The Happiness Farms Story
Paul Phypers, Sr. was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1903. He graduated from Case Western University, and played semi-pro ball for the Cleveland Panthers. Paul enjoyed building things, and selling things, but most of all he enjoyed growing things. Despite the depression of the early 30’s, he managed to purchase a 100-acre potato farm in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Paul named it Happiness Farms, and decided that its corporate motto, which would appear on every bag of potatoes, would read “For Your Satisfaction, Enjoyment, and Health”. To supplement his income, Paul sold tractors for the Cleveland Tractor Company of Euclid, Ohio during the winter season. The most popular model was a ‘narrow track’, ideal for cultivating vegetables. During the winter months, Paul called on customers in Florida, where farming continued year round.
It was on one of his trips to Florida in the mid 1940’s that Paul Phypers met Bill Melvin, a Chicago building contractor who owned a great deal of property in Florida. Bill and his brother were among the contractors who had built the famous Palmer House in downtown Chicago.
Paul partnered with Bill Melvin to grow potatoes on 300 acres of a 700 acre farm that Melvin owned in Lake Placid. The potatoes were processed in a warehouse at the Sebring-Hendricks Airfield, where Air Force pilots had been trained during the World War II. Automated packaging equipment was not readily available in the 1940’s. Packaging produce for market was a very labor intensive business, so Paul applied his knowledge of tractor mechanics to designing packaging machines, and invented a packaging system that was superior to anything else available in its day.
In 1948, Paul was encouraged to try his hand at flower growing. There was a flourishing market in New York and all along the east coast, and Paul’s experience with packing and shipping would soon figure in to his becoming successful at serving that market.
In time, Paul discontinued potato farming, and ended his partnership with the Melvin’s. He purchased a 40 acre banana farm from a woman named Mrs. Saunders. She was a South African woman who had been a nurse prior to moving to Florida. The ‘Banana Farm’ was actually composed of mucky, lake-bottom land that had been a part of Lake Clay. The mucky soil, which was up to 15’ deep, proved to be excellent for growing Chrysanthemums, Easter Lilies, and Gerbera Daisies. The cut flower business demanded fast shipment, and Paul’s packaging machines were designed to get the flowers to market quickly.
Meanwhile, the Melvin’s had sold their property to a cattle rancher, who in 1957 sold the property to Max Hoffman, a sod farmer. Hoffman decided to experiment with growing caladiums along the sides of his field. About half dozen small growers had attempted to grow bulbs commercially in the late 40’s on a combined total of about 50 acres. It didn’t appear to be very profitable, but Hoffman decided to try it anyway. Two other families, the Hendry family and the Bates family, also started growing caladiums in Lake Placid in the 1950’s.
By the mid 1960’s, nearly 25 growers were involved in commercial Caladium growing, and the Caladium market was beginning to gain notice. At this same time the cut flower market was becoming flooded with suppliers.
Many people had never heard of Caladiums. Most had never seen one. Here was a beautiful, back yard plant, with terrific potential, that had gone virtually unnoticed by gardeners everywhere. A big part of the problem, of course, was that they were not in abundant supply.
Phypers decided in 1964, that the time had come for him to jump in to Caladium farming with both feet. He purchased half of the sod farm that had been owned by Max Hoffman, added that to his “ Banana Farm” property and Happiness Farms quickly became the largest caladium grower in Lake Placid, which is known today as the Caladium Capital of the World. Only about a dozen growers continue to work the 1200 acres of low-pH lake bottom land on the southern banks of Lake Istokpoga that have proven so fertile for caladium development.
Phypers decided that Caladium research was essential for the long range cultivation of these beautiful foliage plants, and encouraged the University of Florida to begin working with Caladiums in the mid 1970’s. To this day, the University of Florida, IFAS research center in Baum has a specialty program for the research of caladium varieties and disease prevention. Each year, Happiness Farms is a proud to help fund their research.
Among his many accomplishments, Paul Phypers is credited with developing one of the fifty varieties of Caladiums that are commercially available today. He named his variety Galaxy, because it resembles a field of colorful stars. This variety is quite rare as it is a variety exclusive to Happiness Farms and only six acres of Galaxy are under production.
Paul Phypers, Sr. passed away in 1999 at the age of 96. However, the legacy of Happiness Farms has continued on with Paul’s two sons, Danny and Paul Phypers Jr., both of their wives, Darlene and Carolyn, his seven grandchildren Steven, Randy, Craig, Paula, Jennifer, Danielle and Drew and their children.
About Caladiums and our Family
Danielle Phypers Daum
I am the daughter of Danny and Darlene Phypers (3rd Generation) and I have worked in the family business since childhood. I manage the office staff as well as working directly with wholesale and retail caladium customers. I am married to DW and we are proud parents of a grown son and daughter. I am an active member of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors and the Chair of their State Women’s Leadership Committee. Volunteering and advocating for agriculture are my passions
Customer Service & Co-Owner
I have worked in the caladium business for over 50 years. I enter your caladium orders into our computer system striving to assure that all our customers receive their orders. I am married to Danny Phypers; Danielle and Drew are our children. Danielle and I started Highlands County Ag-Venture, which teaches the county’s 3rd graders the importance of agriculture in their daily lives. We have been doing this hands-on program for over 20 years.
Caladium Farm Manager
I am the son of Paul and Carolyn Phypers (3rd Generation). My job is to make sure the caladiums are planted, cared for and harvested. I am a proud graduate of the University of Florida College of Agriculture (Go Gators) . I am actively involved in the local water management district to ensure that our farm is doing everything possible to maintain the cleanliness of our water supply. I enjoy finding and selling antiques.
Inventory & Broker Relations Manager
I am the son of Paul and Carolyn Phypers (3rd Generation). I oversee our inventory and shipping schedules to ensure that the varieties and sizes needed are available for shipment at the proper times. I am a veteran of the US Marines and enjoy camping, hiking and cycling.
Warehouse and Shipping
I am the son of Danny and Darlene Phypers (3rd Generation). I have worked in the family’s citrus and caladium businesses since childhood. I manage the barn, making sure the bulbs are properly dried after harvesting and then make sure orders are properly packed. Additionally, I make sure orders are shipped via the correct mode of transportation. I am happily married and love spending time with my wife and our and 3 children. I also volunteer with youth sports in our area.
Danny & Paul Phypers, Jr.
2nd Generation Caladium Farmers
Paul and Danny are 2nd Generation caladium farmers, sons of Paul and Harriet Phypers, Paul and Danny purchased the farm from their father, Paul Sr., in the early 70’s. They expanded the caladium operation and also branched out into citrus. Paul and his wife Carolyn, who also worked for the farm for approximately 40 years, have retired. Danny continues to stay involved in caladiums and actively farms and manages our citrus business.