What started as a fascination with the prime time soap opera “Dallas” nearly 30 years ago has since found itself blooming into something much bigger right here in North Texas. Though everyone they knew discouraged it, Pieter and Petra Koeman were determined to bring their dream to life in the United States.
In January 2015, the Koeman’s, along with their children Pieter Jr., 11, and Hillary, 9, made the move to Pilot Point where their new home and ultimate business, Texas Tulips, awaited them.
Finding the right location for this dream was no easy task, however.
“We started this process five years ago, [and] before that, neither one of us had ever been to the United States,” Petra said.
“We didn’t know anyone here at all,” Pieter added.
Though unfamiliar with Texas aside from what they had seen on TV, the Koeman’s jumped into the moving process with only one plan: finding the right real estate agent.
“We came across a guy by the name of Kelly Peace,” Pieter said. “I told him we were coming from the Netherlands and wanted to start a tulip farm. I think he thought it was a joke.”
Even after discussing their plans and expectations over the phone in great detail with their real estate agent, nothing came to fruition until Pieter and Petra showed up unexpectedly in DFW one day.
“To be honest, I was a little leery at first because I thought it might have been some kind of prank or a scam,” Peace, 50, said.
However, after multiple visits to the United States, the Koeman’s rid Peace of any skepticism he had.
“Maybe six months after they left the first time, they came back,” Peace said. “That’s when I realized they were really serious about this.”
Peace eventually served as more than just a realtor.
“[Peace] helped us with everything from finding a suitable bank to a lawyer for our immigration process,” Pieter said. “We were very fortunate to find him.”
Locking down a consistent relationship with a realtor they could trust was only half the battle.
Texas’ notoriously unpredictable weather posed concerns for the Netherlands natives when scoping out the right location for their tulips. After doing extensive research, the Koeman’s came to decide Pilot Point would be the ideal spot for their vision.
“We did a lot of investigation that was necessary for the growth of flowers from weather history to soil stability in many areas around Dallas,” Pieter said.
Although they had no experience with American nature or its climate, the Koeman’s weren’t strangers to tulip farming. Having come from a long line of family farmers, Pieter sold tulips back in the Netherlands for many years prior to his newfound American residence.
“In the Netherlands, I still worked with the flowers, but I was mainly selling to wholesalers and it just wasn’t fulfilling for me,” Pieter said.
It was this same lack of fulfillment that helped the Koeman’s come up with their idea to cultivate fields reminiscent of their native land. It wasn’t until after they opened Texas Tulips to the public that the Koeman’s realized they had tapped into a vacant floral market in Texas and its surrounding areas.
“I think what we’re doing here is different [because] there is nothing truly like this in the south,” Pieter said.
Along with just one other native Dutch farmer who also now calls Texas home, Pieter plants and tends to the entirety of the tulip fields himself.
With a $5 entrance fee, a charge of $2.50 per tulip stem (though picking is not required to enter) and free parking, the Koeman’s have created both a unique and affordable experience for residents of North Texas.
Not only do the Koeman’s make efforts to maintain a cost-effective business model, they also take advantage of free marketing with a number of social media platforms. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have proven to be instrumental in spreading word of their still relatively young business.
“I actually heard about it through a Facebook post that was going viral with these photos of huge tulip fields so I drove like 45 minutes to see it for myself,” Collin College student Olivia Rodriguez, 23, said. “I spent something like $40 on tulips alone by the time I left.”
Regardless of a recently noticeable growth in attendance, particularly in young people, the Koeman’s insist they are just happy to share the experience they’ve created with others.
“The money is not what makes us happy. I get more of a good feeling when I see people out here in our fields, taking pictures for Instagram and just enjoying the tulips than I do seeing them buy anything,” Petra said.
Profit is far from their biggest concern during Tulip season, which is mid-February to late March, however. Pieter and Petra continue their business throughout the year by selling bulbs, all of which are imported directly from the Netherlands, on their online web show. They also hold a Christmas tulip fair in December.
“We still get calls every single day asking if the actual fields are open,” Petra said as she returned from a phone call inquiring about the field’s hours of operation.
“Unfortunately it’s a small five to six week period beginning in February,” Pieter said.
Only a few years into their North Texas tenure, the Koeman’s have created a resounding attraction at a rapidly growing rate.
“They had this vision for their own American dream that they really believed in, and it just blew up,” Peace said. “I saw it myself when I visited the fields for the first time, and I nearly teared up.”
The Koeman’s remain confident in their choice to leave everything behind and begin their new chapter of life in the U.S. despite the 30 years of patience and planning. In fact, even aside from initial inspiration from J.R. and the cast at Southfork Ranch many years ago, Pieter and Petra plan to make North Texas their home for good.
“Everyone here has welcomed us with open arms, our children love it and we’re just so happy to finally be here,” Pieter and Petra agreed. “We want to do this for the rest our lives.”
Featured Image: Texas-Tulips entry sign at the head of Pecan Creek Ranch in Pilot Point. Alec Spicer