Eagle Creek Orchard

Nestled along Eagle Creek in Richland, Oregon is the 5 acre stretch which holds the beautiful organic fruit orchard of Rob and Linda Cordtz. We spent several hours walking among the trees, learning about different fruit varieties, tree grafting, frost protection, homebrewing, beekeeping, and more. 

While they are located right on Eagle Creek, Richland is very much a desert that only sees about 8 inches of rain per year. Because of this, there are wild fluctuations in temperature and they have come up with some great ways to guard against this. 

Frost Protection

2013 brought a late spring frost that was cold enough to kill fruit buds in the orchard, resulting in a lot of crop losses that year. Linda describes how they dealt with the harsh reality of losing these living things that they care so lovingly for: "You reinvent yourself. You don't have time to sulk, so you just pick yourself up and figure out what you have to do next." In order to prevent a similar situation, they installed propane and diesel heaters throughout the orchards, which helped get them through the harsh winter of early 2017 (which brought the coldest temperatures since the 1960s). While they may have lost a lot of blossoms this year and will have a much smaller peach harvest, none of the trees suffered permanent damage in the harsh winter. They also use a wind machine to circulate the warm air through the property, which is powered by a Chevrolet engine.

The Best Peaches on the Planet

If you haven't tried any of the fruit from Eagle Creek, you're definitely missing out. Everyone at the Co-op looks forward to these peaches. Their amazing flavor is due in large part to the amazing care that goes into the health of the soil. They are the kind of fruit that you need to eat outside or over a sink, bent forward to keep the juice from running down your chin! Though this year's peach harvest might be small, we'll still have a lot of other delicious varieties of fruit from Eagle Creek throughout the summer. Keep an eye out for apricots, plums, plumcots, apples, and more!

Farming is a Gamble

Rob joked that farming is similar to gambling in Vegas, in that it's likely you'll lose your money doing either one. The difference is in the time it takes to lose it: "Lose it all quick there, or take years to lose it out here". Farming seems like a harder yet more satisfying way to lose it all.

Rob worked in the Forest Service for 20 years, and they moved to Richland to escape the food desert of McCall. Where they live, they are able to trade locally for a lot of what they don't produce themselves: vegetables, meat, and more. 

Eagle Creek Orchard Snapshot

  • 13 years on the orchard
  • 5 acres with 1200 fruit trees
  • They grow apples, apricots, peaches, plums, and more! 
  • 18 varieties of peaches
  • They harvested 70,000 lbs of fruit in 2016!

Rolling Hills Peonies

 

Tucked away down a dead end road in Star, Idaho, sits the enchanting 5 acre plot of Anju and Albert. Anju is the greenhouse nursery manager at Edwards Greenhouse in Boise, and her expertise and love of plants really comes through when you walk around the property--it is covered in beautiful flowers of all kinds. But the real treat is the large plot of peonies behind the house. Shocks of blossoms in yellow, white, crimson, salmon, and coral are made all the more vibrant by the background of their deep green leaves. Anju is thrilled to live in a climate where peonies thrive, and it's easy to see why. Walking among the rows of peonies is a pretty incredible way to spend a Monday morning.

The peony season is brief but intense. While these flowers are only harvested for 3-4 weeks in the late spring, they bloom like crazy in that time span. Anju and Albert harvest every morning and evening, about 500 stems per day. They sell exclusively to the Boise Co-op, and have for 3 years now, which makes us feel pretty special!

Rolling Hills Snapshot

  • Started selling to the Boise Co-op in 2014
  • They have over 600 peony plants!
  • Peony varieties at their farm include single, double, Itoh, and bomb
  • Peony plants can live for 150 years, and are very drought-tolerant
  • The season is brief! Keep an eye out for them in mid to late May, and get them while you can

Columbia Ridge Farm

In the realm of local growers, Columbia Ridge Farm is fairly new to the scene. But in terms of operating a small business, they have a lot of experience. After 12 years in the retail power-sports business selling snowmobiles, they decided to sell it and switch to growing food.

The timing couldn't have worked out better--if you've been shopping at the Co-op for a while, you may remember Kay Pennington, who supplied the Co-op with wheatgrass for years. Kay was getting ready to retire just as Columbia Ridge Farm was looking to add more products to their line at the Co-op. The Co-op made the connection, and Columbia Ridge Farms agreed to take over Kay's spot as the primary wheatgrass supplier, and Kay imparted some great wisdom to the new growers. 

While they primarily grow sprouts and wheatgrass for the Co-op, they also have chickens, goats, and horses, and use the greenhouse to start plants that they later transplant outside for their own garden. They use the spent fiber from the sprouting trays to feed the chickens, who pick every last sprout and seed out of it, then compost the rest. Plus, the greenhouse is solar powered, so you can feel good knowing you're eating solar-powered sprouts, herbs, and wheatgrass!  This past winter was quite the test for the new greenhouse, with record snowfall and low temperatures--but it stood the test and we couldn't be happier. 

Keep an eye out for them on our events calendar to see when they will be sampling their delicious sprouts in our Produce departments! 

Columbia Ridge Farm Snapshot

  • Started in 2016
  • Selling to the Co-op since 2016
  • All plant production happens in one greenhouse
  • Solar-powered greenhouse
  • Primarily grow wheatgrass, sprouts, & herbs
  • Greenhouse is heated with radiant heat flooring
  • Look for their eggs in both stores as well

Dawson Taylor Coffee Roasters

"In between moments of crisis and panic, I find a lot of joy."
-- Dave, founder and owner of Dawson Taylor Coffee

How Dave Lost His Marbles

In the early 90s, Dave Ledgard had a dream of starting his own coffee roasting business. Like many small business start ups, he was relying on a silent investor to help get the company rolling. When that fell through, Dave was not ready to give up. He had been a long-time antique marble collector*, so he flew to LA for a marble show and sold most of his prized collection in order to fund his new coffee business. He also did some consulting in the coffee industry, and was paid with a roaster. That's how it all started.

Over the years, they have added Dawson Taylor Downtown and a new pour over bar adjoining the roastery, Roast.  Dawson Taylor is named after Dave's son Dawson, who was a year old when the coffee business was started. Dawson can now be found quietly working away behind the scenes for the company that bears his name.

The Luckiest Guy in the World

While the business is named after his son, the other employees feel like they are part of the family. According to Dave, "The most compelling part of owning your own business is the humans you surround yourself with." There is a good feeling behind the scenes, and it's apparent that the people working there really enjoy it. Abbey is a testament to this. She left the company in 2001, but then came back 4 years later and has worked there ever since. Talking to her and Katie (in accounting and sales), it feels like I am hanging out in someone's house drinking coffee in the living room rather than in an office. 

Dave is also quite a prankster, and is known to throw the occasional firecracker. He describes himself as "the luckiest guy in the world." 

The Difference is in the Service

As the company has grown over the years, their commitment to quality and service has stayed with them. Dawson Taylor goes the extra mile to ensure that the places who serve their coffee have their equipment properly calibrated and that their staff is well-trained to brew the coffee in a way that brings out the best in the bean. The grounds to water is ratio is important, as well as the quality of water being used to brew. "Coffee is not very complex, but you do have to get all the factors right," says Dave. 

The coffee takes about 12-16 minutes to roast, depending on the type of bean and the type of roast they want for that bean. Stephanie is the primary roaster, and she comes to Dawson Taylor after many years as a barista and roaster in Salt Lake City. If you get the chance, ask to go to one of their cuppings, where you will learn a lot about what to look for in the flavor, as well as try a bunch of delicious coffee!

Pro-tip: If you are a light-roast lover, make sure you check out Roast, Dawson Taylor's new coffee bar on Lusk St. Order pour over or French press and be amazed at all the aromas coming out of your cup! The Papua New Guinea is a good place to start.

 

Dawson Taylor Snapshot

  • Started in 1995
  • Selling to the Co-op since 1995
  • Employs about 20 people
  • Buy at the Co-op in 12 oz bags or in bulk
  • Operates the roastery and two coffee shops: Dawson Taylor downtown and Roast (adjoining the roastery)
  • You can find their coffee as far away as Wyoming, Oregon, and Utah!

*If you ever get a chance, ask Dave about marbles. The history of their manufacturing is really interesting, and he is full of great marble facts and figures.

Warm Springs Greenhouse

Garden Valley Growers

Warm Springs Greenhouse is tucked away in beautiful Garden Valley, Idaho. We wound our way up into mountains along the river, down a dirt road to the 4 acres of  land with greenhouses nestled in between the tree-covered slopes. We were greeted by Rambo the dog, but Max the Maltese mix turned out to be our tour guide for the day. Leigh and Jan Ward run Warm Springs Greenhouse, which provides the Co-op with beautiful plants and hanging baskets throughout the spring and summer.

The greenhouses are literally heated by a warm spring that runs next to the property. The water is so hot you can’t touch it with your bare hands. Since the water has a high ph and contains sodium fluoride, they are unable to use it for watering the plants. Instead, the hot water is sent through pipes throughout each of the greenhouses, which radiates from the pipes to heat the greenhouse, thus eliminating the need to provide any additional heating, even during the harsh Idaho mountain winters. 

Second Generation 

The business was started by Leigh’s father in 1970, after he got out the tree felling business. He started out growing cut flowers, and moved into more and more types of plants. They have since moved away from cut flowers and now focus on potted plants. These are mostly flowers, but also succulents and herbs. 

Leigh took over the business in 2000 and now runs it with help from his wife Jan. Jan is also full time teacher, so she helps with the business on evenings and weekends. We were there during spring break, so she was catching up on some paperwork and availability lists. 

The irrigation system throughout the greenhouses has individual nozzles for each of the plants. The individual watering valves are turned on and off at each plant, to ensure that none of them are over- or under-watered. It's a surprisingly personalized system for the number of plants that they are growing, and shows the amount of care and attention that goes into it. 

Growing Plants is Addictive

When we asked Leigh why he did it—all the hard work, the long days, this was his response: “Growing plants is addictive”. It’s clear to see that it’s true, and it’s easy to see why after walking around in warm, humid greenhouses filled with beautiful flowers. It’s hard to be grumpy when you’re in an environment like that.

 

Warm Springs Snapshot

  • Started in 1970
  • Selling to the Boise Co-op since 1997
  • 40,000 square feet of greenhouse space
  • Heated by water from the nearby geothermal spring
  • Grows mostly flowers and some herbs and succulents
  • At any given time, they employ 8-10 people
  • Distribute throughout the Treasure Valley as well as Oregon and McCall