Leo Roozen, president of Washington Bulb Co. in Mt. Vernon, WA, the country’s largest flower bulb grower, was the recent recipient of the Society of American Florists’ (SAF) 2016 Paul Ecke, Jr. Award. Roozen received the honor on September 24 during SAF’s 132nd Annual Convention in Maui.
The Paul Ecke, Jr. Award, established in 1984, recognizes exemplary devotion to the floral profession, the industry, and the community. Previously the SAF Golden Bouquet Award, the award was renamed in 2002 in memory of Paul Ecke, Jr., AAF.
“To say that flowers are part of Leo’s DNA is an understatement. In fact, the name Roozen means ‘roses’ in Dutch,” said Bob Williams of Smithers-Oasis – North American Operations in Kent, OH, during the presentation. “Leo learned the business firsthand from his father, but perhaps even more important, he learned what his parents most valued: family, honest work, a job well done. The floral industry applauds the dedication he has shown to his business, community, family, and the entire floral industry for the past 40 years.”
Since 1985, Roozen has been the president of Washington Bulb Co., a role he took over from his father. Roozen worked alongside his siblings to grow the company, turning it into the country’s largest flower bulb grower. Washington Bulb Co. now ships more than 70 million cut flowers and tens of millions of bulbs throughout the U.S. and Canada every year, and it has become a destination for both tourists and bulb growers around the world.
Roozen assumed the role of president of Washington Bulb Co. in the mid-1980s and ushered in a new era of growth and technological innovations, including computer-controlled bulb rotation systems that enable year-round production, and an intricate dike system that can prevent loss of land during the flooding season. Today, the business farms nearly 2,000 acres, mainly in daffodils, tulips, and iris. Winter wheat and peas also figure into the crop rotation, and cut flowers dominate production in 16 acres of state-of-the-art greenhouses. The company cuts flowers 365 days a year.
A firm believer in collaboration, Roozen welcomes other business owners, including competitors, to tour his operation and engage in candid conversations about best practices. In 2010, he hosted two dozen tulip experts from around the world as part of the annual World Tulip Summit, an event that brought together some of the most experienced and passionate bulb growers for a series of meetings, discussions, and hands-on tours.
Beyond its growing operation, Washington Bulb Co. is known throughout the Northwest and beyond for its idyllic RoozenGaarde, a 3-acre show garden planted to showcase more than 200,000 tulips, daffodils, and irises. It is just one of the many ways the company has deeply invested in its community. Washington Bulb Co. is also an official sponsor of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, a spring event that attracts thousands of visitors from around the world. For the event, Washington Bulb Co. helped develop and now hosts an online “Bloom Map” showing festival attendees the location of fields of daffodils, tulips, and irises in real time.
Roozen’s has been a tireless advocate for the floral industry in Washington, DC, attending SAF’s annual Congressional Action Days for more than 20 years. He shares first-hand stories with lawmakers in an effort to shape national policy in immigration, health care, family business issues, and much more. He has hosted lawmakers at Washington Bulb Company, giving them a better understanding for how laws proposed and made in Washington affect the floral industry every day.
Roozen has served at the highest levels of SAF’s leadership as a board member, president, and chairman of the board.
Maintaining strong ties to Washington State University (WSU), the alma mater of all five Roozen brothers, Roozen also cooperates with WSU Extension researchers and scientists on research projects that benefit his business and the floral industry. The company is also a business supporter of Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland, an organization dedicated to preserve the economic viability of Skagit County agriculture through farmland protection, advocacy, research, education, and public awareness.