Enhancing Cut Flower Production and Marketing for Produce Growers: Methods of Diversification Into Proven Niches

2004 Annual Report for LNE04-195

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $73,241.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $17,052.00
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Steve Bogash
Penn State Cooperative Extension

Enhancing Cut Flower Production and Marketing for Produce Growers: Methods of Diversification Into Proven Niches


This project directly assists produce growers in diversifying into cut flowers by providing some of the answers to three of the most important issues that effect cut flower growers: The evaluation of new cut flower cultivars against industry standards, developing production budgets, and working out the details of succession planting protocols. By providing this information, growers will directly benefit through improved profitability.

Current flower growers, Master Gardeners, and research staff will cooperate in the cultivar evaluation part of the project by growing and evaluating cut flowers for compatibility with our climate and growing conditions, marketability, and saleable yield. Flowers grown on cooperator farms as part of this program are sold through the normal market channels that a grower would use. The actual selling prices will be used in developing the production budgets.

Cooperating growers have indicated a need for reliable methods to succession plant in order to meet the need for season-long sales. Each year of the project several flower cultivars will be run through succession trials in order to create an optimal replanting regimen.

Cooperating growers will hold open houses and twilight meetings to share growing practices and the projects’ results with neighbors. All project publications such as the annual trials reports will be posted to the Franklin County Horticulture website as well as printed and provided for growers at meetings.

This project will greatly expand on the existing Penn State Cooperative Extension Cut Flower Evaluation program by providing the resources for the program to expand beyond simple cultivar showcases. The results of this programs’ trials will also be disseminated at the 2005 Cut Flower Short Course to be held at or near one of the trial gardens.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1) Of the more than 250 cut flower growers that attend the annual Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable conference and hundreds more that attend the cut flower field trials on 5 sites around PA, at least 50% of those attending project activities will utilize the flower cultivars identified in the trials program as superior and increase marketable materials per production area.

Milestone: Participating growers will adopt the cultivars that are indicated in the annual reports or seen in cooperating growers’ trial plots. At least 50% of those attending these trials or related program will adopt these cultivars. During each growing season at least 75 growers will attend the evening programs or open houses at each trial plot.

2) The same group identified above will have access to yield data and succession planting protocols which will enable them to develop specific crop budgets in order to improve their management skills and business planning.

Milestone: Growers will use the production budgets developed in the trials program to create their own business plans. By the end of 2005 at least 5 growers will have used the budgets in their business plans.

Milestone: Participating growers will adopt the protocols for succession planting developed at the Franklin County Horticulture Education Center trial plots / high tunnel demonstrator. At least 20 growers will attend the twilight session in the summer of 2004 and 2005 focusing on succession planting. Of those attending at least 8 will use these protocols in their farms production system.

Milestone: 60 new cut flower growers or those exploring cut flower growing and marketing will attend the PSU Cut Flower Short Course in the summer of 2005. 100% of this group will understand the cut flower industry and the basics of operating a cut flower operation.

This program will build on the structure that has been created in the current Penn State Sunflower cut flower trials program by expanding cultivar evaluations to species other than sunflowers. Field-ready transplants will be provided to the 3 cooperating growers and planted at the Franklin County Horticulture Education Center trial plots and evaluated for yield, marketability and grower “friendliness.” Results will be widely published in a number of grower-friendly outreach publications including web and industry targeted newsletters.

There is currently very little budget and economic information available to growers that seek to develop cut flower-based business plans. The yield data will enable the collaborating business management agent to create individual crop budgets based on accurate yields as well as sales figures. This portion of the program will also include a succession planting study in order to determine the optimum time to replant specific flowers in order to insure a reliable supply.

A summer cut flower short course will be held at or near one of the field trial sites to teach new growers the basics of cut flower production. Growers attending the short course and the cut flower meetings will be surveyed for overall program impact. This project ties in well with other regional extension programs that support news enterprise startup, diversification efforts, as well as a near completed survey of Mid-Atlantic Florists.


1) Cultivar adoption: This report has been prepared prior to any evaluation of growers adopting cultivars identified in this program. A report on the cultivar evaluations will be produced prior to the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Conference on February 1-3, 2005. The results of the trials will be presented on February 3, 2005 at the conference and published to web and print shortly thereafter.

2) a) Production budgets for sunflowers (several specific, popular cultivars) zinnia and Karma dahlias are in development and due out by March 28, 2005.

b) One grower is presently in the development phase of their cut flower business plan.

c) The cut flower short course is currently in the planning stages for summer 2005. This program will be held at the PSU Landisville Research Farm to provide ready access to Lancaster, Baltimore and northern VA growers.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Although significant activities have taken place within this grant project, there are no outcomes to report at this time. Growers attending the evening cut flower workshop in May, 2004 as well as those visiting the trial plantings will be surveyed along with those attending the 2005 Cut Flower Short Course in order to determine cultivar adoption, use of crop production budgets, use of succession planting recommendations, and their progress in developing specific business plans.

One large change to this project from the original grant proposal is in moving the cultivar trials from largely a growers/cooperator on-farm project to a single cooperating grower, Master Gardener, Research Farm-based trials program. This should result in an increase in the opportunities for growers to evaluate plant material as each of the new sites has substantial traffic.


David Johnson

[email protected]
Farm Manager
PSU Southeast Research Farm
1446 Auction Rd
Manhiem, PA 17545
Office Phone: 7176534728
Robert Ambrose

[email protected]
Ridgeview Acres
RR 1, Box 210BB
Stahlstown, PA 15687
Office Phone: 7245937506