Gerard (Jerry) van der Salm immigrated to the United States of America with his family from Holland in 1980. He chose to move to the Pacific Northwest for the rich soils, temperate climate and due to the history of the modern lily hybrid in this part of America. In 2010, Anke Yarnell (van der Salm), Catherine van der Salm, Niels van Noort and Ruud van der Salm started Van der Salm Farms, Inc. DBA Our American Roots to continue the bulb and perennial growing tradition. There is a great history of lilies here in the Pacific Northwest, beginning with the birth of the modern hybrid lily more than 80 years ago and continuing today as we carry on that tradition.
The van der Salm Family has been involved with growing lilies commercially for over 40 years now and the van Noort family has been growing bulb for almost 50 years. In Holland there are many uncles and cousins working in the bulb industry, most on their own farms. This direct connection to the Dutch market and our relationships with the bulbs brokers in the Netherlands, allows us to stay in touch with the new trends in products, equipment, and techniques.
Our commercial lily and peony growing is done in the Columbia Basin in Eastern Oregon. During the harvest, these crops are trucked to our home farm in Woodland, Washington, where we process each variety. Bulbs are separated by size, visually checked for quality and health, counted to the correct quantity per tray, and then packed for storage. Our peonies are cut to size, counted, and packed, all carefully by hand.
At our Woodland location we have approximately 15,000 square feet of cold room storage space. In these coolers we can store each product at its ideal holding temperature. These not only allow us to ship our lilies year around, it also allows us to import Chilean and Dutch lilies, tulips and Dutch Iris.
The home farm is where we grow our hostas, dahlias, crocosmias, and hemerocallis. We also grow smaller quantities of ismene, aconitum, dicentra, and astilbe. While we are not currently hybridizing new lilies, we do still have a selection of seedlings that we are testing and expanding. This will allow us to introduce new varieties into the coming decade.
In a year...
January - March
During this quarter we plant a majority of our crops. For the areas we grow our crops in, March is a great time to plant. In Woodland we often have to wait for the weather to cooperate, but that is how it goes with farming. We also finish processing our hostas and crocosmias during this time.
The first "new" crop lilies (harvested the previous fall) are ready for shipping from January on. Most of our customers will wait until we have our imported product in before receiving any of our lily bulbs. Our imported Dutch lilies will usually arrive via container in February. These will join our domestic lilies and will be separated by type and stored at the correct temperatures.
Things usually slow down during this time. The only deviation from this is when our cut flower peony crop is ready for harvest. When they are ready to be cut (any time in the first half of May), we will be busy for at least 2 weeks. This season is short in duration but very enjoyable. Our goal is always to maintain the highest levels of quality in our cut flowers, and we do that by keeping the flowers as fresh as possible. We want our product to reach our customers as soon as possible to increase the flower life and maintain the quality.
During the summer months our work load switches to crop maintenance. At this time we will disbud our lily crop prior to them flowering. We do leave at least part of each lot to flower so that we can double check the quality. Disbudding the flowers helps the bulb focus on growing bigger rather than focusing on flowering and producing seed.
Our goal is for our peony roots to begin shipping by the middle of September. Thus in August we begin harvesting this crop. Our goal is to have shipped a majority of the peonies and planted back all of our planting stock by the end of September.
Certain large dry sale customers take delivery of our lilies, hemerocallis, and hostas at this time as well. As with the peony cut flowers, our goal is to have the product to the customer as soon as possible. Due to the harvest time, these products are very perishable and need to be replanted quickly. We have more than 20 years experience with harvesting lilies at this time, and in order to maintain our quality, we must be very vigilant and use our experience and knowledge.
By the end of September we have our imported Dutch tulips in. The Dutch Iris arrive in the second half of October. The tulips and Dutch iris are ready for planting when we receive them. During late August and September our imported Chilean lilies come in as well. These are ready for shipping immediately upon their delivery to us.
This is the quarter when the harvesting of most of our crops takes place. It is at this time that our lily processing line runs at full capacity for over a month. Our coolers go from the lowest point to the highest point of inventory on hand. The commercial sized lilies harvested will not be ready for planting back until they have had at least their minimum cooling requirement.
Our dahlias will be harvested prior to the threat of frost. We will dig, wash, and grade them. We do not divide our dahlias. They are packed as they were harvested and are not cut to size. We grade them as #1's and #2's, with #1's packing out at about 40 to 50 plants per tray and #2's having about 100 plants per tray.
Hostas, Astilbe, Dicentras, and Crocosmias are harvested whenever the weather allows.