Mill Pond Flower Farm

Beautiful flowers grown in the Scottish Borders


Is it possible to go big while staying small?

Posted on 22 February, 2018 at 15:50

Discussions about what makes any successful and prosperous industry would usually include the size of companies, number of employees, turnover, plant, buildings, equipment and all of the indicators of big business. There will often be existing companies that are used as comparitors - a certain business is 'successful' and the inference is that others should aim to emulate them. Systems are set up to support that approach, including funding that is only available for 'small' farm businesses if they are over 3 hectares in size and targets that reward expansion, more land, more equipment, higher turnover within individual businesses.

Today a group of flower growers got together to look at how we can grow and develop the cut flower industry in Scotland. The assumption was that a number of our businesses would want to grow and expand, taking on more land, producing more flowers, scaling up and getting bigger. 

We are very keen to expand growing in Scotland, demand for our flowers is strong. Although we don't yet have the infrastructure to make the journey from grower to end user smooth, we are confident in our product and that there is a market for more than we can currently provide. And yet, the scenario being suggested was not one that received a positive reaction. Our approach to growing and business is surprisingly similar but very different from the norm of farming. We grow on relatively small pieces of land, between 0.5 to 4 acres, intensively cultivated, using small machinery only, with high productivity and income per acre. Some flower businesses are farm based, but cultivation methods are far removed from industrial scale farming. It's not that we think that large scale farming is bad but, based onour collective experience, it doesn't suit what we do.

There are currently no large cut flower growers in Scotland, (apart from Grampian Growers who are primarily bulb growers). We have no one leading the way apart from ourselves, so when we spent a few hours with a facilitator looking at what we wanted our industry to look like, we realised we wanted it to be not just bigger, but broader. Lots more growers, producing lots more flowers, across the whole country, rather than a few big companies in specific locations. The increase in flower production that we need should be possible by expanding the numbers of growers rather than focusing on the size of the businesses, by collaborating to create a full and comprehensive product offer to delight and enchant our customers. We have a lot to work out, issues of marketing, sales and distribution but we have support and we've made a good start. The future of Scottish flowers may be small but we're aiming to be big.       

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