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On A Grand Scale, Holland

Fox Fodder Flowers

On A Grand Scale, Holland


Fox Fodder Flowers

Never having been to the Netherlands,

I envisioned what you’d expect-- vast stretches of tulips, the canals, cheese. As for the Aalsmere flower auction, its scale and size made it impossible for me to imagine. Dutch traders had created the world flower market and hundreds of years later this Dutch market remains the world’s market. It is big, really big, and so I thought of it strictly as big business, not as family businesses, not as a family's farm.

Ignorance, obviously, can be an unknowing convenience and such was the case here with me. If I have not been the loudest voice for local flowers, it is only because loud is something I’ve never aspired to be.

Fox Fodder Flowers

I take pride in speaking up for local farms, local product. Supporting them is something I believe in. It is where I have pushed and want Fox Fodder to grow. It has always been true, however, that the year-round needs of my business could never be satisfied by regional, seasonal production alone. But, I wasn't interested in being interested in imported flowers. I had my local narrative and that was enough. It was easier.

Fox Fodder Flowers
Fox Fodder Flowers
Fox Fodder Flowers

It’s been three weeks since I have returned from Holland and if I haven't spoken about it much it is only because there is so much to say. The assumptions I held before takeoff make me feel as naïve as I did on my first few days in the New York Market. So it is right, if not poetic, that I have Cas and Chris to thank for the education, their generosity. 

These men were already titans of 28th street long before I sold my first bouquet and that we have become friends, reminds me there are some right decisions I must have made along the way. As for why I got to ride their coattails to go see the wizards behind the curtain, the only answer I can offer is dumb luck.

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  It was not luck, but Bastian, who was responsible for making the trip so eye opening. Bastian, a flower broker by trade, may have missed his true calling as a tour guide. The thoughtfulness of the people and their places he lined up for us carried both his understanding of the business and his hopes for the future. It was as if he was privy to my erroneous assumptions in his planning and set out to set me straight.

Fox Fodder Flowers
Fox Fodder Flowers

If I told you we visited the largest single producer of sweetpeas orTHE breeder of martagon lilies or the company leading the world in applying new technology to growing tulips, you might, like me, envision a series of soulless, flower factories. But in actuality, whether large or small, every operation felt intimate. It turns out that to grow 8 million stems of sweetpea a year, for Rob, was to love sweetpea 8 million times a year. And for Nils, the precision of infrared scans would never replace walking the fields, plucking the striped virused tulips one by one.

Fox Fodder Flowers

At its core, this life is a life of generosity, a life whose rhythms and routines are based around, more often than not, a single type of flower. Not one of the growers I met viewed this fact as a burden or a bore.

When I would ask them why this flower for them—when I asked Tim’s father why fritillaria or Baas why roses—they would look at me as if I asked something so obvious as to be puzzling, as if I asked ‘why do you love your children’ … in front of the children.

Then that wry smile would creep in, a smile I find particular to people who work with nature, a touch mischievous, a slight twist, as if for a moment, just a crack, they had let me in on their little secret-- they love this life.

Fox Fodder Flowers
Fox Fodder Flowers
Fox Fodder Flowers

And one only needs to spend some time with them and their work to know this is true. Walking through their grow houses, I would catch them still being caught by blooms. They would stop mid sentence or step, hone in on one particular flower, hold it for a beat as if we were no longer there, before returning back and continuing on. Decades or generations in, they were still excited by ways to grow it better: better for the plant, better for the planet. 

No doubt Paul who adds six months onto his growing of martagon lilies so the stems are stronger, the flowers taller, would think this description so sincere as to be saccharine.

Fox Fodder Flowers
Fox Fodder Flowers

I suspect there is something distinctly American about preaching the benefits of local from a pulpit built atop empty amazon boxes and the environmental arguments I assumed to be true were not so at all.

Whether it is cost or culture, the growers I met wasted not a watt of energy nor drop of water. Pesticides were passed over for the sake of the plant, a stronger flower.

Harvested to order, they ship to our shores on commercial planes already packed with people flying the route. All this is to say, the only simple thing about my narrative was me.

Fox Fodder Flowers

It’s warming up and it is satisfying to satisfy our orders with local flowers.

We’ve just turned the corner into May and already the product from Matt and Irene at Treadlight has never been more beautiful. Their Turkestanica Tulips may have only had a two week window, but we'll be thinking about them until next year.

The other day, we visited Lily at Vanishing Point. The tiny orange tassel flower that's more work than it's worth for most, is just one of the special things she has growing. Debra from Bear Creek called to say that she just planted the bulbs for the pink Tiger Lilies that I love.

  I saw some blue hydrangeas at market this morning and thought of Edgar from Holland, his belly laugh, and his voice that could shake a smile out of anyone. I was pretty sure the flowers were his. We didn’t need them for the shop. I bought them for myself. It was personal. The right flowers always are.

-Taylor

Fox Fodder Flowers