Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tulip Farm

I took this picture last spring near the Tulip Farm

Last week we toured a local tulip farm, Flower Farm Overdevest.  The farm was interesting, but the family history was even better. 

The owner's grandfather had started the farm in the 20's.  When tulip prices in Holland dropped, he packed up his bulbs, sailed across the Atlantic and sold them in America.  He would go around to nurseries selling his product, getting a larger business each year.  As a result, he made a good living and two of his sons settled in America.  

When the Nazi's invaded Holland in 1940, the owner's father thought it best to move his family from the farm into the town of Wassenaar.  When he returned to their home several days later, someone had thrown a grenade through the front window and there were three dead Nazi's in the home.  They still have the helmets.  And bullet holes are visible on the outside of the home.  I always thought having a hand-hewn log in our basement was cool, but this was way better.  Looks like his father's decision to move was a wise one. 

Different types of bulbs for sale. 

He told us that tulip bulbs have traditionally been raised in the sandy soils of western Holland (where we live) because of better water management and ease of harvesting the bulbs out of the ground.  Within the past 15 years farmers have learned how to grow bulbs in the peat soils of Northern Holland.  The bulbs do better and yields are higher.  Unfortunately, world tulip demand is decreasing about 2-3% per year.  It seems no one wants to work in the dirt on their knees for a flower that they won't see until next spring.  Prices right now are around 5 cents/bulb to the farmer. 

This farmer's specialty was forcing the bulbs.  He stores the bulbs in huge freezers at 2 degrees C to simulate the 14 weeks of cold weather necessary for the bulbs to grow.  Then he transfers them to a greenhouse to finish growing and flower.  This way he get tulips in February and March, when natural tulips don't arrive until mid to late April.   

You can see how tall the freezer is..about 20 feet. He had a wall of freezer that was about 50 feet long. That's a lot of tulips.

As part of the tour we got to make our own tulip basket. We'll see how mine looks next spring.

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