Flower Farming

Tips for Creating a Friendly U-Pick Flower Farm

by Lynn Byczynski

While there is no such thing as easy money in farming, adding a U-Pick program to an existing flower operation can come close.

We did this for a few seasons at our farm in Kansas. Before we started, we were a little worried that our U-Pick customers would pick all the prettiest flowers, leaving us short for our florist and supermarket accounts. But many visitors picked flowers that were fully open, almost past their prime. Perhaps they sought flowers to enjoy in the moment, but they often left behind the choicest blooms just beginning to open.

Here are just a few other lessons we learned for hosting a friendly U-Pick operation:

  • Space your beds far enough apart that customers won't be brushing up against plants when they are fully grown. Bee stings, pollen, and wet foliage can be a downer for visitors unprepared for the elements.
  • Keep walking areas smooth to avoid trip-ups. We were surprised by how many visitors were unaccustomed to uneven ground or whose footwear was not as sturdy as what we wear around the farm. Well-groomed footpaths between the beds make picking much safer and more pleasant.
  • Verbal instruction is good, but you still need signs to let people know where to find containers, clippers, and water. If they've never picked before, show them how to do it.
  • Set prices that make sense to your customers, who won't know about the relative costs of production for various flowers. Either make everything the same price or boldly mark beds of higher-dollar and lower-dollar flowers. Even then some people won't notice, and you may have some hard feelings when they find out some of the cut-flowers that they thought were all the same price cost more than they'd anticipated.
  • Plant all flowers that you don't want to include in your U-Pick program in a distinctly separate location. If you do have higher-value flower crops in bloom, you can harvest a bucketful or two and set them next to the cash register to encourage add-on sales.
  • Don't be too concerned if customers pick weeds, short stems, or other things that would never make the grade if you were picking. Remind yourself that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and your guests are enjoying the sensory experience as much as the purchase. It is one thing to purchase or to receive as a gift the bouquet you made, but another to see, smell, and touch the plants, choose the blooms, and create one's own.
About the Author
Author Lynn Byczinski
Lynn Byczinski
Author & Founder of Growing for Market
Lynn Byczynski was growing organic vegetables and cut flowers for market when she decided to create a magazine that would help market gardeners nationwide share experiences and information. Her first issue of Growing for Market appeared in January 1992, and GFM has been published continuously ever since, becoming renowned in the market-gardening world for realistic articles that provide practical, how-to information about growing and selling produce and flowers.

Byczynski and her family have been growing vegetables and cut flowers since 1988, selling through CSAs, at farmers' markets, to chefs, grocery stores, and florists. They currently grow cut flowers and hoophouse tomatoes on about 2 acres of their 20-acre farm near Lawrence, Kansas.

She is also the author/editor of two of our favorite books about market farming, The Flower Farmer and The Hoophouse Handbook.