Any other year, by mid-April Oregon Farm Bureau President Barb Iverson would have been more than halfway through the six-week tulip festival she and her family host at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm. The festival, in what would have been its 36th year, typically draws 150,000 people from all 50 states and 140 countries to the farm’s 40 acres of colorful tulips.
With the entry fee guests would have paid and the money they would have spent at the Wooden Shoe's gift shop and wine room and on products from the Iversons’ Red Barn Hemp facility, the festival provided a significant amount of revenue, but Iverson said it’s about so much more than that.
"Being out in the fields with people from around the world – it is an experience like no other, and we put a lot of time and effort into making it unique,” Iverson said, noting the farm’s tour train, cow train for kids, hot air balloons and fun picture props, like large wooden shoes. “The festival and all that we have here is a tradition for many families and a destination for people looking to create lifelong memories.”
She continued, “We talk a lot about farmers feeding people. The tulip fields provide a different type of nourishment, a nourishment for the soul.”
Oregon’s prohibition on large gatherings made canceling the festival a must, but it was still emotional, Iverson said. “We had been preparing for weeks and we were ready to go. We were excited about it.”
Along with the Iversons and the festival-goers, many others are affected by the festival cancellation, like the 75 part-time workers the Iversons employed. In addition, over the course of the festival, several non-profits, such as local FFA chapters, the Kiwanis Club, schools and the Rotary Club, help manage traffic and the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm repays their kindness with a donation to the organization. Similarly, the farm provided tulips to the March of Dimes, Easter Seals and other organizations at a price that allowed the non-profits to use them for fundraising.
So, like many other farmers this spring, Iverson had to create a plan B. Unable to bring people to the tulips, she brought the tulips to people. With guidance and encouragement from Gritts Midway Greenhouse in West Virginia, Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm provided a way for people to send tulips to seniors living in residential care facilities for $15, which covered most of the delivery cost.
“We didn’t just send tulips to one or two residents, we found out how many people lived there and every person got a pot of tulips,” Iverson said. In all, more than 6,000 potted tulips and flower bouquets were delivered to 100 senior homes through the farm’s offer, which ends April 17.
Though this year will be difficult, emotionally and financially, Iverson is optimistic the visitors, including many of the local seniors who received tulip deliveries, will be back in 2021.