The flower fields of Holland, collectively known as Bollenstreek (or bulb region), are vast – so much so thatthey are said to be visible from space. Whether or not that’s true, it’s from this region that most of the world’s exquisite blooms have been and continue to be exported. However, in the past five years approximately 50% of the Dutch specialty varietal flower growers have disappeared in the face of the demand for a more homogenized and hearty flower. As a result, many of the oldest family-operated growers have either folded into larger companies or simply closed. The few who’ve remained in business have done so at extreme costs, because of an enormous passion for their craft—and the deeply ingrained compulsion to carry on their centuries-old family traditions.
One such grower is Loek Van Eeden, a man whose gaze is kind and unassuming. The creases in the corners of his eyes are indicative of a discerning nature, a finely-honed skill for recognizing and cultivating some of the most beautiful flowers on earth. And those creases have only deepened in recent years, perhaps as his mastery deepens, but more than likely also as a result of the pressures of having to close his family’s business.
Loek and his family are almost single handedly responsible for creating and nurturing many of the popular varieties of tulips we all know today. Just to give you a bit of perspective, it takes about 25 years to develop a single tulip into the kinds of fields that the Bollenstreek is known for. When you factor in the time it takes to develop the perfect bloom, and then to nurture that bloom into a full field, you begin to fathom the endless amounts of time, energy and money that go into the art of growing flowers. It should go without saying that having to close his family’s tulip farm was a devastating moment in Loek’s life.
It takes a deep love and respect for ones craft to devote that kind of attention for so long. That’s the kind of time it takes to cultivate mastery. As such, many of the Dutch growers that keep the art alive to this day have turned to Loek and his expertise, his eye, and his ability to understand how a particular tulip will behave in any given situation and environment.
While the fields of Loek’s family are gone, all is not lost. In the past couple years, Reneiri approached Loek, with the idea of creating a company that infuses his craft back into the industry. It was around this time that I was first introduced to Loek, and when I first took an interest in the Dutch flower industry altogether. Reineri and Loek are doing tremendous work to bring the art of flowers back to life. And I’ve personally dedicated myself to shine light on this plight, lest these precious specimens become extinct.
So I invite you too: Become a part of the understanding. I’m hosting a trip to Holland in April (click the tulip in the footer at the bottom of this page for more information), which I earnestly invite you to join. We will spend time with Loek and his fellow growers, and my lovely friends at Marc Boers flower export at the famed Alsmeer Flower Auction, so that we can have a total understanding of the big picture. Discover the flowers of Holland. Find any means by which to expand your own knowledge and that of your community to the worldwide cultural significance of the Bollenstreek and farm to table flower effort. It’s truly one of the world’s wonders.
The Secret Ingredient: In the face of difficulty, follow your heart.