Kevin Cornett, chrysanthemums farmer from Clay County

Kevin Cornett began growing chrysanthemums to fill a need at the local farmers market in Clay County. On his Maple Crest Farm, his family raises beef cattle, grows vegetables, shows dairy goats and even makes value-added products for the farmers market, so the idea of growing fall flowers didn’t seem unreasonable.

Kevin Cornett, chrysanthemums farmer from Clay County

“Honestly, what gets us started in a lot of things is the market,” Cornett said. “When we realize there’s something people want that’s not being offered, we feel like we have to do it”

But he had a rough start growing mums.

“The first year, we didn‘t do so well. We kind of went on our own and researched stuff on the internet,” Cornett said “They didn‘t turn out so pretty.”

The second year, he grew about 850 plants.

This past year, Cornett worked with UK extension associate Steve Berberich and upped the ante, growing 5,500 plants on two acres. With Berberich’s help, he applied for and received a grant from Kentucky Agricultural Development Board funds through the Kentucky Horticulture Council.

“Steve was already helping my brother with some tomato production and helped us get approved for the grant,” he said. “We learned a lot from Steve—what we were doing wrong, what we needed to do instead.”

Berberich taught Cornett about row spacing, efficient fertilization, and watering frequency, which was particularly important with this year’s late-summer drought.

Berberich also walked Cornett through the stages of plant growth and how to recognize disease before it takes hold.

“It has been very rewarding working with Kevin,” Berberich said. “We are grateful for the grant that allowed us to enhance farmer success with diversification.”

To Cornett, there’s only one thing standing in his way.

“The only limiting factor really is having enough hours in the day to do it all.”

--Aimee Nielson