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Oregon Coastal Flowers

Visit the home page of the Oregon Coastal Flowers website and prominently displayed over a spectacular photo of pistachio hydrangeas is a simple tagline: “Nice enough to share a piece of the Oregon Coast with the rest of you”. Among other things, that phrase suggests that Oregon Coastal Flowers is far more than a typical nursery, a thriving company as complex as its founder, Patrick Zweifel.

Pat grew up on a local dairy farm and was his class’s valedictorian at Tillamook High School. Admitted to Ivy League universities, he instead chose to study Dairy Science at Cal Poly, where he earned a cross country and track scholarship. Graduating with a perfect 4.0 GPA, Pat then returned to the family dairy farm. “I was a smart-ass college kid who thought he knew everything,” he remembers. Within six months his dad had fired him.

About 17 years ago, Pat was able to purchase a 64-acre horse ranch, running parallel to the Kilchis River in Tillamook, a former dairy farm riddled with blackberries. His goal was to become a major national distributor of premium northwest grown floral products. From the outset he chose a variety of organic agriculture methods, so that his company could grow flowers naturally, while creating exceptional habitat for wildlife on the farm.

Within a few years, Oregon Coastal Flowers emerged as one of the nation’s leading producers of colored calla lilies. Then came adversity: South American growers, with lower labor costs and a year-round growing season, began to flood the calla lily market. Pat knew he’d have to innovate: “we decided to add products that required winter, things they couldn’t duplicate,” he recalls.

Pat added flowering branches to his product mix, including pink & white cherry, quince, forsythia, prunus, apricot, peach, plum, tulip magnolia and flowering dogwood. The company also became a major distributor of hydrangeas, peonies and gloriosa lilies.

To extend the seasons, Pat and his staff, which averages 10 people, built warm rooms so that plants could bloom early and cool rooms to slow the cycle. The company obtained permits to harvest state forest products, including mosses, forest droppings, birch & alder poles and mossy branches. Unique manufactured forest products were added to the mix. “You have to be different to be successful,” Pat explains.

About 99% of Oregon Coastal Flowers output is shipped out of state, primarily to wholesale florists and designers. Each Sunday evening, a 53-foot semi arrives at the farm bound for the company’s booth at the prestigious Los Angeles Flower Market. “Designers know the quality, so our products frequently appear on TV and movie sets and even in the stars’ homes,” explains Pat. With demand exceeding supply, he began sourcing products from other northwest growers. Today, about 75% of the company’s output is purchased off site.

Besides rotating crops to keep the soil healthy, Pat has always been committed to planting as a landscape, with crops interspersed. The result is a farm of exceptional beauty and Pat has marketed the property as “The Hydrangea Ranch”, which has become one of the coast’s most in-demand wedding venues. The farm also houses a 9-hole Disc Golf course and is used for a variety of community activities, including the annual corn maze (see photo above).

Eight years ago, Pat was named head coach of the boys and girls track and cross country teams at Tillamook High School. As with everything he does, Pat brought passion and innovation to the job. “I think I was born to coach,” he admits, “the key is to create a culture of fun.” His teams have enjoyed considerable success and Pat now hosts annual running camps on the farm. This year his Ultimook Running Camp attracted 280 kids from all over the country. Ultimook is set up as a non-profit organization to support youth running.

A runner’s paradise, with a track and three miles of trails on the property, Pat’s farm also hosts running camps for teams from all over the Northwest. In addition, he organizes the Ultimook Race, held each September, which now draws more than 3000 runners, 2000+ spectaculars, and is the source of videos and photos shared worldwide via social media of contestants slogging through mud pits and the Kilchis River before sprinting past blooming flowers to the finish line.

All of Pat’s ventures are documented in outstanding, ever-evolving, websites, programmed by Pat himself. He even shoots his own photography, which often can be stunning. A good example is the photo above of two members of his staff speeding past flowers in an ATV. Pat admits that marketing, of which he is self taught, has been essential to his success. “It’s easy to grow something. It’s much harder to sell it,” he explains.

Pat credits Oregon Coast Bank with “giving me my financial freedom”. Several years ago the bank restructured a variety of debts that Pat had accumulated into a simple 10-year mortgage, which lowered his monthly payments and reduced his stress.

Oregon Coast Bank has also financed his latest ventures, a pair of barns, which in true Pat fashion, are anything but ordinary. He’s seated in front of one of them in the photo above. The barns are built of lumber milled on his dad’s property and rock from Pat’s farm.

Without experiencing them in person, Pat’s ventures can be a bit hard to fathom. But once you meet him, and witness his passion, it all makes sense. As it says on his website, he truly is sharing “a piece of the Oregon Coast” with the rest of us.