Selling flowers in Alberta

Sarah Adams is a businessperson who doesn’t mind getting dirt under her fingernails.

She farms about five acres near Vulcan, Alta., where she grows cut flowers for artisan bouquets. After a short time in the business, she has launched the Alberta Growers Flower Market at a venue just south of Calgary.

The idea for a distribution facility was conceived while she was selling bouquets from a converted horse trailer at a farmers market in the Marda Loop district of Calgary in her first year of business.

“Last year even from my little flower trailer, I sold out every weekend,” she said.

“The appetite for local cut flowers is there.”

With a fine arts degree, as well as marketing and communications experience, she quickly figured out how to market the farm and identified potential customers.

“Even though the farm was wobbly and still getting its legs, I was able to market it and still able to identify where those markets were.

“By the end of the year I decided what would be really nice would be a cohesive market space where instead of burning ourselves out by trying to accommodate florists and farmers markets and grocery stores, the growers are able to grow and then a market can handle all those transactions,” she said.

She studied similar markets in Toronto and Seattle and received a grant from Community Futures Alberta, which supports small rural businesses for start-up funds. The money allowed her to hire people and build the business from grower to flower lover.

Including herself and her mother, there are five employees.

She wants to build beauty and support local growers who can offer home grown as well as wild plants in unique bouquets. The centre does not offer custom work because there are florists better equipped to provide that service.

The market supports Alberta growers who may enjoy the production side but need help distributing and selling their flowers. So far, 10 growers have subscribed to the market that will help sell flowers to the wholesale and retail markets seeking seasonal mixed bouquets available through a website for pickup or delivery. Some customers place orders every week.

The main location is a 3,500 sq. foot facility beside a high end, enclosed farmers market and family playground. Drop-in traffic is encouraged and on opening day, she had a steady stream of customers picking up bouquets that ranged in price from $25 to $75.

The bouquets are made up of what is available each week from Alberta growers.

The bouquets are an artisan product using home-grown flowers, grains and wild plants. Growers are given guidelines on what is allowed to keep out invasive or endangered plants.

“We have a pretty strict foraging code that lays out the rules, the laws and ethics of it. Everything that comes into this market has to be identified and it has to be counted,” she said.

In her short time as a grower she found her niche. By networking with other growers, she has learned she can grow poppies and sunflowers while others may excel with gladiolus or dahlias. People are encouraged to consider adding wheat, clover, branches of willow or prunings from fruit trees to the mix.

She has perennials on her farm and new annuals were started in a greenhouse in February and March.

Flowers that do not sell are hung and dried for arrangements in the fall and winter months. Classes on dried flower arrangements will be offered from January to April.

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