When starting a flower farm, there are several avenues you can take to find your market and sell cut flowers successfully. In this article, flower farmer Lindsey Hofman of 605 Flowers covers ways to sell flowers and why local blooms are superior. As well as why there is ample opportunity in the flower market for local growers.
Where can you sell local flowers?
Selling local flowers can be a worthwhile pursuit regardless of whether you are in a rural or urban area. You do not need to live near a city, own several acres, or know exactly how to grow every flower. Here are ways I have been encouraged to create my market and bring the slow flower movement to my small community.
“A veteran flower farmer advised me early on to start small, pick the cut and come again varieties, plant perennials, and narrow in on your market. I have found that our surrounding rural communities embraced the opportunity for fresh-cut flowers”.
Why Sell Local Flowers?
Selling local flowers is a great way to bring flower growing and selling back to the domestic markets. Statistically speaking, in 2016, 80% of flowers sold in the U.S. were imported, and still, as of 2022, only 25% of the flowers sold and used in the U.S. are domestically produced. (1)
Over the last seven years, there has been a resurgence in bringing education, sustainable practices, and chemical-free flowers to the consumer. Not only is this a movement to refocus dollars, but it is also a way to lower our carbon footprint and increase community involvement!
“Flower consumers want to put a face to the farmer, the transparency of flower farmers, and the work being done to bring flowers to them. The process from seed to vase is intriguing to them! When I say local, I am referring to a 50-100 mile radius.”
Top 5 Ways to Promote Local Flowers in Your Community
Farmer’s Market Booths
Direct to Consumer
Pop-ups & Consignment
Farm Florist Model
Ways to Promote and Expand Your Flower Farm Market
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. A flower CSA is a great way for farms and their customers to invest in local flowers. Customers receive beautiful blooms throughout the season. CSAs create a cash flow advantage for the farm with the customer helping to take on some of the burden of the risk. This farm marketing model will secure a set number of sales to cover farm expenses such as irrigation, soil amendments, seeds, bulbs, and seed-starting equipment.
It is important to establish a set expectation and understanding with your customers about what a CSA is and how it works. To learn more about the CSA model, check out our in-depth guide on starting a CSA.
Setting Expectations for a Flower CSA
Set a fixed number of bouquets based on the subscription length. EX. In an 8 week subscription, they will get 1 bouquet every other week for a total of 4 deliveries.
Let your customers know the expected bouquet life with proper care. Locally grown flowers will often last 2 weeks in the vase.
There is a risk of crop loss that could affect deliverables.
Set predetermine approved pickup times and locations.
Give your customers an idea of what they should expect to get in each bunch. You can base this on a stem count or on the diameter of a bunch. IE. there will be 20 stems, or it will be a wide-mouth quart jar worth of stems.
Some market farms use this as a marketing opportunity to add cut flowers as an add-on to established vegetable CSA subscriptions. Alternately flowers can be offered as a complete stand-alone subscription. For more information on the 10 best flowers to add to a vegetable garden check out this article.
Why Start a Flower CSA?
Establishing a CSA is a consistent way to establish loyalty with your customer base. You can include them in farm happenings and add incentives like weekly flower care emails. Subscribers can also get the first chance to sign up for on-farm workshops, or early purchasing for the next season.
The CSA model is a really great way to get feedback on what is and isn't working. Also which varieties your customers want to see more of. CSAs are a great way to build these long-term client relationships.
You can easily build customer loyalty by providing customers with special requests and calling them out in your newsletter. For example, “Thanks to Katie for recommending the gorgeous zinnias in this week's bouquet!”
Here is an incredible resource from the University of Kentucky I have found has great insight diving further into a Cut Flower CSA. I recommend taking a deeper look into this if a CSA marketing model fits your farm.
How do you start your own flower CSA?
Determine the season length for which you want to offer subscriptions.
Then, based on that, how many bouquets (Ashley at Vail Family Farm has a great video on flower math)
Create a subscription agreement
Create an online sign-up. This is where an online presence and a well-designed website are an advantage to your business. Create sign-ups in an online store that are monitored digitally and without your constant oversight. Set limits so you won't oversell is a convenience of modern technology.
MARKET, market, market! Offer incentives i.e. weekly farm newsletters, flower care tips, and ways that encourage your community to get involved.
Create gift subscriptions—market subscriptions around crucial holidays, such as Christmas, Mother's Day, or Valentine's Day. If you aren't offering fresh bouquets in that specific season, the next best thing as a seasonal business is a bought subscription gifted for a season full of freshly picked, locally grown flowers!
Selling Flowers at the Farmer's Market
Farmer’s markets are small specialty producers' direct outlets for selling local food and flowers. They are a fantastic way to interact, educate and communicate with potential buyers. As Stephanie Chow of Poppies and Petals Farm told us, “... it is really the human element of being able to interact with someone, and providing happiness and joy is really the ultimate gratification.”
People attend farmers markets specifically to support the local producers, get the freshest products available, and put a face to the farm. These are opportunities for us as flower farmers to educate everyone on the local flower movement. We can get people excited about the ever-changing varieties nature has to offer! It is an opportunity to charge top dollar and see the instant reaction that your flowers have on the buyer.
Strategies to attract customers at Farmers' Markets.
Attracting customers to the farmer’s market is easier than you might think. The good news is that the Farmer's Market committee is already doing some advertising for you. However, they can only sometimes showcase your booth specifically.
As a flower grower, you will want to leverage social media and word of mouth. Social media has been my biggest and best advertisement. In your online presence, your potential customers see the romance of local flowers. Many are embracing the new farm transparency trend. By sharing all the highs and lows that bring your flowers full circle. You, too, can share the power of local blooms.
Word of mouth is the second best way to attract potential buyers.
We did something as a business that was one of the best advertisements we could have ever done this season. We had a couple of day-old buckets of zinnias picked from a flower drop earlier in the week. I choose not to include them in weekend bouquets because I strive to sell the freshest flowers possible. My son and I gave zinnias to any kid who walked past our booth! It was the event's highlight, and people were surprised that we encouraged kids to grab a flower.
Doing a giveaway brought smiles to the kids and adults alike! As one gentleman said, “I see these bright-colored flowers everywhere, and I wanted to check them out!” It brought parents to our booth and community members curious about where those brightly colored flowers came from. A simple act of kindness brought unlikely customers by and got people talking and looking forward to the next event.
Direct-to-Consumer Flower Sales
Benefits of weekly deliveries to businesses
I do not have a place available for onsite pick-up or on-farm activities. Instead, I found a centrally located, well-known business for a larger weekly bouquet drop. This is a mutually beneficial relationship that can bring more customers to both of you. Sometimes people who never would have heard of either of you without the collaboration.
In our community, mainstream farming is the leading employment for most families. Spouses drive a long distance to work at schools, hospitals, or other establishments. By establishing a relationship with the well-known salon owner, I have been able to increase traffic to her business and bring the flowers directly to the customers.
These specially curated, direct-to-consumer sales give customers something unique to look forward to during the week. Being growers' choice, their weekly delivery will always be a surprise. Providing that value to your customers will help retain loyalty. It is about providing them with the freshest flowers possible and creating that emotion and anticipation that elevates their flower purchase.
Pop-up Events and Consignment Sales
Partnering with local businesses for pop-up sales or collaborations are great for expanding your reach. This could be flash sales or a recurring integration.
Another opportunity for weekly deliveries along the lines of a CSA is setting up a business subscription. Arranging weekly arrangement deliveries is a fantastic way to add flowers to well-known and well-visited locations!
Businesses such as hotels, offices, banks, title companies, and even restaurants have some form of flower display in their lobby. These businesses survive with local support, and they would be more than happy to buy flowers to showcase in their entries. Not only that, but the number of people they interact with or cross through their lobby are all potential customers! These are great partnerships with lots of potential for business growth for both entities.
Farmer Florist Model
The Farmer Florist model is an all-encompassing business marketing model. It includes not only growing the flowers but arranging for events, as the farmer is also the florist. This is a direct-to-consumer sales model that could include wedding flowers, holiday arrangements, weekly business drop-offs, and workshops. Check out our article on “The Farmer Florist Model” to learn more about this marketing approach.
There are so many options when it comes to selling your locally grown flowers. Remember, only some marketing avenues are perfect for your particular business. Start small, explore your options for a season, pivot if needed, and add on when you feel comfortable.
If something doesn't work for your business this season, it just isn't meant for you at this time. Take heart, learn from your mistakes, and try another venture next season. Welcome to the slow, sustainable flower movement, my flower friends. It's an incredible movement to be in right now.
This article is just an overview of my experiences, educational investment, and research on these topics. There is so much to gather and learn from. There are industry veterans with written resources available, workshops, and hands-on training.
While some paid classes can be invaluable there are plenty of free resources out there too. The Slow Flowers podcast is a wonderful way to keep abreast of what is going on in the movement. Your favorite book authors likely have a blog with free articles and resources on their websites.
Continue researching, watching, observing, and trying new things. Remember to write things down as you go, whether it be mistakes, lessons, or varieties you want to include next year.
I'd love to hear what has worked for you! Any added marketing tips that got your rural business going? Hang around for the next article as we continue exploring and navigating the world of the slow flower movement and bringing the freshest, sustainable, seasonally grown flower tips to you!
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We had the opportunity to sit down with Stephanie Chow of Poppies and Petals Farm, a cut your own flower farm in Santa Rosa, CA. Her U-Pick flower farm is absolutely beautiful. She offered us a chance to see what running a farm designed from the soil up to have customers on site looks like.
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