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Power Your Flowers: Crop Planning
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Power Your Flowers: Crop Planning


Welcome to Power Your Flowers, a three-part farm business basics series by flower farmer and author Lennie Larkin. You may have read her guest blog post How To: Set Business Goals for a More Focused and Satisfying Season Ahead a little over a year ago. 

In that year, Lennie published her first book, Flower Farming for Profit: A Complete Guide to Growing a Successful Cut Flower Business (Chelsea Green). This essential guide delivers practical, step-by-step instructions and on-the-ground examples for farmers of every scale. Though digging into the numbers may be less thrilling than getting your hands in the dirt, nurturing a healthy (profitable!) business is the key to a sustainable flower farm. 

Lennie's three-part series debuts today with a guide to Crop Planning.  Stay tuned for Part 2: Recordkeeping Systems and Part 3: Building Thriving Customer Relationships, right here on the blog. 

Crop Planning

by Lennie Larkin, author of Flower Farming for Profit and owner of B-Side Farm

Happy 2024, farmers! This time of year is full of promise, but it’s also tricky. I tend to hibernate a bit in the winter, and emerging from my slumber always feels downright awkward. Those second-cup-of-coffee winter mornings are numbered, because, as you all know, the farm waits for no one! After I’ve taken my downtime and am ready to get organized for the year, I begin pulling out my notes from the past season, and translating them into a rough business plan for the season ahead. In this 3-part series here on the Farmer Bailey blog, I’ll take you through three crucial phases of business planning for the season ahead: crop planning, recordkeeping, and building customer relationships. Let’s dig in today with crop planning.

There are many different approaches to crop planning, but they all aim to accomplish the same major tasks. First of all, you’ve got to decide which crops you’re planning to grow. There could be a whole book dedicated to this stage of crop planning for flower farmers alone. Then once you’ve got your general crop list dialed in, you’ve got to calculate how much of each crop you need. And finally, you’ve got to make a plan for when and how to get these crops growing (which I usually refer to as a sowing schedule), and where they’re going to go (a field map). That’s it. But as we all know, this process can be overwhelming, overly-complicated, and can really bog you down.

I teach farmers to fine-tune the system that works for them, and to focus on the following main themes:

A Sales-First Mentality

When you’re first starting your farm, you’re just shooting in the dark when you choose what crops to grow. There’s no problem with this, if you’re new to gardening and farming and are just in the experimentation phase. But pretty soon, perhaps by your second season, you had better rein the process in.

It all starts from your sales goals. Yes, you should set sales goals! I teach flower farmers how to make season-long sales projections for all their different sales channels, and to work backwards from these goals to plan their crops. Click here to download some simplified plans for doing this, and to read more about this methodology, go to the source with Dan Brisebois’ incredibly helpful book, Crop Planning For Vegetable Growers.

But here’s the gist, in the most simplified form. Start by deciding how much money you want to make this year on your farm, and I mean your take-home profit and pay as the farm owner. Let’s say that goal is $20k. Remember, profit is income minus expenses, so this $20k is what’s left after all expenses have been paid. I advise farmers to plan for a 30% (-ish) net profit, meaning to bring home $20k, you’d need to sell around $60k worth of flowers (technically, $66,666). So, how will you reach that $60k of sales throughout the season - and how much do you have to sell each week? How are those weekly sales divided between your different channels (whether that’s sales to florists and a farmers’ market, to DIY brides, or whatever your specific combination of channels is?). When you determine the sales you need to make through every channel, every week, you can then get to planning which crops will constitute those sales.

This sounds complicated, I know. The truth is, it both is and it isn’t! The challenge for most is that you’re either a) so new that you don’t have great sales history to plan off of, or b) you’ve been selling for years, but you haven’t kept great, easily-accessed records of what you’ve grown, how much it’s produced, and who you’ve sold it to, that this process is equally daunting. Well guess what, my friends? All of these issues are aided when you work on slashing your crop list. Let’s get into that.

Slashing The Crop List

Most of you are growing too many crops. But if you’re trying to create a thriving, sustainable business, especially one as tricky as flower farming, you’ve got to be as efficient as possible. Your level of efficiency drops with each new crop you introduce onto the farm. There’s of course so much to be said about crop diversity on the farm - for the ecosystem, for the bugs, for the soil, and for satisfying customer demand. But you’ve got to temper these benefits with the quest for efficiency.

I implore you to take a red pen to your crop list, and see what you can live without. Once you’ve got a little experience, you should be growing the crops that are both specifically demanded from your customers, and profitable for you to grow and sell. And as you work to learn which crops check these boxes, aim to start with a smaller list. If you’ve growing mainly for bouquet production, ask yourself if you really need, for example, stock and snapdragons and delphinium and larkspur and foxglove that will all be in bloom at the same time. Could you simplify and slash so that you only grow the two that work best for you on your farm? It’ll make your life a lot easier, and put some time (and money!) back in your pocket.


Next time we’ll dive into record keeping systems on the flower farm. Until then, I hope your transition from winter to spring is feeling less awkward than mine is! Baby steps, my friends, baby steps.

Lennie Larkin is the owner of B-Side Farm outside of Portland, OR, and teaches flower farming business skills through coaching and courses at Find her first book, ‘Flower Farming For Profit’, at Growing For Market.

Read More from Lennie Larkin: 

Power Your Flowers: Building Thriving Customer Relationships

Power Your Flowers: Record Keeping Systems

How To: Set Business Goals for a More Focused and Satisfying Season Ahead

Flower Farming for Profit: A Complete Guide to Growing a Successful Cut Flower Business (Chelsea Green)


2 comments on Power Your Flowers: Crop Planning

  • Allie
    AllieMarch 11, 2024

    Thank you, Lennie! Thank you to the whole team at Farmer Bailey! Getting out the red pen and slashing the list. Looking forward to a more simplified sowing schedule.
    Farmer Bailey Inc. replied:
    Thanks so much for reading, Allie! We are so honored to support our amazing farmers. ~Felicia

  • Fiona
    FionaMarch 01, 2024

    This was really helpful! Thanks, Lennie!

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