outlets through which I sell our sustainably grown blooms and foliage. I grow crops for florists and wedding designers, make farmer's market-style bouquets for my farm stand, service weddings, and other events in a few different capacities.
Today I am going to share about my floral event and design services options. If you are thinking about breaking into the wedding industry or are looking to restructure your farm’s offerings, I hope that my experiences will give you a few ideas and help you make steps towards growing your business.
My first experience with growing and designing all of the flowers for a wedding was in 2014 when I had the easiest bride to work for – myself! It was a fantastically fun experience for my family and me. I loved being intimately involved with my flowers, making my bridal bouquet, and letting friends and family help me create all of the floral arrangements for the big day. My wedding spurred in me a desire to provide this opportunity for other flower-lovers who do not have the ability to grow their own flowers. Two distinct offerings we have now at Renfrow Farms that were inspired by my work with my wedding are Bulk Buckets for do-it-yourself brides and an “a la carte” menu that can be paired with Bulk Buckets orders. In the "a la carte" menu, brides may order bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages that they are uncomfortable with making themselves. I also offer traditional full-service floral design services for a very limited number of weddings each year. Next is a breakdown of these services plus a few extra revenue streams.
Full-Service Floral Design
One of the hardest and scariest things starting out is the pricing and quoting process. My natural tendency is to undervalue my products and services, but I am committed to making a living as a farmer and a florist. I quickly learned that selling myself short does not work out well. I encourage all of my fellow farmer-florists to spend time calculating the cost of booking and executing a wedding as if you were purchasing all of the flowers — not growing them. Mark everything up accordingly and account for labor so that you can purchase flowers in case of a crop failure. This accounting will also ensure that you will give your farm a fair price for your flowers. It may help to think about your floral design service as a separate entity from the farm and treat your designer self as your farm’s favorite customer!
Flower farming is a very time-intensive job, with long hours in the hot sun. If you are a one-person show and participate in weekend farmers’ markets as your primary source of income, then full-service floral design might not be the best option for you right now as a very significant amount of time is required to create and set up for a wedding. Full service design also involves meeting with your clients, creating design quotes, revising quotes and securing contracts, all while providing excellent customer service. Your clients will need to be a top priority throughout the entire booking and design process if you want them to be more than satisfied with your work on the wedding day. I also recommend evaluating your time and resources to determine a minimum budget needed to execute your services.
I do not jump at every opportunity that comes my way, as some things are not worth stretching my time past its limits. Floral ideas that involve large amounts of product that I cannot grow and thus do not develop my “wildflower” or “cottage garden” design aesthetic get referred to my florist friends who are better equipped to meet the client’s needs.
For flower farmers branching out into wedding design services, I think the learning curve for appropriately charging is a steep mountain that must get conquered as quickly as possible.
These are the two biggest lessons I had to learn the hard way:
- I was used to charging farmer's market bouquet prices and had to learn that they are considerably different from wedding floral services, which require meetings, designs, execution, setup and much more stress!
- I did not necessarily budget out my flower expenses and count stems, and thus essentially “gave away” a lot of product by making arrangements larger than I would if I was purchasing all of my blooms like traditional florists and designers. Just because I have extra blooms does not mean I should give them away to the client!
A La Carte Wedding Flowers
I have an “a la carte” menu for personal flowers that people may order from for their weddings. This offering works well for DIY brides who want to arrange their own centerpieces but may not be comfortable with the complexities of extra materials required for boutonnieres, corsages, and bridal bouquets.
There are several benefits to this offering, especially for smaller operations and these are my top two:
- There is significantly less time investment, especially on the wedding day. I encourage my customers to pick up their orders, as opposed to delivery with this service. However, I do charge a delivery fee if they request delivery and are local.
- The brides and families I have worked with for a la carte services tend to be very relaxed and flexible. I require this flexibility and do not guarantee specific varieties of flowers due to Mother Nature’s whims. This generally makes for much less stress when fulfilling orders, and I have not had a dissatisfied customer of this service.
Profits are lower with this and the Bulk Buckets (see below) options, but the investment of time will also be lower, so you will have to figure out what is desirable for your situation.
Providing an a la carte menu can be a wonderful way to slowly break into the wedding design world and build your portfolio, in particular for farmers who are already busy and struggling to get everything done!
I offer buckets of mixed blooms and foliage for do-it-yourself weddings, rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, and other parties. I charge a slightly higher rate when my customer requests a specific color scheme than if they will take a "farmer's choice" mixture of colors. I do not currently offer straight bunches to my bulk buckets customers except for certain focal flowers like sunflowers or dahlias, as guaranteeing specific flowers far in advance for small bucket orders can be nearly impossible with weather fluctuations. However, as my business grows, I may begin to offer these straight bunches that my customers can order. I know of other flower farmers that have this as a successful component of their business.
Floral Arranging Parties
I teach small classes on flower arranging for birthday parties, bachelorette parties, and other festive occasions. These parties enable me to add value to my farm blooms and move a large quantity of product while exposing more people in my community to my farm’s flowers, and thus potentially gaining future customers. These parties can also be a great morale booster! Sharing the beauty of flowers with others who are not involved in the daily grind of producing the flowers can remind you of the reasons you are a flower farmer! The excitement that surrounds beautiful flowers is infectious!
We rent out our farm for photography sessions for an hourly fee and let folks roam between the rows of our fields. If you are interested in offering this on your farm and have the room, consider creating a space where a mixture of vivid colors will be in full bloom and where great shots can be taken from multiple angles without distracting backgrounds. Another idea would be to offer bridal bouquets made from the flowers for bridal portraits and flower crowns for little girls in family portrait sessions as part of their rental packages. Just be sure to have your ducks in a row with proper liability insurance and a contract with farm rules before welcoming visitors to your farm.
In just a few short years my farm’s floral offerings have evolved from an experiment in growing all of my own wedding flowers into a business model incorporating all of these services. Flexibility and a willingness to try various outlets have been instrumental in discovering new opportunities for me in these early years. Seek to find your niche within your community and evolve to meet your customers’ needs in ways that you can be profitable and sustain your business. I encourage you to put yourself out there and not be afraid to try new things in this exciting world of farmer floristry!