Darst Bulb Farms has the oldest continuous history of family flower bulb farming in the Pacific Northwest. 1929, Samish Island, Washington was the cradle of flower bulb farming in the United States. Harry Smith grew flower bulbs on the Ebey’s Landing Historical Land preserve in 1930. By 1932 the bulb growers, Neil Noorlag and Tony Van Havern moved the flower bulb farm from Samish Island to Skagit County Washington. It was this same year that Madeline Darst convinced her husband to grow blue bulbulous iris flower bulbs called Wedgewood on Whidbey Island in conjunction with the family crops of potatoes, turkeys and grain. Glen Darst and son Earle Darst drove to Mount Vernon, Washington in a 1932 Ford Sedan to buy iris flower bulb seed from Noorlag for one dollar a pound. They loaded the back seat and trunk with 1000 pounds of iris flower bulb seed.
From 1933 until 1936 Neil Noorlag bough all the saleable bulbs (8cm and up) from Darst Bulb Farms and exchanged for more iris flower bulb seed at $1.00 a pound. By 1936 the flower bulbs had increased to 2 acres. In 1937 Noorlag could not buy any saleable iris flower bulbs from Darst Bulb Farms. Darst contacted American Bulb Company who bought the entire crop. The iris bulbs were shipped by refrigerated train car from Mount Vernon Washington to New York City.
1941 Darst Bulb Farms had increased to 12 acres of Wedgewood iris flower bulbs. At this time all flower bulbs worldwide were dug by hand.
1942 Earle Darst received his degree of Graduate of Agronomy and Economics from Oregon State University.
In the summer of 1942 Glen Darst commissioned Earle to build a mechanized flower bulb digger to harvest the ever increasing acreage of flower bulbs. It took 3 men all day to dig 1 quarter mile row of iris flower bulbs. One man would shovel and two men would shake a frame with a wire bottom to remove dirt, leaving just bulbs and rocks. Because of the War there was an extreme shortage of help for the flower bulb harvest. 1942 was the birth year of the first mechanized harvester of underground crops worldwide. Earle Darst designed two synchronized, opposing shakers fed by a chain belt and steel shoe that dug the bulbs on a metal frame that was powered by a small gasoline engine. The shakers delivered the bulbs into wire bottom trays and were pulled by a tractor. This same flower bulb harvester (although now self propelled) harvested the 2007 iris flower bulb crop on Whidbey Island, Washington.
1950 Earle started an iris hybridization program and 20 years later introduced 5 of his hybrids into the international market for commercial sale. A beautiful yellow iris “Enchantress” has survived the rigorous test of time and is still sold today.
By 1951 Darst Bulb Farms had grown to the largest iris bulb farm in the United States.
1969 Earle Darst became the Chairman of the Washington
State Bulb Commission.
By 1972 Darst Bulb Farms was growing more than 200 acres of flower bulbs. The Largest flower bulb grower in the world!
1983 until present 2008, DARST BULB FARMS INC operates solely on Whidbey Island producing fresh flowers for the regional grocery market. The harvest of flowers starts March 1 with a nice selection of yellow daffodils, followed by fragrant narcissus. This array of color blends into blue, white and yellow iris continuous through June. Glads (gladiolus) dominate the fields until September 1st. Medium brilliant florist sunflowers overlap the glads starting in Mid June and continue until Halloween.
Earle Darst is 91 years young, calls all of his grocery florist every day and oversees the field operation every day thoughout the growing season.
Flower Sales phone 360-678-5582
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