Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News
EDWARDS – Tulip lovers might assume that Green Corners Flower Farm would be importing its starter stock from the Dutch Motherland where the iconic bloom is big national business.
Not so, reveals Green Corners co-owner Manja Bastian with partner Allan Groen. Hundreds of thousands of graded bulbs are coming to her pick-your-own tulip farm, the only one of its kind in Eastern Ontario, from much closer to home.
The premium Canadian bulbs are purchased from Prince Edward Island’s Vanco Farms because, without the stringent requirements and stress of international importing, they arrive in better condition, Bastian explained.
Yes, the partners are tired out after an intense two-week picking and packaging second season ending May 16, and from all the planting prep work leading up to it. But on the plus side, COVID-19 weary customers seeking fresh air came in droves and 2022 expansion plans are already dancing in their heads.
One add-on to the 13-acre site is already underway: Certified seed has been purchased for 20,000 sunflowers to be planted close the entrance to the tulip farm giving next season’s customers some new eye candy and greater picking choice. The couple is also discussing installation of kids’ activities and creation of a Dutch-style tearoom.
Last year, Bastian and Groen started slow following the outbreak of C-19 with 160,000 bulbs on three acres. Customers came in satisfactory numbers for a look at the field, photos and to pick blooms to take home.
They were encouraged to plant 240,000 bulbs this season. With tickets issued to manage traffic as one of the ongoing pandemic precautions, they sold out on some days, welcoming a total of 5,000 visitors, about four times the number that came last year.
Safety measures at Green Corners also included social distancing, a sanitizing station, and protected handling and wrapping of bouquets, with the couple hoping the beauty of the tulips served as a reminder of better times ahead.
As children of post-WWII Dutch immigrants, Bastian and Groen have the national flower of the Netherlands in their genes. Their success goes to show that when an accountant and a librarian put their heads together to come up with a retirement project, amazingly something colourful can happen.
Last year, neighbours and volunteers pitched in to help the budding business get off the ground, everything from spreading straw, picking and wrapping tulips, to providing a tractor to pull the custom planter and install an access road.
The volunteering continued in the second season with family and friends stepping up to handle customers and other parts of the operation. Through a government funding program, they were able to hire a student which proved to be a big help, Bastian said.
For the second year, the couple turned over a 10-acre field not yet being used for tulips or other flowers to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to grow corn as part of the agency`s efforts in reducing global hunger.
Again this year, what`s left of the tulip crop will be plowed under for a fresh start in the spring. Some “used” bulbs are relocated to the front of Bastian and Groen’s on-site home as decoration.
The couple hope their Green Corners business continues to build after the pandemic has dissipated and the annual downtown Tulip Festival returns to full bloom, providing many customers with a closer-to-home tulip viewing experience.