"Blooming Hard Work" - Emma Field, Weekly Times Now

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

"Blooming Hard Work" - Emma Field, Weekly Times Now

Flower wholesaler Adrian Parsons of WAFEX with native Australian flowers

A LOOMING lack of wild flowers to market drove Adrian Parsons to try growing his own.

Flower wholesaler, importer and exporter Adrian Parsons learned first hand about the difficulties of expanding his flower business.

Almost two years ago Adrian, who runs WAFEX with co-owner Craig Musson, bought a 28ha farm at Longford, near Sale, in March 2010 to secure supply for their flower company.

In doing so, they moved from managing the business side of the company, to running a farm as well. The farm required a major upgrade and they have since planted 10,000 new plants, removed just as many, installed new irrigation and learned a great deal about production costs.

And they have also been able to try out new varieties, which Adrian says is key to Australia's survival in the cut-throat export flower market.

The company sources native and wild flowers from more than 200 growers all around Australia to sell domestically and for export.

But they were worried about their long-term supply with static production and an ageing population among their growers.

"We predicted that in five to 10 years we wouldn't have had any flowers to move or sell," Adrian said.

The farm they bought previously grew flowers, but bringing it up to standard was the biggest challenge.

"It was really run down, with ageing plantings and we needed to update the irrigation system, do some major pruning and soil nutrition was low.

"We have spent the last two years renovating the farm, which was a big investment.

"We thought we could break even (in the first year), but this was an erroneous assumption and that was a big lesson."

So far 10,000 new plants, including waxflower, serruria, erica and boronia and flannel flower, have gone in and another 15,000 will soon be planted.

Existing plants, including banksia and red Christmas bush, have been heavily pruned.

Farm manager Herman Van Loon is also new to flower production but he jumped at the opportunity and gave up his job as a groundsman at a Melbourne school to oversee the Longford farm.

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