Of the 800 million tulip bulbs exported from Holland every year, only 300,000 organic bulbs make their way to the U.S. for sale, according to the country’s only provider of organic tulips.
But a sea of 30,000 pink, purple and even black organic tulips will soon sprout in Riverhead for the East End’s first organic U-pick tulip festival next month.
The event, hosted by the country’s only organic tulip provider, Eco Tulips, was previously held in Brightwood, Va. But Eco Tulips owners Keriann and Jeroen Koeman have moved the event to Riverhead, having planted bulbs at Garden of Eve Organic Farm and Market back in November.
“We visited for the first time in May ,” said Ms. Koeman, a native of Plymouth, Mass. “We went through the Riverhead area and we fell in love with it.”
The flowers have been planted on a small quarter-acre plot of land. Packing them closely together allows the flowers to grow taller as they fight for sunlight, Ms. Koeman said. She plans to plant 100,000 bulbs for next year’s festival.
The Koemans got into the flower trade because Jeroen Koeman, who is Dutch, comes from a family of tulip growers in Holland. There, a majority of farmers do not abide by organic practices, though a handful of growers are working to change that.
“My husband came from a long line of tulip growers and he was not organic,” Ms. Koeman said. “So I brought him to what I call ‘the dark side of green.’ ”
Ms. Koeman said the pair are considering permanently moving the operation to the East End.
“My husband is excited to be out here on Long Island,” she said. “With a long, cool spring and warm summers, it might be one of the best climates for growing tulips.”
One might wonder what the appeal of organic tulips is since they aren’t grown as food. But the Koemans point out that they are grown without conventional pesticides, which have been shown to harm pollinator populations and even be a factor in colony collapse disorder. They also note that they provide a healthier ecosystem and protect farmers from pesticides.
Plus, the flowers are better-looking, the couple discovered after visiting Dutch organic tulip grower Wilbrord Braakman.
“My husband was blown away by the quality of the flowers being grown out there,” Ms. Koeman said.
The U-pick tulip festival will take place every day from May 2 until May 24 (or however long Mother Nature allows) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The cost is $4 per person for a day pass or $7 for a season pass. Tulips are $1 per stem.
The event will feature discussions on tulips and hydroponic gardening. For more information, visit organictulipfestival.com.