Agritourism is an ever-growing market, and U-pick operations continue to gain popularity. A lot of farms are considering adding tulips to their business plans but are unsure how to manage them.

At the NAFDMA Convention in February, a tulip panel workshop took place, showing tulip operations from small scale to large scale. (NAFDMA is the International Agritourism Association.) The panel of farmers included Krynn Knepfel from Bloomchick Flower Company, Art and Wendi Johnson from Dewberry Farm and Emily and Jon Iverson from Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm.

Knepfel from Bloomchick Flower Company, located in Springfield, TN, represented a smaller tulip farm at this panel. Knepfel has been hosting an event for the past seven years called Tulipmania, and they have a wide variety of tulips available. Knepfel believes “no matter what people are into, there’s a tulip for it.”

In 2023, they ordered just under 75,000 bulbs. Knepfel will only plant tulips after they are pre-chilled and loves that tulips are “pretty low maintenance.”

Dewberry Farm, located in Kernersville, NC, represented a medium-sized tulip farm. This is a third-generation farm which started in 1925. Art and Wendi Johnson began grow tulips in 2017. What started as 40,000 tulips their first year quickly grew to 140,000 tulips this past year.

They order around 50 varieties of mid- and late-blooming tulips and start prepping their field in October. When it comes to timing, “the day the bulbs arrive, we want our beds ready,” explained Art. They plant around 280 bulbs per minute, taking four days to plant 140,000.

One of Art and Wendi’s main pieces of advice was to wait to send out a date for your U-pick event until the tulips get to 30% bloom. They manage crowd control by selling scheduled tickets on their website, providing a timeframe for each guest to arrive at the farm. In two and a half weeks, Art and Wendi welcome about 10,000 guests to their operation, with about 90% of the visitors purchasing flowers.

In addition to their U-pick, they host weddings and a Mother’s Day tea, sell cut flowers and use their fields for photography shoots.

Annual tulips can make for wonderful U-pick and photo opportunities for agritourism operations. Photo by Courtney Llewellyn

Emily and Jon Iverson represented Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, a third-generation farm located in Woodburn, OR. The farm began in 1950, and by the early 1980s they had over 15 acres of tulips. Now, the farm is located on 300 acres, with 30 to 40 acres of tulips every year. They do disease control by rotating their fields every four to five years.

On a sunny day, the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm hosts between 8,000 and 9,000 people. Each year, they fill about 30% of their fields with one million tulip bulbs. Besides tulips, they have wine and farm tours, tulip trail runs and even hot air balloons. Their mantra is “experience the beauty,” and Jon explained their history as “a farm that was growing tulips that turned into agritourism.”

All three of these operations are very successful in their tulip business, regardless of size and location. Although tulips are “super forgiving” and “want to grow,” they are also “very sensitive to weather,” Jon explained.

“If it’s a few degrees warmer than average, they’ll bloom a few days sooner than average,” he said.

It’s beneficial to explain to your visitors why you pick the tulips when you do – that way they respect them more when going through the field.

At the end of the day, no matter how well you care for the tulips to predict their growth, “Mother Nature decides when they bloom,” said Jon.

For more information on each of these tulip operations, visit, and

by Kelsi Devolve