Red Dog Farm’s tulips bring color and hope to homes


Each fall, 45,000 tulip bulbs are buried in the soil at Red Dog Farm, so six months later Jefferson County residents can enjoy the splendor of fresh-cut flowers in their home — one of the first signs of spring.

Red Dog Farm located in Chimacum has grown tulips since the farm was founded 13 years ago.

“I just particularly love tulips,” said Karen Williams, the farm’s founder and owner. “It’s so nice to have that color in the spring, and it’s a way we can have something to sell in the springtime before a lot of our other crops are ready.”

Growing kale, tomatoes, carrots and more, the farm is among the first in the county to open its CSA — Community Supported Agriculture — program each spring. Subscribers pick up weekly produce at a location near their home, and for the first few months they also get a bouquet of tulips.

The bulbs come in all shapes and colors, from the classic silky red and yellow tulips to the more outrageous multi-colored frilly parrot or the spiky pink fringed tulips.

The patch at the Chimacum farm has swaths of color that can be seen from Center Road, but most tulips are harvested before their petals begin to show color.

“We do two picks a day,” said Julia Callahan, who is in her third season of working at the farm. “Tulips are very sensitive to light and heat. We pick once in the morning and once in the afternoon, right before we are ending our shift. It’s kind of a fun game, trying to catch them just when the color on their petals is beginning to show.”

After harvesting, the tulips are stored in a cooler, waiting to be sent off in CSA boxes or to the Food Co-op or the Port Townsend Farmers Market, where after they’re purchased, their petals unfold their beauty in the home.

“People have been writing us notes that they’re bringing some light and happiness to their homes right now,” Callahan said.

This year, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Red Dog Farm has seen a huge increase in business.

“It’s been a five-fold increase in farm stand customer volume,” Williams said. “That’s been really helpful, since the farmers market opened late and restaurants have been closed.”

Without restaurants buying produce, local farms have been relying on individuals and because the farmstand offers an alternative to a crowded grocery store, farms like Red Dog have seen their sales rise.

“I think the farm stand acts as a safe destination for people who are stuck at home,” Williams said. “It’s not like it’s a long process to pick up produce at the farm stand, but people get out of the house and get to be in this pretty location.”

Tulips can be purchased by the stem at the farm stand.

“Flowers are just so cheerful,” Williams said. “They’re so colorful. It’s bringing a little bit of that into people’s homes.”