Profitable, Small-Scale Flower Farming

Cut flowers are one of the highest-grossing crops per acre. Create a debt-free farm and surround yourself with beauty by following this expert advice.

| Summer 2017

When Lynn Byczynski first authored an article on flower farming for Mother Earth News back in 2002, she estimated that “an acre of well-grown and marketed flowers is worth approximately $25,000 to $30,000 in sales.” Fifteen years later, cut flowers continue to be one of the highest-grossing crops you can grow per acre. Utilizing small-scale, high-intensity production techniques, my farm, Floret, has been able to gross $55,000 to $60,000 per acre in good years, even when we’ve sold the bulk of our flowers at wholesale prices. By offering wedding flowers and design services, we’re able to include an additional $25,000 to $30,000 worth of value-added revenue to our farm each year.

But before you get too starry-eyed by these figures and start plowing under your corn to plant zinnias and cosmos, it’s important to remember a few key things. Flower farming is farming, and farming is hard work. It involves long hours, physical labor, and your net income (what you keep) is a far cry from the gross per-acre income (what you bring in) after you factor in all your expenses and time. But the benefits are many, including being your own boss, providing vital bee and pollinator habitat, working outdoors, and being surrounded by incredible beauty. And most importantly: making a living doing something you love.

Here at Floret, we have just 2 (yes 2!) tiny acres dedicated to flower production. Many of today’s most successful flower farms are what would be considered “microfarms” compared to the vast expanses of corn, wheat, and soybean farms that make up much of the farmland across large swaths of the country. Among my flower-farming friends, anyone growing flowers on more than 10 acres is considered one of the “big guys.”

In just the past three years, there has been a renaissance of new flower farms in the U.S. Virtually all of this new growth is taking root on farms with just a few acres in production. Unlike commodity crops, and even vegetables grown on a small scale, flowers are typically planted, cultivated, and harvested all by hand. Very little mechanization beyond field preparation is actually involved, which means production is more often limited by available labor, than by available land.

Before You Begin

To get high yields and large volumes on such little land, we utilize high-intensity production techniques at Floret. These methods involve significant investments in soil health, season extension structures, such as hoop houses, and in weed-control fabric, tight plant spacing, and a finely-tuned succession-planting plan. Succession planting means that as soon as one cultivar is done blooming, we tear it out and have another crop ready to transplant in its place in just a matter of days. This way, we harvest two crops in one season from each bed, which significantly increases our overall production (read more about this growing technique in Succession Planting: Growing Vegetables Year-Round. I like to say that we tend 2 acres but produce more like 4 acres’ worth of flowers.

If you have a green thumb, have access to land with good soil, and have an outlet for selling seasonal blooms, then growing your own cut flowers can be a great source of supplemental income. It’s best to start small and slow, as the learning curve can be significant. Flower farmers grow dozens, sometimes hundreds, of different cultivars, each with their own germinating, harvesting, and post-harvest handling requirements. Plus, the prices you can get for flowers vary greatly depending on where you live and who your customers are. There is a fine art to finding the right type of flowers to grow, timing harvests for specific times of the year, and selling to the right people for the best price. Flowers you sell at farmers markets are different from flowers you sell to wedding florists, for example. You might need a few seasons to sort this out, so be sure to factor in some extra time while you’re getting the hang of it all.

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