Flower Grower of the Month – December – J & E Flowers

The Family Stone carves a firm Future in Flowers

Arriving in Australia in 1973, a long way from his humble farming upbringing in Albania, Jashar Rustemi together with his father and brother Valer soon adapted their farming heritage to new environs as they set up residence and business on their first farm, a 20 acre property in Pearcedale. Initially producing and selling flowers and vegetables, the hard working Rustemi’s identified that small farms can’t survive on bulk lines and that it was either flowers or vegetables that they needed to specialise in. At a time where spring onions were $2 a deck for ten bunches and 20 cents a bunch to produce with flowers a more lucrative $1 a bunch – the transition to flowers was a more viable and profitable option and they commenced trading as Green and Gold Flowers. Continuing and expanding on their seed lines of straw flower, statice and field carnations, they decided to go bigger and into more field varieties such as gypsophelum and assorted perennials building 15 further igloos in one year to house many of their carnation and sim varieties.

“Our aim was to create a steady income through year round production”, Jashar says “We still had our peaks and troughs but the main principles are the same with growing applied to ground preparation with similar ingredients but unique requirements for each different line”. Jashar sought key advice through grower and propagator Les Baguley who he praises for his results and being one of the industry’s best operators. Armed with further knowledge and techniques, the Rustemi’s started to grow carnations hydroponically and built a further 50 igloos and hot houses. Business began to boom with supermarket conglomerate Safeway becoming a customer allowing the family the opportunity to upgrade machinery, production and infrastructure to support the demand. Another farm was acquired, 10 acres in Devon Road, Devon Meadows as well as an expansion to multiple lines including roses, gerberas, statice, gypsy, snapdragons, ranunculus and delphiniums.

After going into hydroponics in the late ‘80’s and updating their facilities with automation, the business went from being the little fish in the pond to becoming one of the “big boys”, almost overnight. This also marked the commencement of their first market stand at the original Wholesale Flower Market in West Footscray which has now moved to Epping, where they continue to trade 3 days per week. The hydroponic component of the farm occupies about a tenth of the business and currently have the majority of their lisianthus crop that is hydroponically grown. Having recently returned from an overseas trip to Holland, Belgium and Germany, Jashar is looking at modernising his farms with efficiencies in growing systems, robotics, and mechanics.

“Our aim is to look to the future” Jashar says “After 35 years in this industry there is a need to evolve and after observing commercial production farms overseas, it’s given us ideas with high tech farming , spray robots, conveyor automated systems and tailor made prop house solutions”.

Jashar’s family all remain involved in the business with his wife Eravush and children Sadush, Lina, Jani and Adrian taking up various responsibilities in sales, managing on farm and administratively. Following a sad family tragedy resulting in his brother leaving the business in 2003,  Jashar subsequently renamed the business to J & E Flowers. In following years, Val regenerated Green and Gold Flowers which he now trades separately. Whilst observing that there are certain challenges that face family businesses, Jashar is mostly positive about the “new energy” in the next generation’s involvement, their planned expansion and growth.

“I try and let them learn the do’s and don’ts without letting them make the same mistakes we’ve already made and by educating them that it’s better to stay on the more cautious side rather than over promising and under delivering” Jashar says. “It’s taken me a long time and a lot of trial and error with a perishable product and the unpredictability of mother nature, market expectation and customers to get me this far. It also takes time and experience to be able to rely on intuition with colour and plantings”.

Our Flower of the Month, the spectacular delphinium, is a variety that J & E virtually specialise in all year round. Read more about our Delphinium here. It’s been a delicate flower to experiment with and perfect with 30-40,000 plants in the ground, drip irrigated and housed in igloos. A repeat flowering plant, the delphiniums are grown from seed taking 3-4 months to flower. For good-quality yield, the flower spikes are thinned of shoots when 3 inches high; leaving a minimum of 2 or 3 shoots on younger plants, and 5 to 7 shoots on well-established ones. White, Blue and Mauve are current colours grown across several trans-seasonal varieties including Aurora Blue, Triton and Candle White. There are several colours under hydroponic trials including pinks and lavenders. Harvesting of flowers occurs when the first 3-4 florets have opened. Jashar ensures that they are cut as low to the ground as possible to minimise threat of disease and die back. Delphiniums are prone to mildew, Pythia, black spot, botrytis, Phytopthora and thrip.

All of the flowers grown at J & E are pre conditioned post production with a specially developed solution to counteract the effects of ethylene and ensure longevity and extended vase life. It’s a passion for quality, broadening and diversifying the business that inspires Jashar, who is keen to step back from the daily operations and see his kids step up. New ideas, innovation and aspiration continue to drive the business further with a new farm purchase on the horizon that will be the modicum of technology and thought out from start to finish. “It’s going to be high tech and it’s exciting” Jashar says, moments after mentioning he will be slowing down. With his experience, knowledge and appetite for modernisation, it’s hard to believe Jashar will be slowing down any time in the near future!

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