Like other forms of agriculture, floriculture is really only lucrative for those who own the farms where the flowers are grown. (Hint hint. If you’re going into this business – or really any business - aim to own. Don’t be somebody’s lackey for any longer than necessary.) Some employees who are managers or sales representatives can earn rather respectable wages that they would not easily find in other forms of agriculture though. However, the majority of laborers on the production crews of the largest growers earn only a bit more than laborers growing and harvesting other commodities. So unless you’ve found a way to grow and harvest gold bars, try to avoid the laborer route.
Laborers typically start working on production crews for not much more than minimum wage. Pay is only better where the cost of living dictates. For example, all those growers on the coast of San Mateo County in California need to pay their laborers well enough to be able to afford to live in that expensive area. The more productive laborers who have been around a while may earn 25-30k annually. Oh, goodie. Now they’re rolling in it.
Delivery drivers who bring the produce to market earn about as much as other delivery drivers, which is slightly more than what laborers earn – 30-35k a year. Sales representatives who work full-time can earn about the same with a bit more from commissions, but are more likely to earn less in base pay with potentially generous commissions. Many sales representatives actually do not work full-time for a particular grower, but instead work part-time for a few growers with different commodities in order to have a more extensive product line to present to their wholesale clients. Plus that gives them more flexibility with their schedule so they can keep plugging away on their novel.
Managers, whether production or operations managers, can earn 40-50k. It may take many years for those initially lacking education and experience to learn enough about floriculture or management to get to management positions. However, most individuals in management are hired directly into their respective positions because of their education and experience, and so are expected to perform at a high level right off the bat. In other words, if you have a business degree and have spent 15 years in the business, you should already know how to operate a stapler.
This is where education and experience pays off, even if it does so in a not-too-impressive way. Money is not great in floriculture, but it is a bit better for those who are highly knowledgeable about it. Those getting out of college with a degree in horticulture may start out at the lower end of this, but will still be miles ahead of those working their way up from the labor crews. Because turnover is so slow in floriculture, it is much more beneficial to get hired into management because of your qualifications than to work your way up through the ranks. Instead of climbing a ladder of success, it’s better to just take a running leap and grab on to the top rung. Be sure to stretch your quads first.
Those who own a floricultural operation may not make tons more than do those in management, yet they have the potential to do quite well. To many, floriculture is just a means with which to pay for the land below their crops, which is actually the more important long term investment. In that regard, it is better to take care of those growing the crops than to be greedy with revenue. As we all know, greed is something that rarely strikes people in positions of power, so we probably don’t even need to worry about that.
Like any other horticultural business, floriculture is risky. Most growers are satisfied with the more reliable but average revenue generated from the common and reliable cut flowers like baby's breath, Peruvian lily and gladiolus, even though some of these crops take a significant capital investment to get started. For example, Peruvian lilies are expensive to buy long before they actually produce any flowers. Your parents might say it’s roughly the same deal with you. They’ve been pouring all this money into you for almost 20 years now, and they’re still waiting for you to start producing flowers. Carnations, chrysanthemums and roses are three of the most common cut flowers that there is always a market for, but they are very labor intensive, so they may seem easier to get started (with less capital investment) but probably cost just as much to process and grow before they actually produce anything to generate revenue. Growing roses happens to be one of the most labor intensive of all horticultural commodities. In fact, they can be a real thorn in a floriculturist’s side.
A little Proactiv should clear that right up.
Crop selection is limited by the environment. Without a greenhouse range, only crops that can be grown out in open fields are possible. This saves on the expense of building a range, but brings in less revenue on less lucrative crops. There is always a tradeoff.
Really expensive flowers, like proteas, are not always as lucrative as they may seem. They are typically grown as minor crops by large growers who have a bit of extra space for them. They are expensive only because they are somewhat demanding and not very productive. Like a deadbeat dad.
In the end, growers who earn the most are generally not those who grow the weird or trendy or expensive crops, but are instead those who do well with the common crops. Yes, many still generate unimpressive revenue, but some can actually do well. A few actually do remarkably well. No bazillionaires though.