Big-city professional turns small-town flower farmer

Over 200 dahlia varieties, spanning three acres, will be showcased at the first annual Tillamook County Dahlia Fest, Sept. 2-4 and 10-11, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at Old House Dahlias, 11600 U.S. 101 South in Tillamook.

By Ann Powers

“When I began planting dahlias for my own enjoyment I had just four types,” Mark Harvey, Old House Dahlias owner, said of the starter plot he planted in his backyard inside Portland city limits in 2004.

That garden grew to 80 varieties when he started selling the flowers a couple of years later to supplement his income as a fishery technician for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Business blossomed and Harvey eventually quit his job and moved to Tillamook last January.

“When the demand for dahlias became too great to accommodate from within the city limits, I moved the farm to 14 acres in Tillamook” he said. “We started our business as a little backyard dahlia farm in the city and it I built it into this.”

“This” is Old House Dahlias and currently includes three acres of dahlias and 11 acres of sunflowers, pumpkins and natural vegetation. Harvey said his farm is probably one of the biggest operations of its kind on the coast.

“We’re here to just let people come and look at dahlias and hopefully we can send them home with a dahlia tuber order and some cut flowers,” he added.

Visitors can’t cut the blooms themselves, but pre-cut and packaged flowers are available for purchase both at the festival and daily from “daylight to dark” via a roadside flower cooler, Harvey said. Garden walks, cut flower and tuber purchases are also available from Harvey on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m.-5p.m.

In addition to individual sales, Harvey works with special events, weddings and wholesalers, and ships tubers nationally and internationally. He also employs sustainable, natural growing methods and packaging.

Harvey said there is no entry fee for Dahlia Fest and Blue Star Coffee will be on hand with their special brews. For more information, call 503-771-1199 or visit