Alaska Peony Growers Preconference

New Grower School

Peony field, Homer

Thursday, Jan. 26, 9:30-11:30 a.m.,
Alyeska Resort, Harding Room

Sue Kent and Clay Sullivan, Midnight Sun Peonies, Inc., Soldotna;
Jan Hanscom, Polar Peonies, LLC, Fairbanks
Cost: $30

A-Zs of Starting a Peony Farm

  • Start-up costs
  • Assessing your site
  • Soils
  • Deciding if you want to go organic
  • Field layout/design
  • Equipment, farm safety
  • Growing calendar
  • Purchasing roots
  • Planting
  • Cultivars, what buds look like at harvest
  • Field maintenance
  • Labor, labor costs, worker protection rights
  • Pesticides, Material Safety Data Sheets
  • Peony diseases 

Alaska Peony Growers Conference Agenda

Thursday, Jan. 26

9:00 a.m. –
1:00 p.m.

Registration, Alyeska Resort, 3rd floor, Columbia Ballroom

1:00 – 1:45

Year in Review --
State of the industry, Ron Illingworth, North Pole Peonies, APGA president; 
APGA Associate membership, Taffina Katkus, APGA associate member board representative, Atelier Dream Gardens, Wasilla;
Mat-Su peony growers, Sue Lincoln, Giggly Roots Gardens, Willow;
APGA fertility study grant, Sue Kent, Midnight Sun Peonies, Inc., Soldotna;
Alaska peony prices, Carolyn Chapin, Polar Peonies, LLC, Fairbanks;
Marketing and grant opportunities, Amy Pettit, Division of Agriculture, DNR, Palmer;
Fate of ARS Alaska peony projects, Kim Hummer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Corvallis, OR;
Shipping reimbursement, peony crop insurance, Danny Consenstein, USDA Rural Development, Palmer

1:45 – 2:15

Alaska Peony Growers Association: New Goals for 2012, Rita Jo Shoutlz, Alaska Hardy® Peony, Fitz Creek; Sue Kent, Midnight Sun Peonies, Inc., Soldotna

2:15 – 3:00Specialty Cut Flower Mindset and Production Game Plan, Ko Klaver, Zabo Plant Inc., PA.
3:00 – 3:30Break (visit vendors and silent auction)
3:30 – 4:15Sustainably Growing Perennial Flowers, Diane Szukovathy, Jello Mold Farm, Mount Vernon, Wash.
4:15 – 5:00Evaluation of Weed Management Options for Peony Growers, Phil Kaspari, UAF Cooperative Extension Service, Delta Junction
6:30Alaska Peony Growers Association general membership meeting and social gathering, off-site in Girdwood. Everyone welcome!

Friday, Jan. 27

8:30 – 9:15Selling to Different Market Segments,Ko Klaver, Zabo Plant Inc. 
9:15 – 9:45Cooperative Marketing and the Buy Local Movement, Diane Szukovathy, Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG) and Seattle Wholesale Growers Market
9:45 – 10:15Grower Financing Options and Tools in the State's Economic Development Toolbox, Wanetta Ayers, Alaska Office of Economic Development
10:15 – 10:45Break (visit vendors and silent auction)
10:45 – 11:15Marker Identification of Peonies, Kim Hummer and Barbara Gilmore, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Corvallis, OR
11:15 – 12:00Using Social Media: Building a Blooming Business, Julie Nolan, Alaska Small Business Development Center, Wasilla
12:00 – 1:00Lunch
1:00  –  1:45Sorting out Soil Testing, Lime and Fertilizers panel, Jeff Smeenk, UAF Cooperative Extension Service, Palmer; Casey Dinkel, Alaska Plant Materials Center, Palmer; and Craig Smith, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Palmer
1:45  –  2:00Mini-break (visit vendors, silent auction closes at 2:00)
2:00  –  2:45Developing a Peony Farm Business Plan, Andrew Crow, University of Alaska Center for Economic Development
2:45  –  3:30Pros & Cons of Different Business Models panel, Rita Jo Shoultz, Alaska Hardy® Peony; Jan Hanscom, Polar Peonies, LLC; Andrew Crow, UA Center for Economic Development; Ko Klaver, Zabo Plant Inc.; Diane Szukovathy, Jello Mold Farm
3:30 – Silent auction winners will be announced.
3:45  –  5:00

Roundtable discussion groups
-- Business plans/models, 
Andrew Crow
-- Weed control,
Phil Kaspari, UAF Cooperative Extension Service
-- New grower concerns,
Marji & Ron Illingworth
-- APGA associate membership, Taffina Katkus
-- Field Maintenance, Andre Wierstra, Oregon Perennial Company
--  Soils and fertilizers
--  Varieties

Saturday, Jan. 28

Diane Szukovathy

Post-conference workshop: TENTATIVE
"Getting Your Business Online"
9 a.m. 
Bryan Zak, Small Business Development Center
Fee: TBA

Alaska Peony Growers Association (APGA) 
Board of directors meeting, election of officers
Board training, The Foraker Group
9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Girdwood 

Trade Show

Peony roots


•  Horticultural vendors from within and outside of Alaska

•  Horticulture industry support agencies and non-profits

•  Wholesale catalogs of peonies, plants and roots

Trade Show Booths: Zabo Plant Inc., PA; Oregon Perennial Company, OR; Alaska Garden & Pet, Anchorage; USDA Rural Development, Palmer; Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS), Palmer


Trade Show Vendors, contact 
UAF Cooperative Extension Service
907-786-6300 or
Alaska Peony Growers Association

For Trade Show Vendor pricing click here

Silent Auction to benefit Alaska Peony Growers Association (APGA)

  • Liliums, 16/18 size 200 bulbs, Rose Lily  'Oriental 'Double Star' (Zabo Plant, Inc)
  • 2012 Alaska Railroad Annual Poster (2) signed by the artist (Taffina Katkus Fine Art)

Please plan to bring two items for the APGA silent auction. Notify Beth VanSandt at by Jan. 10 and have your name/business listed in the conference program.

Alaska Peony Growers Conference Speakers

Diane Szukovathy

Jello Mold Farm owners, Diane Szukovathy and her husband Dennis Westphal, raise flowers sustainably on their seven acres in Skagit Valley north of Seattle. They produce over 150 varieties of blossoms for the cut flower market, an industry dominated by South American growers.

Diane’s belief is that through a centralized marketplace local famers can attract more buyers by combining their efforts and in turn, be able to expand the varieties and quantities of flowers they grow. Thus, the founding of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market , a cooperative comprised of 18 other farmers who are just as passionate as Diane about sustainably grown flora, fauna, and vegetables. In addition to cut flowers, Diane creates “farm bouquets” for the market, arrangements that display elements such as seed pods, berries, gourds, woody shrubs, and even branches from her orchard.

Diane is Northwest Regional Director for the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. ASCFG currently has 600 members around the world and strives to unite and educate field and greenhouse cut flower growers. Diane is sought out as a speaker and teaches at the ASCFG’s popular Grower School. Her inspiration to raise cut-flowers, came from Lynn Byczynsk’s book, The Flower Farmer. Check out the beautiful Jello Mold Farm web site.

Ko Klaver

Ko Klaver grew up on a flower bulb production farm in The Netherlands and attended the Horticultural Clusius College in Hoorn, The Netherlands. Coming to the United States as an FFA exchange student in 1988, he was the head grower for Pettengill Farms in Salisbury, Massachusetts, growing cut flowers from annuals, perennials and flower bulbs mostly in field production.

In the 90’s Ko was instrumentally involved with implementing the Van Bloem Gardens flower bulb retail-line in the major independent garden centers east of the Mississippi. In January 2001 he became an independent representative for companies like Zabo Plant USA, he has focused on the sales & marketing of Liliums & perennials for greenhouse and field production.

Since 2007, Ko has handled the sales and marketing activities of Lily-Looks pot lilies and is strategically involved with implementing the Lily-Looks brand in North America. Ko was one of the brains behind the concept of the Lilytopia Show. The breathtaking displays, staged at Longwood Gardens, brought the genus Lilium closer to the consumer eye.

Recently Ko has forged new sales & marketing activities with Oregon Perennial Company to further the commercial use of the genus Paeonia as a garden and cut flower perennial. Finally, Ko has just wrapped up his 3-year term as the Industry liaison to the Board of Directors of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG). Ko has been happily married for 18 years. He and his wife Donna have four boys ranging from 1 to 8 years old.

Andrew Crow

Andrew Crow has managed the co-op development program at the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development since 2007. He came to co-ops with experience working on international aid programs, as a lawyer in a small Anchorage firm, and a wide variety of jobs throughout Alaska and the Russian Far East. Work in that remote, northeastern corner of the Russian Federation required solving complex logistical and operational problems. The emphasis of that work was teaching Russian entrepreneurs to draft feasibility studies and business plans.

In Alaska he has worked as a commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay, served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for the Lower Yukon Economic Development Council, and acted as staff for the Governor’s Commission on Rural Governance. At UA CED he was drafted feasibility studies, provided market assessments and facilitated the development of business plans. He also is able to utilize his legal training to support cooperative board and organizational training. Since joining ACDP he has made significant progress towards his International Economic Development Council Economic Development Certification.

Phil Kaspari

Phil Kaspariearned a degree in agronomy at North Dakota State University and then answered an ad for farm help with the Delta barley project. When the local Cooperative Extension Service agent retired, he asked Phil to help out temporarily. The job has lasted almost 15 years so far. As Agriculture Extension Agent, Phil works with farmers, home gardeners and youth through 4H and Ag in the Classroom. He also leads Cooperative Extension Service’s pesticide safety program.

Last September Phil planted 1,000 peony roots at the Agriculture & Forestry Experiment Station in Fairbanks in preparation for the weed control study he conducted this past season. He was tickled when every single one of them

emerged in spring. Phil and his wife Mary have 300 acres of hay, raise yaks for food and fiber, and grow a summer garden.

Check back later. More speaker biographies will be added.

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