Farm shifts tulip festival to drive-through event
UPPER FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — A family-owned New Jersey farm began on April 8 and has been showcasing a rainbow of colors as millions of Holland tulips in varied shapes and sizes paint 50 of its 153 acres in equally diverse shades.
The pink, red, purple, yellow and white flowers at Holland Ridge Farms serve as emblems of spring and herald in the season of renewal.
The farm’s popular Tulip Festival, modified in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, is to this year allow festivalgoers who escape the confines of residences to go “topless” in convertibles and allow the spring air to waft floral fragrances also through “rolled down” windows.
Participants in the Drive Through Tulip Trail can coast by paths of a kaleidescopic sea of fringe tulips, lily-flowered tulips, whimsical parrot tulips that are among some 100 of 3,000 varieties and 15 categories.
“We’re trying to make it a win-win for everyone,” Creative Manager Patrick Marini explained. “We want to survive this while everyone enjoys the fields” in the health safety of their own space.
Casey Jansen, Sr., a Dutchman, moved to the United States from Holland, flower shop of world in 1964 and started a wholesale business by growing flowers, and Holland tulips particularly, in greenhouses.
By 2017, he and son, Casey, Jr., decided to make the most of the fertile soil at Holland Ridge, which was a former dairy farm, by launching the Tulip Festival.
Some 50,000 attendees in 2018 grew to 100,000 in 2019, Marini said.
The Jansens’ Holland Greenhouses Inc. continues wholesale operations, with the men hydroponically growing millions of well-recognized triumphs in three two-acre greenhouses and selling them to markets up and down the east coast, Marini said.
Holland Ridge’s popular tulip festival has meanwhile welcomed swelling numbers of pick-your-own attendees who also enjoy a bakery barn, horse and carriage ride and more.
Plans to this year introduce a new and exclusive tulip variety that the Jansens developed with a Holland bulb producer are on hold until next year, Marini said.
Drive-Through Tulip Trail participants — for the lack of access to such offerings — pay by the vehicle, rather than per person and are to be provided free triumph tulips that they can also order at reduced rates in advance and collect at the end of their ride, Marini said.
Wholesale sales since the COVID-19 virus began spreading through the United States are off, Marini said.
The virus can be spread between and among animals and humans much like one whereby a sap-sucking insect infects tulip bulbs, breaking a “lock” on a single shade and rendering multiple colors.
The “mosaic” virus, as it’s known, reportedly long enhanced the appeal and rarity of infected tulips while also reducing their sizes, weakening them and easily spreading among bulbs.
Holland Ridge Farms, for its part, obtains new tulip bulbs each year from Holland, the “flower shop of the world” and the source of 77 percent of all flower bulbs that are traded worldwide.
Tulips once used as a trading currency in the Netherlands now account for some 3 million exports, making Holland their largest commercial producer.
The Jansens, based on registry data that provides information about parents, orders from specific growers bulbs that they expect to produce strong stems, large flower head and tall leaves, Marini said.
Each fall, the Holland Ridge Farms delivery for the following Tulip Festival year arrives by sea, he said.
The bulbs are shipped in climate-controlled containers and are packaged in crates, he said.
With some 10 farmers and help from a GPS-guided tractor, father and son according to Marini plant millions of them in neat rows with specific color schemes.
The plants remain dormant while they develop roots between December to February and in March begin to sprout, he said.
Holland Ridge Farms growers keep watch on the tulips, in part to determine their time of bloom, Marini said.
The men could allow the solid-colored flowers to cross pollinate and each year after the festival cut their stems and harvest the bulbs to grew new baby bulbs.
They instead use farm machines to chop the remaining flowers into mulch that returns to the land to nourish it, he said.
Planting new bulbs fresh from Holland provides greater control over the fields and their meticulously planned color schemes, Marini said.
For information or to purchase Drive Through Tulip Trail tickets and flowers, call 609-448-7483 or visit hollandridgefarms.com.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925