FOURTH GENERATION FARMER ALEXIS WARMERDAM HOSTS THE 2ND ANNUAL ABBOTSFORD BLOOM TULIP FESTIVAL
In early April, Alexis Warmerdam anxiously waited to see the pops of colourful tulips bloom over 14 acres of land, where she had planted 3 million bulbs earlier in October. To keep fans of the Abbotsford Bloom Tulip Festival updated, she jumped onto its Facebook page to live stream from the field, giving fans a glimpse of what was to come.
Born and raised in Abbotsbord, Bloom founder and 4th generation farmer Alexis never thought she’d be involved in the family wholesale business, Lakeland Flowers. After completing an engineering degree from Simon Fraser University and spending a co-op term in software development for a wind turbine company, Alexis had a change of heart. “I thought I’ll work for my Dad for a year and see if I like it, if I don’t, I’ll go back to engineering,” Alexis shares. That was early 2014, and Alexis hasn’t turned back since.
The family business was started by her grandfather Peter Warmerdam who immigrated from the Netherlands to the Fraser Valley in the 1950’s. With a background in horticulture and farming, Peter started growing daffodils and gladiolas in Abbotsford’s Sumas Prairie. “In 1974, they bought the current farm in Abbotsford,” Alexis divulges, “my father took over in the 80’s with his brother, and my Dad would eventually buy out my uncle in the 90’s.” “He’s a great business man and mentor,” Alexis tells us about working alongside her father Nick, “we get along really well and we have a very similar mindset.”
The core business is the distribution of flowers which include tulips, daffodils and peonies to retailers in the Pacific Northwest, but when Alexis came on board she knew she wanted to invite locals and tourists alike to see the beautiful flowers she grew up surrounded by. “We talked about the idea of a tulip festival for years,” Alexis remembers and in mid-2015, the idea finally became a reality, as Alexis started planning the inaugural Abbotsford Tulip Festival with 10 acres and 2.5 million tulip bulbs.
Much to her surprise, the first festival would go on to see 100,000 visitors, almost triple the number that Alexis was expecting. “Social media blew up,” Alexis remembers, referring to the stream of photos that populated Instagram feeds – as visitors snapped away in the colourful fields among blue skies. After the festival wrapped, there was no time to rest – bulbs were dug up, washed, dried and stored for the summer, until they were replanted in the fall. The tulips began blooming the second week of April, as the fields opened its doors to guests on April 10th.
“You’ll find about 40 varieties of our own,” Alexis shares, “20 specialty varieties are from Holland. They’re fancier – you’ll find those by the pathways.” The fancier bulbs are from Alexis’ distributor in Lisse, a small town southwest of Amsterdam in the Netherlands – which houses the world’s largest tulip festival. “I’ve visited Lisse a few times, mostly in the summer,” Alexis tells us, “hopefully I’ll get a chance to see the tulip festival there one day!”
Abbotsford’s Bloom Tulip Festival is open till May 14th, visit AbbotsfordTulipFestival.com for ticket info and enjoy!
Photo Credit: Tanya Goehring, Post Photography