Published Jun 16, 2016

Big Creek Farms field day will focus on cut flower production – June 23, Lamoni

By Tamsyn Jones

Hensley Chad and Katie 727x485

LAMONI, Iowa —Diversifying a farm’s enterprises is an important way to increase resiliency over the long-term. When thinking of enterprises to add, however, cut flowers probably don’t rank high, if at all. But Chad Hensley says local cut-flower production is a niche with a lot of potential.

“Local flowers are just taking off, and I think will grow as local food becomes more mainstream,” says Chad, who raises cut flowers at Big Creek Farms with his wife, Katie, near Lamoni. “There’s definitely some education to do – people have no idea the chemicals they are breathing in deeply that are on those pretty, conventional flowers.”

Chad and Katie invite farmers and the public to learn more about all aspects of cut-flower production at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting on Thursday, June 23, from 2-5 p.m., in Lamoni. The event – “Cut Flowers: Production, Handling, Marketing and More” – is free to attend, and will take place at 30608 South Smith St., just south of Graceland University. Attendees are asked to bring their own lawn chairs.
Chad and Katie will share details about starting a cut-flower operation, including production considerations such as variety selection, seeding, production scheduling, tools, rotations and more. Guests will also learn about post-harvest handling; marketing considerations, avenues and challenges; and high tunnel flower production. Experienced cut-flower farmer Ann Franzenburg, who operates Pheasant Run Farm near Van Horne, will discuss additional marketing and production options, and offer suggestions for the Hensleys’ operation.
Chad and Katie raise cut flowers on 1.5 acres. They also specialize in heirloom, open-pollinated and specialty crops – primarily tomatoes, peppers and leafy greens. Chad says planning for growing cut flowers isn’t that different from planning for other kinds of crops, but notes there are some unique challenges.
“I have a lot of variety in both flowers and produce, but with flowers, the challenge is finding varieties that florists like and can’t get from their wholesalers.”
Chad and Katie have chosen the varieties they grow based on a mix of personal preference, market demand and what grows well on their farm. “I like to grow ‘weeds’ – and by that, I mean varieties of cut flowers that grow wild or are related to weeds in our area,” Chad says. “Celosia and amaranth are cousins to red root pigweed, and they grow very well just like their wild cousins. Butterfly milkweed is another that we’ve planted a lot of, and perennials that can hold their own and be marketed as cut flowers – such as irises, lilies and peonies.”
The Hensleys’ markets include the Lamoni Farmers Market, Lamoni Food Pantry, a floral CSA and grocery stores in Lamoni and Kansas City. They plan to add Pineywood cattle to the operation this year with the help of the PFI Savings Incentive Program.
Directions: From I-35: Take U.S. 69 west toward Lamoni. As you enter Lamoni, turn left onto S. Smith Street and go about 1.5 miles; the farm is on the left. Note: Google maps or GPS may ask you to turn right and go north on S. Smith Street. Do not follow those instructions.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2016 field day season features 25 events around Iowa. All field days feature farmer-led discussions and farm or field tours. Details are in Practical Farmers’ “2016 Field Day Guide,” available at, or for free in print. To request a guide by mail, call the PFI office at (515) 232-5661.

Practical Farmers’ 2016 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Organic & Natural Meats; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH); Iowa Cover Crop; Iowa Environmental Council; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; ISU Extension and Outreach; ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); MOSA Organic Certification; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Defense Council; North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; RIMOL Greenhouse Systems; Riverside Feeds, LLC; Soil First; The Yield Lab; Trees Forever; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; Welter Seed & Honey Co.; and Willcross Soybeans.

Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit


Chad and Katie Hensley | Big Creek Farms | (712) 355-1384 |

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |