Tasty pluckings from the air filter of life

Look for slight course correction at the Butler Bank Building, aka Gallery 301, now known as Venue 301. Building manager Steffen Lunding says the restored historic structure, for the last year closely associated with the Union Event Co., will detach from a specific event organize and openly court the full community of event organizers and planners. Leading the charge will be venue coordinator Bethany Graye. More details at the new web site

The brown bag workshop on grant writing for nonprofits seeking foundation support originally scheduled by the Gorge Innoventure for Feb. 3 was canceled because of presenter illness. It has been reschedule for Wednesday, Feb. 24, at the Gorge Innoventure officing space in the east end of the Port of Hood River building (parking lot west of the bridge toll plaza). …

Wanna be a flagger (you know you do, right, because of day-glo vests and flags and such)? Well, get the drill down with a Flagger Certification Course offered at Columbia Gorge Community College, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 1. Call 541-506-6011 for details …

Speaking of classes, you can learn Meeting and Process Facilitation with a class that runs Saturday, Feb. 20, and Saturday, March 12. Call CGCC student services at 541-506-6011 for details. Cost is $130 …

One Breath Beverage, a new kombucha brewing company in Hood River, is running a Kickstarter Campaign to fund capacity for bottling and distributing its products. Get thee over there and check out the story and the video … and the video and the story …


Slow down and make way for trail expansion workers

Note below from the Oregon Department of Transportation about work (already started) along I-84 eastbound, roughly 10 miles west of Hood River. Here’s the media release:

Construction has begun on the new 1.3-mile section of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail from Lindsey Creek to the Starvation Creek Trailhead.

The new trail section is expected to open in late September 2016.

The work will require a single lane closure weekdays in the right lane of eastbound Interstate 84, milepost 53 to 55, near Starvation Creek Trailhead.

The right lane will fully close from 6 a.m. Monday through 6 p.m. Thursday (it started Monday Feb. 8) and continuing through Thursday June 23. No work will take place over the Memorial Day weekend, Friday May 27 to 6 a.m. Tuesday May 31.

The following U.S. Forest Service hiking trails will be closed weekdays 6 a.m. Monday through 6 p.m. Friday, from Feb. 8 through Aug. 31.
Trail 413 (Mount. Defiance Trail).
Trail 414 (Starvation Ridge Trail).
Trail 414A (Starvation Ridge Cutoff Trail).

The trails will be open holiday weekends for Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, from 6 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Tuesday. 

More information about the project can be found online.

Of the original 73 miles of the Historic Highway, 63 miles are now open to travel, either by motor vehicle, by foot or by bicycle. Ten miles of improvements are needed to complete the connection between Troutdale and Hood River. Learn more about the trail project online.

Travelers will begin to see additional work on I-84 in the next few months. Go online to learn more about the traffic impact of the projects.TripCheck.com for real-time traffic conditions.

Tech alliance, internship network offer meet-up for employers, colleges

When structured and executed well, internships can be a great tool for employers and potential employees to get to know each other, and determine if there’s potential for a long-term relationship.

That’s why Gorge Tech Alliance (GTA) and Columbia Gorge Internship Network on Feb. 24 will sponsor a meet-up at which Gorge businesses in search of interns can meet representatives of several regional colleges to discuss possible candidates and placements.

Representatives from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Oregon State, Oregon Tech, Portland State and Washington State as well as Columbia Gorge Community College will be on hand at 6:30 p.m. at Springhouse Cellar Winery in Hood River. Appetizers will be provided; there is a $10 entry for non-GTA members.

“We know there are a lot of impressive students seeking internships at Gorge businesses” says Jessica Metta, GTA Executive Director, “And we know there are businesses looking for that next amazing employee. This event is a good way to help start those connections.”

Ann Harris, with Oregon State University (OSU) Open Campus, says university representatives will share ways that businesses can find employees through their alumni or current students and how universities can help set up internships or work experience programs that benefit businesses. Learn more about the presenters at the Tech Alliance web site.



Packers prepare for June opening of refurbished Rasmussen Farms facilities

Larry and Tammi Packer, taking a break from refurbishing the former Rasmussen Farms facilities.

Larry and Tammi Packer, taking a break from refurbishing the former Rasmussen Farms facilities.

Seven years after first approaching Larry and Tammi Packer about taking over their fun farm on Thomsen Road, Lynn and Dolly Rasmussen finally sealed a deal to sell Rasmussen Farms to the owners of Packer Orchards and Bakery.

The timing wasn’t right in 2008, says Tammi Packer, of the first conversation with the Rasmussens about an ownership change.

In the interim, she and Larry continued their operations south along Oregon 35, and the Rasmussens leased their property to employees. The farm closed for a year, then went back on the market in the spring of 2015.

“We were too busy until the fall, but when our work eased up, we had the time to take it on,” Tammi says. “The sale  closed on Oct. 30.”

Thus began the winter of their major refurbishing, in preparation for a grand re-opening June 10-12. Tammi says the new operation will be called Packer Orchards and Farm Place.

Like the popular Rasmussens destination, it will feature many customer favorites — the pumpkin field, the sunflowers (popular with painters aspiring to their inner Rembrandt), and the corn maze.

The Packers also intend to develop a u-pick strawberry field on raised beds, plus u-pick cherry, peach, apple and pear trees.

Larry will plant a couple acres of the 17-acre property in a new variety of pears for his orchard side of the family business.

“For now, we plan no immediate change at our current location,” Tammi says.

The new location on Thomsen Road, however, will also feature a host of products from the Packer baking operation, including cookies, pies, jellies and jams.

“But we won’t be doing any baking or production down here,” Tammi says.


Sharpen grant-writing chops with Feb. 3 workshop

You hear about people applying for grants and scoring big dollars for their non-profit groups. How do they do it?

Funny you should ask. The folks at Gorge Innoventure have invited veteran grant-writer and writing instructor Leigh Hancock to present a one-hour workshop at noon Feb. 3 on the topic of approaching foundations the smart way — to get their grant support.

This workshop looks at the world of grant funding through foundations, which offer grants primarily to non-profit organizations. The workshop will help grant-writers for non-profit groups “find out how these foundations operate, where to find them, and how to address what they want to know.”

Click on through to the other side for more information and to register. Space is limited.

Fresh Start Culinary Arts hires two to guide training program launch in April

Two well-known local chefs will serve as chef instructor and administrator for a new Gorge-wide 12-week culinary training program, the Fresh Start Culinary Arts Program announced this week.

Chef Matt Patterson and Chef Rainbow Trosper will join the new program on Feb. 16. Patterson, currently the chef and kitchen manager at Rack & Cloth in Mosier, will be the program’s Chef Instructor. Trosper, currently handling catering and deli prep and desserts at Boda’s Kitchen, will be the program administrator.

The appointments follow over a year of planning for the program, which hopes to welcome its first class in April. A steering committee involving a broad cross-section of people from local food, non-profit and faith communities has completed a business and marketing plan, secured several grants, and filed for non-profit status. Kathy Watson (my wife), former chef at Nora’s Table Restaurant, is chairing the group.

The effort was germinated in the mind of the Rev. Vicky Stifter, of the Riverside Community Church. The church will host the program, operating out of a commercial kitchen recently remodeled in large part with the financial assistance of the late Scott Johnson and his wife, Elaine.

The program goal is to provide a short and intensive training program that will prepare un- and under-employed Gorge youth and adults with skills to take entry-level cooking positions in commercial kitchens throughout the Columbia Gorge.

Stifter was inspired by a similar mission at a program called FareStart in Seattle.

Fresh Start is currently recruiting students for its first 12-week program, slated to begin in April. Most students will qualify for free tuition, but the program will also accept a limited number of paying students. The 12-week curriculum was developed by the successful L.A. Kitchens program in Los Angeles.

Fresh Start is also seeking catering and other food service contracts, to give students real-world experience and help support the program. The non-denominational program will have access to the Pioneer Room and sanctuary of Riverside Church for on-site events.

For information regarding student enrollment or catering, contact Kathy Watson at 541-386-8870 or kathy@watsonx2.com.

In addition to providing training, the program is also designed to meet a serious deficit in skilled restaurant talent in the mid-Columbia region. Combined numbers from state economists on both sides of the river show that the Gorge has more than 200 restaurants, with average monthly employment among that group in excess 2,000 (numbers fluctuate, depending on season).

Hood River County alone had more than 85 such establishments in 2014, according to figures provided by regional economist Dallas Fridley.

Interviews by program organizers with four local chefs confirmed suspicions about the challenges they face in finding talent.

Local “help wanted” listings consistently feature an abundance of requests for applicants with kitchen skills.

It’s actually a national problem. People who enter the profession and grow their skills can advance to managerial positions and take their careers anywhere in the world.

This story in the NY Times shows that even people who might expect to hire the cream of the crop are struggling to define “cream” and find the “crop.”

Patterson graduated from Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland in 2008, completing the 40-week program and earning ServSafe certification. Prior to Rack & Cloth, he was the morning sous chef at Nora’s Table, managing the restaurant’s breakfast program. He also held positions as lead cook at the award-winning Bayhouse Restaurant in Lincoln City, Oregon, Kitchen Manager of the Delicate Palate Bistro in Pacific City, and evening lead cook at the Larkspur Cafe in Sitka, Alaska. Patterson and his wife, Laura, live in Mosier.

Trosper is a 2001 graduate, with honors, from the Le Cordon Bleu/Western Culinary Institute in Portland. Prior to Boda’s Kitchen, she was a sous chef and pastry chef at Nora’s Table for six years. From 2004-2008, she was banquet sous chef and pastry chef at the Columbia Gorge Hotel. Trosper and her husband, Wes, and daughter, Anessa, live in White Salmon.

“Chefs Patterson and Trosper are accomplished, professional chefs with extremely good teaching and people management skills,” says Watson. “I am looking forward to building the Fresh Start program with them.”

Fresh Start intends to help successful students find internships and permanent job opportunities.

Blue Bus earns accolades from Good Food Awards

Congrats to Colin and Kristin Franger, founders and fermenters at Blue Bus Cultured Foods in Bingen, for placing three of their pickled products in the list of winners at the Good Food Awards.

They were recognized by judges for their Cortido, Shakedown Beet and Kraut-Chi recipes. Only one other entrant had three of its products honored in the category for Pickles.

Unfamiliar with the couple or their foods? Read our previous profile here.

And, if you’re looking to add popular, big flavor to your retail shelves, you might want to give the Frangers a call to line up some product. All the contact info you could want is right here …

Blue Bus Cultured Foods