There are so many different ways to market and sell sunflowers. This past Fall we decided to grow them to sell by the stem or pick-your-own at our retail stand along with pumpkins, gourds, and Indian corn. One of the best things about these flowers is that they were visible from the main road near the stand and so it attracted more customers to our stand when they saw this pumpkin field with beautiful sunflowers in it. One of my good friends sells her flowers at the local farmers markets and has a lot of success. There are also options for selling directly to a florist, selling wholesale, or CSA shares for them (Community Supported Agriculture). I am in my mid-twenties and so every time I turn around, someone else is engaged and about to get married. Sunflowers are a very popular flower right now for weddings, especially summer and fall weddings. This is another great way to market your sunflowers.
CSA’s are usually a good option when your operation is already involved in a CSA share program. This can be a really good addition to your already established program. It can also work as s stand-along program where people can have flower shares or subscriptions. There are challenges associated with getting the blooms at the right maturity at the right time to be ready for pick up dates. This is where it may be better to have a branching type sunflower or to be sure and have your single stem varieties succession planted.
Farmer’s Markets are a good place for sunflowers because they can draw customers to your booth where they may be attracted to buying other products. It is important to know if there are already producers selling flowers at your farmer’s market because competition can be a problem and can drive the prices down. Farm stands and You-pick operations usually have very low overhead costs and sunflowers can be a real asset to your stand since plots of bright sunflowers tend to attract people. Growers need to be sure to look into the issues associated with hosting the public on your farm but on the bright side the consumers are doing a lot of work for you! There is also the opportunity to sell bouquets or single stems.
Weddings and special events are a hot market right now since there has been a dramatic increase in demand for locally grown flowers. They work very well with the schedule of sunflower production season since many events are taking place during peak production. This market requires creativity in creating the bouquets and being able to work well with people since there are usually high pressures and lots of people you must take time to communicate with in wedding and special event scenarios. Another market could be to sell to a local florist since they may be looking for a local source of flowers. Usually unusual and hard to find flowers are really good to market to florist and so sunflowers may not be what will make you a large profit with florists, but it is still an option. But this could be an especially good option for the more unique and colorful varieties of sunflowers.
If you don’t want to have to deal with the general public, wholesale may be the best route. This market does pose challenges though since you will need to provide consistent quality and quantities. It is also important to not undercut the wholesaler by selling the same product directly to any of the florist that the wholesaler may be doing business with.
There are many challenges and benefits to each of these markets, and most of the time a combination of markets is what may work best. It also depends on the markets that you are already involved in. If you are a new grower the best advice is to start out smaller with your flower production and really aim for quality stems. People are willing to pay for quality flowers and if you can supply that, there is definitely room to make a profit in any market.
About: I grew up on a farm in Nelson County, Va and helped raise wholesale pumpkins, apples, corn, and soybeans. I did work in food safety and certifications and started a retail sector with pumpkins, gourds, sunflowers, Indian corn, and sweet corn for a pick-your-own operation. I have been involved in home vegetable gardening and I love to learn about different management and marketing strategies for small and large scale production systems. I am currently a student at Virginia Tech studying Crop and Soil Science planning to attend graduate school in the fall.