Cut flowers are a rapidly growing and dynamic crop that attract new, underrepresented demographics to agriculture and redefine the profit potential for small farms. Utah has 135 known farms and a Utah Cut Flower Farm Association (established 2019) with 141 members. Cut flowers require a high level of expertise to produce and are challenging to grow in Utah’s high-elevation and arid to semi-arid climate that results in long winters, strong temperature variation, intense solar radiation, alkaline soils, and water limitations. Most cultivation guides come from states with nearly opposite growing conditions and following these recommendations, or popular social media content, can reduce yield potential and degrade long term soil sustainability and health, both of which reduce farm economic viability. To address this, Utah State University began a cut flower crop production program in 2018. Research and extension outreach focus on basic to advanced topics, from trialing crops and cultivars for local adaptation; optimizing season extension; local management of nutrients, soil, water, and pests; to market needs and enterprise budgets.
The need now exists to compile, organize, and expand upon these multidisciplinary resources by creating a comprehensive Utah Cut Flower Production Guide. This 12-chapter guidebook will be available in multiple formats (paperback, downloadable PDF, and an interactive Extension webpage). It will cover key topics from planning a flower farm; to sustainable soil, nutrient, and water management; integrated pest and disease management and safety; crop-by-crop production requirements; innovative season extension options; and marketing decisions that strengthen agricultural competitiveness. We will also host Train-the-Trainer events to provide an overview to extension agents, who face exceptional demand at the county level, and experienced farmers, who offer cut flower farming classes in their communities. This project creates a needed, science-based and regionally-appropriate tool and trainings that further sustainable and profitable cut flower production in Utah.
Project objectives from proposal:
To serve the intensifying needs of cut flower farming across Utah, the objectives of this project include:
- Streamline and expand upon existing cut flower crop and small farm management resources in Cooperative Extension by creating The Utah Cut Flower Production Guide in 2023 to 2025. Release the comprehensive and accessible, go-to guidebook for Utah by early 2026.
- Increase the number of trained personnel, particularly at the county level, to serve as community educators with science-based content for and knowledge on cut flower farming by 2026.
- Amplify the reach and convenience of university content to provide alternatives to widely-circulating, non-professional recommendations for flower farming. Utilize social media with a minimum of 20 posts from 2023 to 2026.
- Ensure a continued relevance, timeliness, and understanding of emerging needs of cut flower growers and agricultural professionals through evaluations of topics, impact, and usability across groups from 2023 to 2026.