Saturday, February 10, 2007

New England Grows, VFF Grows!!

An even zero degrees here at Vermont Flower Farm this morning. The sky has a smoke grey tint as the sun rays reluctantly shake off last night's sleep and reach for the top of Hooker Mountain and surrounding ridgelines. The temperature will begin dropping any minute now but I expect it will be a nice day.

Gail just headed out with Karl the wonder dog. She seems to always end up talking with someone passing by the place no matter what time of year it is. This is the time ice fishermen speed by. They're in a hurry to get to Peacham Pnd and find a parking space as close to the ice as they can. Within less than half an hour we'll be able to hear the burr-r-r-r of ice augers cutting holes for tip ups. Peacham Pond has a population of brown trout that's not half as respectable as it was when we first came here but fish and water quality is yet another discussion.

Hands down, Vermont is a great place to live and garden. It's the best in our book. Nonetheless, if you are going to operate a business now days, you have to keep current on what your industry is doing. The Internet is a fantastic way to learn what's going on but you need professional opinions and you need to see what people are doing outside of Vermont. Many businesses in this state have excellent products but until the market external to Vermont is developed, the true potential is often unknown.

Anytime people stop and ask for help about starting a new business I tell them to get reading. I have no idea how many magazines I read in a month but winter time is catch-up time and Gail and I read constantly. From spring on it's difficult to read much and magazines stack up waiting for winter to approach and the comfort of the woodstove and the wing back chair.

The green industry produces mountains of magazines. Many are free, some are expensive, some in between. One great idea from a $50 a year subscription pays for the annual cost and more. That's the way you have to think about magazines. An Internet search can get you going and after you're established for a while, new offers will frequent your e-mail or mailbox.

Branch-Smith Publishing is "big" in the horticultural world and puts out 4 magazines that are quite good. Greenhouse Production and Management, Garden Center, Nursery Management and Production and Garden Center Products and Services will get you started. Ball Seed Company and Ball Publishing produce Green Profit and that's free too. Meister Media Worldwide produces Greenhouse Grower, and Scranton-Gillette Communication puts out Greenhouse Product News and a number of other lawn and garden magazines. These are professional magazines and meant for the trade. They are published through trade advertising and provide a nice monthly summary of what's going on.

We subscribe to American Nurseryman too and think it's a good investment. It is published 26 times a year and has a good cross section of plant material stories, the latest in insect invaders and possible controls and timely articles about new trends. It always features successful nurseries and greenhouses and that's very important too.

There's nothing like a trade show to jump start your mental energies and New England Grows in Boston is an annual show of great merit. This past year it won another award for it's rapid growth as an industry leader. The show was this week at the Boston Convention and Exhibit Center and it was well worth the trip and the entrance fee. There were over 700 vendors present and the show catalog couldn't have said it better "One Show, A Million Ideas".

It's 198 miles from here to the convention so the trip affords time to think about plans for the coming year. I always make a mental laundry list of vendors I want to speak with and I include things that I want to see first hand that I've only seen in magazines before. In addition to the displays there are ongoing lectures and demonstrations which put you in touch with some of the finest information specialists in the business.

In coming weeks I'll write about some of the things I saw at the show. I noted some great new nursery stock tempered for New England's varied climate, new hosta varieties, perennials with exiciting new leaf color and texture, and some interesting specialists growing plants for forest, river and wetland restorative planting. In the meantime, if you're not a garden magazine subscriber, stop at a good bookstore and try People, Places and Plants Magazine, Fine Gardening, Garden Gate, Horticulture or any of the many special issue releases on garden design. I'm not sure that these will conjure up a million new gardening ideas but they will certainly help you reevaluate your current gardens or help design the ones you've only been thinking about.

Writing from the mountain above PeachamPond but thinking about our new endeavor along the Winooski River on Route 2 in Marshfield.

With gardening thoughts,

George Africa

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