This is normally one of the best times of the year for Kate Onos-Gilbert, an owner of Tulips of the Valley and one of the driving forces behind the annual Chilliwack Tulip Festival.
But COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the popular event and left Onos-Gilbert wondering what to do with a field full of flowers.
Rather than see them go to waste, she decided to bring some smiles to faces.
“I had 4,000 pots (about five stems per pot) that I meant to sell at my tulip festival,” she explained. “I wanted them to go to people who would enjoy them, and my social media team from Connect Media came up with the idea to connect with the SARS (Search and Rescue Society) teams in Hope, Harrison, Agassiz and Chilliwack. The Harrison and Agassiz picked up around 500 pots a couple days ago to be delivered to front-line workers and some of the retirement homes in the area.”
At the same time, Onos-Gilbert has 1500 smaller pots of Liberation Tulips, which celebrate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Holland by Canadian armed forces.
“We planned on having a ceremony at the festival which couldn’t occur, so I’ve connected with one of the local legions and they’re going to be working on getting those out to veterans and other front-line workers,” Onos-Gilbert noted.
But that’s not all.
Bill Turner, the truck driver for Onos Greenhouses, the cut flower greenhouse operation, was able to distribute 150 buckets of cut flowers – 2,250 five-stem bouquets or 11,000 stems overall – to various front-line workers including two RCMP detachments, two fire halls, one paramedic hall, three medical clinics, conservation services and several others.
Every staff member on shift at several seniors care facilities got a flower to brighten their day.
“Not all of our flowers are selling at auction right now, like a lot of flower growers out there,” Onos-Gilbert said. “Bill wondered what he could do with those that didn’t get sold so they wouldn’t be just thrown away. He chose to take them around Chilliwack over three or four weekends.”
The loss of revenue to Tulips of the Valley has been significant, with the cancelling of the Chilliwack Tulip festival and reduced flower sales. Onos-Gilbert would normally be hiring staff, looking for food trucks and reaching out to local business’ including Chilliwack Honey and Valley Waste and Recycling to help run her festival.
Distributing flowers is not only a way to make others feel better, but a way for her to feel like she’s making a difference in a tough time.
“I don’t ever tire of seeing the tulips,” she said. “Out in the fields, I’m just in awe every year and people are pretty excited about getting them. Seeing all the feedback from the flowers that Bill put out, that was amazing. People really need flowers right now, and plants and gardens. I have a stand at my home in Agassiz selling pots and cut tulips and it’s waaaaay busier that it’s ever been.
“People can social distance and they can support local and have that flower in their house and feel a bit cozier in a time when we’re stuck inside.”
Fresh cut Onos Tulips are available at Fairfield Flowers on Fairfield Road or at Onos-Gilbert’s roadside stand in Agassiz at 1694 Tranmer Rd. They will be available until at least Mothers Day at both locations.