Economics of Extended-season Cut Flower Production
In central Oklahoma, the majority of specialty cut flower operations utilize field production with a growing season from May through September. However, the strongest selling season runs from October through May which includes the major holidays. Demand for cut flowers and foliage is particularly strong in November for Thanksgiving Day sales, February for Valentine’s Day sales, and April/May for Easter and Mother’s Day sales. Vicki Stamback used her SSARE Producer Grant to extend the growing season during the winter months by using minimally heated cold-frames. By producing in the ground in cold-frames, rather than in traditional greenhouses, she was able to meet holiday demand. She feels that extended season production can increase sales for other growers by allowing them to grow crops which normally cannot be grown during the colder months of the holiday seasons.
Because SARE Producer Grants can’t pay for permanent structures, the cost of the green houses was paid for by the producer. She grew cool season and warm season annuals in two greenhouse environments: heated (59 degrees F night) and unheated (55 degrees F night). The floors of the greenhouses were set about four feet into the ground to take advantage of the soil warmth.
In the first year of the grant she planted pansy, larkspur, stock, snapdragons, delphinium, lupine and anemone. Lupin was the only species that was profitable in both houses. However, she noted that snapdragons preferred the unheated house by producing more and longer stems and higher quality flowers in the unheated house than in the heated one. Anemone, larkspur, stock and pansy did not make a profit in either greenhouse.
In the second year she heated both greenhouses. She kept one at 36 degrees at night and the other at 50 degrees at night. This time, snapdragons and larkspur made a profit in both houses and lupin made a profit in the 50 degree house.
In the third year she set both houses to a nighttime temperature of 45 degrees. This year the crops that made a profit were snapdragons, lupine, ranunculus, anemone, and sweet peas. Although anemone still did not make a profit the third year, she intends to try them one more time.
The project provided a cash flow during the colder months and gave her access to holiday markets that she did not have before. She will continue to experiment with temperatures that require the least amount of heating and also produce the greatest number of flowers.