Meet a Farmer – Lane DeVries of Sun Valley Floral Farms
Watching a tulip bulb turn into a flower, and watching that flower bring a smile to someone’s face is one of the things Lane DeVries loves most about flower farming. As the president and CEO of one of North America’s largest flower farming operations, Lane keeps a close eye on his plants and on the future, learn more about this fascinating farmer and his surprising hobbies.
CA GROWN: What are you doing today?
Lane: I just walked the greenhouse with my growers which I do once a day here in Arcata and once a week in Oxnard. We are checking on the progress of the crops and are on the lookout for any farming issues that need to be addressed. I really enjoy doing it, I love to see the team at work, to greet people and be present. Being present and being out there is an important role as the leader of the company.
CA GROWN: What is your favorite part of farming?
Lane: You take a bulb, and it doesn’t look like much, and through planting and growing, it turns into a beautiful flower, and then you get it into the marketplace and that flower turns into a smile. Flowers put a smile on everyone’s face, and that is what is most gratifying about what we do. And seeing happy, healthy crops put a smile on my face!
CA GROWN: How do you give back to the community?
Lane: We give back to the community in many ways. There are always flowers left after harvesting and we give those flowers to local hospitals and to fundraising events. If anyone in our community is looking for flowers, we are able to fulfill their requests. If you attend a community event here in Arcata, the flowers are most likely from our farm.
We help out local charities and service clubs, in every form or shape, mostly in the form of flowers, but also financially. And we’ve given away a “Bouquet a Month” for local charity auctions.
Another way I give back is by giving sermons in the community. A few years ago, I was asked to give a sermon at a local church, and I’ve been doing that ever since, on a monthly basis now, to various churches into the community. The sermons are laced with flower analogies and stories, and people seem to enjoy that.
CA GROWN: What drew you into farming?
Lane: I’m kind of born into farming. My family has been growing tulips for the last four generations. My siblings went other ways, into law and medicine, and I’m the only one in the family that has continued the farming tradition.
CA GROWN: What are your hobbies or past times when you are not farming?
Lane: One of them is preaching, which I started doing about three years ago. Another hobby I love is reading, and a third hobby is developing new varieties of plants. I started playing with varieties of leafless holly and developed a hybridizing program. In the fall we started propagation and developed a couple of new varieties that are now patented. One of them is called Winter Spirit and the other is Autumn Spirit. We are now testing growing the plants in Wisconsin and Holland.
CA GROWN: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start farming?
Lane: Farming is not for the faint of heart. There will always be issues including the weather, market conditions, labor conditions, etc. There are always issues that will require adaption.
CA GROWN: What are one or two things you do on the farm to be sustainable?
Lane: Let’s start with soil sterilization. We sterilize the soil by steaming, that’s how we clean our soil of any type of disease or insects. The other thing we do is use composted bark to grow tulips in order to provide a healthy environment for roots.
If we have other insects and/or mites, we inject garlic extract into the water and run it through the irrigation, so the plants absorb the garlic. Garlic is a repellant against mites and other types of insets. It keeps them away for a while, it’s not 100 percent control, but we’ve been doing that for five years and it seems to work well for our plants.