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One of Puyallup's last daffodil farmers hanging up the hoe

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- One of the valley's last flower farmers is finally hanging up the hoe following years of downsizing.

After nearly 90 years of growing daffodils, this is the Van Lierop family's last season in Puyallup.

"I'm 75, and I finally feel inside that it's time to hang it up," said Neil Van Lierop, a fifth-generation daffodil grower with roots in Holland.

"I've been in love with this farm my whole life," Van Lierop said.

The family's daffodil roots in Puyallup began with Van Lierop's parents, who took a job with a fellow farmer.

"During the Depression, there wasn't enough money, so Mom and Dad got paid in flowers and bulbs," he said.

They planted the bulbs, sold the flowers and the business began to blossom.

Van Lierop followed in his father's foot steps throughout the field.

"I plowed my first field when I was 7," he said.

The agricultural industry that once dominated the valley has shriveled, and struggles competing with Costcos and grocery stores for
flower sales.

"There were 40 or 50 daffodil farmers here 50 years ago, and now just one other farmer besides me," he said.

Puyallup's popular daffodils even earned a spotlight every spring on "The Tonight Show."

"Johnny Carson would get daffodils every year," said Van Lierop.

The flowers attracted tourists and launched a tradition of daffodil parades and princesses that the Chamber of Commerce president plans to protect.

"I was a daffodil princess in 1978," said local resident Shelly Schlumpf.

The van Lierop bulb farm might be closing, but it will take more than retirement to rid the land of daffodils.

"Some of them are so hardy, they are just like brave little soldiers coming up every year," said Van Lierop.

The Van Lierop flower bulb farm and gift shop will close at the end of May.

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