Blooming business

May 1, 2014

 

     A Dutch boy rides his bicycle down the road to his family’s tulip farm, his blond hair neatly combed over to one side. His mother, father, grandmother, sister and aunt wait for him, surrounded by bright pink tulips laid out in rows throughout their field.

     This isn’t a scene from a postcard, though it could be. This is a scene from the Koeman family’s tulip farm, located outside of Pilot Point.

     The Koemans opened Texas-Tulips to customers this week, after their flowers began to bloom with warmer temperatures.

     A small girl in a pink dress came from Krum with her mother to pick the flowers for a bouquet arrangement. She wandered through the rows of flowers Tuesday morning, while Pieter Koeman and his family gathered for a photo.

     The family came from the Netherlands for freedom — but in the more literal sense of the word. They felt crowded in their home country and needed space.

     “What we like here is kind of a feeling of freedom — literally air. The parking spaces are wider,” Pieter’s sister, Cora Koeman, said with a chuckle.

     This notion is coming from a family that specializes in managing open areas. The Koemans — Pieter, his wife Petra, sister Cora, mother Afra and children Pieter Jr. and Hillary — moved to Texas about five months ago. They managed a farm in Holland that raised flower bulbs for wholesale auction to vendors.

     Now they are starting a tulip farm that will give customers the opportunity to pick the exact flower they like, from a large field off of FM 2931 east of Pilot Point. It’s a first for the Koemans and a first for Texas: It is the only tulip farm in the state.

     On a rainy morning in February, Pieter, Cora and Petra gathered around a table in the home they bought from Mary Lou and Jerry Bobo. Hillary and Pieter Jr. bustled around the living room and kitchen.

     The Weather Channel chattered in the background. They always have the Weather Channel on.

     “I have always in my mind dreamed that we were going to live in America and do something with the tulips,” Pieter said. “We wanted to do something else, like sell the tulips directly to the customers.”

     “I think that was it. In our minds, we always had something with Texas,” Cora added. “We started three years ago with the whole plan.”

     After Cora and Pieter’s father died in 2011, Cora traveled with her mother to Dallas on vacation. They regularly watched the TV show “Dallas” and wanted to see South Fork Ranch for themselves. After Cora discussed her travels with her brother, Pieter decided it was time to follow up on his dream and move his family to America to begin their tulip farm.

     Pieter met a real estate agent to find land for their farm and began traveling back and forth between the Netherlands and America, coordinating the beginnings of Texas Tulips. Pieter and Afra own the farm, and Cora travels from the Netherlands to help with the marketing side of the business.

     With their first crop now in bloom, the Koemans have already started selecting bulbs for next season.

     “We are now starting to buy the tulips for the next year, which variety we need to buy and what is available,” Pieter said. “The bulb preparation is very important and the planting systems, how we plant them, is very important. It’s a combination of a lot of things.”

     Cora said the process depends a lot on the weather.

     “It depends on the weather what decisions you are going to make,” she said. “Like Pieter said, the bulb preparation is the most important thing. The bulbs come from Holland, and after they were harvested in July, then the preparations start in the cooling houses. That’s where the preparation starts for having them bloom in March.”

     The summer months are too hot for tulips to grow in Texas. The plants need colder weather in their early stages, and the cold weather will make for a longer flower.

     The farm has been coming together well, Pieter said, and the community in North Texas has been more than willing to help.

     “People, they help us now, and they know what I want and they’ll thi

nk with us,” he said. “They are more frank and open. They say what they think. In the Netherlands, they will say it behind your back. I like it, [Texans] say what they think.”

     As their flowers grow, the Koemans have high hopes for the success of their new venture. They believe the experience of picking your own flower will resonate with their customers.

     “It’s real contact,” Petra said. “The tulip garden, that’s the meaning of it. It’s also a country feeling to pick your own tulip and choose which colors you like.”

     Cora said their business in the Netherlands had no personal touch. Texas-Tulips will show people and educate them on where the flowers come from and what goes into growing them.

     “There’s no connection with the customers [in Holland]. We don’t know where the flowers go. Here you can tell a lot about varieties,” Cora said.

     They still have a connection to their home country, however, in more ways than one. The bulbs are imported from the Netherlands, and much of the crops’ success depends on the conditions overseas, Pieter said. Their family has a deep-seated sense of agriculture in them, and that drives them today.

     “Our daddy always had something with cows and farming,” Cora said. “We had flower bulbs, but we also had cows. It is our family heritage. Our grandpa had cows, vegetables. The whole family is in the flower bulbs, our uncles and nephews.”

     “It’s our roots,” Pieter added.

     The family is looking to share its heritage with people in America and has high hopes that Texas-Tulips will be a success in its first year. They’ve taken risks making such a change in their lives, Pieter said, but he added that it takes action to make a difference in life.

     “For us also it’s a little bit exciting and a learning process in the first year,” Pieter said. “You have to start somewhere.

     “If you do nothing, then nothing happens.”

 

 

 

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