Many farmers have a soft spot for flower crops because they are just pretty to look at. But more importantly, they can be lucrative. An acre of sunflowers can gross $25,000 or more. Subtract out about $10,000 in direct costs and overhead, and a farmer could net $15,000, which is not a bad return.
Deciding What to Grow
As a farmer, you have to decide which flower crops to grow and how much to plant. Some of the factors that go into your decision will include:
- Climate – What grows well in your micro-climate, and how much fertilizer and other additives is needed?
- Soil – Are the soil conditions right for your chosen crop? Will it have to be enriched?
- Timing – You will probably sell your crop to a wholesaler upon harvest, and thus you need to know when your buyer wants delivery, so you can pick crops that bloom during the critical time period. If your crop blooms too soon or late, you could be out part of your investment.
- Demand – Pick crops in high demand. If you are harvesting in June, grow wedding flowers. If the country happens to be in a war, you can plant funeral flowers which, unfortunately, will always be needed. Seed oil crops like sunflower and safflower will be most profitable if they are in high demand from processors.
Seed selection is critical, and keeps farmers buried in catalogs during the winter months. Alternatively, you can purchase small plants for transplant, but this may be a costlier method. You will have to have a suitable irrigation strategy, which may include drip hoses and sprinklers. Remember that flowers need regular watering to do well.
During harvest season, you will probably cut some of your crop each day. Since you don't deliver each day, you will need refrigeration facilities to keep your harvested flowers fresh until you send them to the wholesaler or processor. Obviously, between irrigation, refrigeration, and fertilization, flowers can be a somewhat expensive crop to grow, so be very choosy and grow only flowers that you know will command a profitable price.
Wholesalers will distribute your flowers to retail outlets such as supermarkets, florists and farmer's markets. You can even set up a flower shop on your farm to sell your crop to the public directly. If your farm is close to a busy highway, you might find it more profitable to sell directly to the public rather than going through a wholesaler or distributor.
Farming entails many financial risks. Bad weather or pests can wipe out your crop. The best protections are to diversify your flower crop, rotate plantings each year, and consider buying crop insurance for at least half the value of your harvest. Most farmers lock in prices during the spring by signing contracts with processors or distributors, for at least part of their crop. This helps to reduce price risk, but puts you on the hook to deliver the contractual amount. If the crop fails, you'll have to buy the crop from another farmer and deliver it to the distributor.