Well, seems like forever. I think I got my first orchid my first year of college, but it started to become an obsession in graduate school. This happens to correspond with the beginnings of the internet as most people know it, so as the internet grew we experimented with selling plants at shows (and online) and became active in many of the online orchid groups. In other words, we've been doing this a very long time, but also at a very hobby level scale. I keep very busy (two and a half 'real jobs' plus orchids), so the orchid business is designed to be small and flexible. Over the years our tastes have changed a bit, but ladyslippers were a first love and remain a constant companion. As the orchid market has changed, we have had to change with it. You won't find a supermarket phalaenopsis here, we can't sell them for less than the supermarket and don't even try. We focus on things that interest me (Dr. Rob) - which is mainly slippers, small species, and a few odd hybrids. We don't try to follow fashions, we grow what we grow and if the public wants it, so be it. We have dabbled in breeding and continue to do so, but again with the same goals - it has to interest me, I don't particularly care what the market wants.
ABOUT LITTLEFROG FARM:
Although I've been selling and showing orchids since near the very beginning, the business did not become formal until approximately 2003. At this point we lived in a more rural area, and I took pity on another commercial grower who was trying to go out of business. I took the greenhouse and moved it 30 miles. All I needed was a name. Fate intervened the night before my first child was born, when I found a little tree frog on the kitchen counter. Hence Littlefrog Farm (note that Littlefrog is one word, not two). Within a few years we were not only growing orchids, but also many terrarium plants for dart frog enthusiasts. Another local business, Josh's Frogs, started about the same time as we did, and we joined forces - I sold the plants and Josh sold everything else. It worked well until he outgrew my ability to keep up with the plant sales, and Josh hired a few people and started to supply his own plants. They do a great job! I still help them out, mainly with consulting. Recently we decided to 'rejoin' forces, and now you can find some of my plants (mostly orchids) listed on his website.
In about 2010, we moved and I had a decision to make - move the greenhouse or start over. Given that moving the greenhouse the first time had been far more work than I anticipated, and that my township didn't seem too keen on me putting one up (sometimes it is better to beg forgiveness than ask permission), I went with starting over. I now do virtually all of my growing in a converted (and heavily insulated) pole barn, using LED lighting. Some plants go outside in the summer, but otherwise everything is indoors with lights (there are no windows). Although it is difficult to grow some plants (mostly bigger plants), this has greatly reduced my heating expense and allows me to offer plants more inexpensively than many northern growers.
Every grower makes some choices. I have purposely chosen to stay small and not to try to follow the market. Orchids are not my primary source of revenue. However, one market force has definitely changed the orchid hobby. Very few people are actually breeding and propagating orchids in the USA, this is mainly done in other countries. We had largely gotten out of the breeding part of orchids - mostly due to time constraints - but it is time to change. One of our primary foci for the next decade will be in creating new hybrids and raising smaller orchids from seed. We are actively looking for stud plants in Paphiopedilum, Phragmipedium, Leptotes (and similar small species in the cattleya alliance), and other miniature to small growing orchids.
ABOUT THE OWNER:
That's me, Rob Halgren. Some of my students call me Dr. Rob but that isn't necessary. My formal training is in cancer biology (Ph.D. from Northwestern University, after a B.S. in Biochemistry from Michigan State). While I did do research for quite some time, I no longer maintain an active research program. I teach biology part time at Lansing Community College, manage and run the Michigan State Science Olympiad tournament, and am a relatively new member of the Holt Public Schools Board of Education. In my copious free time, I am also a long serving accredited judge in the American Orchid Society - which you really should consider joining if you have managed to read this far.