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.
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!