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It's sadly ironic that tulips, of all things, pose a threat to Dutch people's health and the quality of the nation's precious land. There are six times more chemicals on the average tulip field than on a potato field. As a result, those living near the colourful fields that are one of the Netherlands' chief claims to fame may be endangering their health.

But tulip grower Wim Postema doesn't need to be convinced of the danger. He decided to go organic 20 years ago after reading about a Danish study in which the sperm cells of of conventional farmers were compares to those their organic peers. It revealed that farmers using pesticides chances of having children was well below the national average. Postema likes children—he has three of his own—so he decided to change course and has grown tulips using nonchemical biodynamic methods ever since.

It may be a complete coincidence that the Postema family farm in the north of Holland is called "Confidence Homestead," but the confidence of the entrepeneurs has been clearly put to the test many times over the years. "The market for organic flowers is very small," Postema notes. "I estimate the market share in the Netherlands at 0.1 percent or less. People are willing to pay a little more for organic food, but flowers are too far removed from their own health." But Postema adds that Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian inventor of biodynamic farming didn't devise his agricultural methods to preserve food quality but to safeguard the quality of the soil.

But Postema continues to practise and advocate for healthy farming methods. Biodynamic cultivation means hard work 365 days a year. He says, "In the spring I spen eight hours a day inspecting every tulip for fungus and viruses. Then all the flowers are cut, leaving only the stem and leaves. Six to eight weeks later it's time to dig up the bulbs." The bulbs are kept in a huge storage shed and mechanically sorted according to size. The summer is mainly spent inside this shed examining each bulb for irregularities.

In short, a lot of hard work. But there is a reward. Postema's bulbs and tulips are so unique they are sold across the world. Among other place these "ecobulbs" can be ordered through the American internet company Organic Bouquet (www.organicbouquet.com). And the bulbs, which are available in 120 varieties, can be grown in your own backyard without chemicals.



Originally printed in the July 2006 issue of Ode




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