Post Office parking lot closed today (May 28) for repainting

Relaying quick note from city administrator Steve Wheeler, for those of you who use the parking lot just south across Cascade from the Post Office. It will be closed today (Thursday, May 28) for repainting. The city is converting the lot to a year-round mix of 25 permit spaces and 25 public day parking spaces.  The flip is set to start next week, or June 1, whichever you prefer.

For today, Wheeler says permit holders can park on any side street except Oak and Cascade.  The permit must be visible at all times.

Home-grown Azure Standard taps a healthy appetite for chemical-free foods

 

Dave Stelzer inside the greenhouse at Azure Standard's main facility outside Dufur.

Dave Stelzer inside the greenhouse at Azure Standard’s main facility outside Dufur.

(Editor’s note: This story appeared originally in the Ruralite magazine. Reprinting here because it tells of an interesting business operating out of the limelight but making significant strides. It’s hiring, too, as recent ads in local papers attest.)

DUFUR — Not many farmers here can point to the day they got fired by Bob’s Red Mill as the day they got fired up to start what 30 years later has become a national distributor of organic foods generating annual sales of around $50 million.

Dave Stelzer, chief executive of Azure Standard, smiles when he thinks about the company’s crisis point, when his family’s farm was forced in the mid-1980s to shift emphasis from growing to marketing and distributing.

His family and its 160 employees still produce 180 different products from 1,000 acres of dry land and 3,000 acres of cultivated soil — some of it their own, some of it leased — stretching from the home farm 9 miles east of Dufur to irrigated land along the John Day River.

They harvest a mix of grains, orchard crops like cherries, peaches, apricots, apples and pears, and row crops including potatoes, onions and squash. A greenhouse produces tomatoes, squashes, peppers and, yes, bananas.

But most of what they sell, they buy from other growers.

“Sales has outgrown production,” Stelzer says, noting that his own emphasis leans these days to the marketing side. “Marketing and distribution is 10 times the farming side of the business.”

In the mid-1980s, however, Bob’s Red Mill was about the only customer. It was a good contract, Stelzer recalls, but it almost literally left all the family’s eggs in one basket. When Bob’s went away, Stelzer was left with a lot of grain to sell, much of it rye – and the local grain co-ops weren’t buying rye.

Stelzer says he arranged for some custom milling in Yakima, bagged up the flour and started knocking on doors of food retailers in Portland, Salem, Bend, the Tri-Cities and Yakima. He promised delivery every other week, and did.

The buyers liked his product – all organic, since his father Alfred had converted away from chemicals in 1973 – so they asked Stelzer if he could add a few things to his deliveries.

“So I added lentils,” he recalls. “I was young and stupid, so I said ‘yes’ more than I should’ve, then figured out later how to do it.”

It worked. The company adopted the Azure Standard brand in 1987. Stelzer says “azure (blue)” is often associated with law and justice. To him, it seemed appropriate to symbolize the family’s goal of creating a “right and just standard in organic foods.”

Stelzer talks with passion about eliminating chemical fertilizers and pesticides from growing practices, while at the same time feeding the soil the nutrients it needs to produce crops that themselves are rich in nutrients.

Growing demand among consumers fed right into Azure’s objectives.

Connie Davis of Carson, Wash., is like many of Azure’s customers, people who live in small towns or out in the country, far from any grocery store, let alone stores like Whole Foods, which specialize in organic product.

Davis came slowly to Azure. She likes to see and feel her food. Catalogs weren’t her thing, until a friend in North Bonneville, Wash., suggested she try Azure Standard.

“The big thing that won me over was raw milk,” she recalls. “More and more, as I got involved, I’m going, ‘Oh my gosh, everything I could possibly want is here.’”

Now she coordinates delivery dates for 35 customers who live within a short drive of her home. Azure Standard sells through online and print catalogs, but delivers through a team of 23 contractors who manage 59 delivery routes all over the country. When the delivery truck shows up at Davis’s house, customers jockey their rigs into position to unload the truck, sort orders, load up and head home.

“The drop takes maybe 20 minutes,” Davis says. “It’s a social affair. We have a chance to swap produce or eggs.”

Wyatt Wall lives in Hood River, and delivers to buyers like Davis, except that all his delivery routes begin 1,450 miles from home – in the Dakotas, northwestern Iowa and western Wisconsin.

He and his wife Kristi leave Hood River on Saturday, pick up their cargo at Azure’s 68,000-square-foot warehouse in Moro, and head to one of three routes they service each month. They’ve cover 1,000 miles, stopping 40 to 60 times for drops.

Wall says they’ve been driving for Azure for a little more than a year. “They really put a premium on serving their customers’ needs,” he says. “They really try to make customers feel they’re part of a journey to bring organic and healthy food to the masses.”

Stelzer says Azure has barely scratched the surface of appetite for its products. Demand has outstripped the capacity of the Moro warehouse, which opened in 2007. That’s why Azure is looking at a possible distribution center in the eastern United States.

“We’ve had double-digit growth for each of the last 10 years,” Stelzer says. “We can grow as fast we can handle it. There is a lot of market opportunity.”

His dream is to increase sales ten-fold in the next decade. That would boost revenues to the neighborhood of $500 million.

“Maybe that’s crazy for a farm kid, but I think it’s totally possible,” Stelzer says. “There are a lot of wholesale markets we haven’t reached. It’s kinda fun.”

Candidate info keeps trickling in

Use the Vote 15 tab at the top of the page to select contested local races and review statements submitted by candidates, including people mounting write-in campaigns. We’ll add information as we get it.

First batch of candidate position statements is up, more to come

I’ve gotten a number of inquiries lately, asking if I know anything about the candidates on the May ballot. Yes and no.

The calls suggest a gap in public information, so the Buzz is mounting a belated call-out to candidates in key local races — Port of Hood River, Hood River County Schools, Parks & Rec and Columbia Gorge Community College (Hood River representatives).

Today, we launch the first round of responses, in the CGCC race. Tomorrow, we’ll post up info from candidates for the other positions.

So, if you’re in a quandary and haven’t yet filed your ballots — they’re due by May 19 — you may want to take a look over the next couple of days. To find the race you’re interested in, just use the Vote ’15 tab at the top of this page for a drop-down menu of specific races.

Happy voting!.

If you believe Hood River is tightly linked to Portland …

which, in our opinion, you should, then you may take interest from this piece in today’s NY Times and the source document, from a new think tank in Portland called CityReports.

Contrary to the stereotype perpetuated by “Portlandia” that the city is where young people go to retire, the facts suggest that it is a beehive of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Young people leaving college increasingly migrate to Portland. And when they look for recreation? Or weekend getaways? Or even relocation to a place that embodies many of the same values, but features much less traffic? This is an inference, but among the cities in Portland’s orbit, we are one.

Mark your calendars for these coming events

Green Drinks at Butler Bank in Hood River, May 12: Learn about Union Event Co. plans to offer the Butler Bank space at 301 Oak as a private event space, for art shows, performances, parties and one-off dining events. Event runs from  5:30 to 7 p.m. $5 suggested donation, free for GO! members.

Columbia Gorge Economic Symposium, Thursday, May 14, 2015, 9 a.m. to noon – Columbia Center for the Arts
215 Cascade Ave, Hood River, Oregon. A half-day event focusing on economic and employment trends in the regional economy. Highlights: State of the States: Economic Forecasts with Washington State Economist Paul Turek and Oregon State Economist Nick Beleiciks; Local data and regional trends – Dallas Fridley and Scott Bailey. Registration required: $10.

 

 

Buckley seals deal to sell Idlewild Market assets to brewer Dave Logsdon

Nina Buckley has found a buyer for her Idlewild Market at Fourth and Cascade in Hood River.

Nina Buckley has found a buyer for her Idlewild Market at Fourth and Cascade.

After three years running her Idlewild Market convenience store diagonal from the Post Office in Hood River, Nina Buckley and partner John Griebling have sold the business assets to Dave Logsdon and his wife, Judith Logsdon-Bams.

The Logsdons, who own Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, took over May 1.

Buckley said the change does not involved a change of property ownership. The Logsdons signed a lease with property owner Rachel Bergin. The Logsdons were traveling and unavailable to comment on plans.

They recently acquired the Knead Bakery space a block west.

 

Budding beekeeper hopes to harvest investors from passion for bees and honey

Cait Scott working with her bees with hive in background.

Cait Scott working with her bees with hive in background.

We love writing a story at the Buzz about a young lady who is generating buzz about her hives and swarms and Honey by (and for) the People (uh, that would be us).

Cait Scott and her wife, Whitney Ride, followed family north from the Bay Area just over a year ago. Along for the trip came Cait’s first hive of bees. Her father has been making hives for her, and she’s been wrangling local bees to hang out at her place and grow the buzz.

Now she’s launching a Kickstarter campaign — it goes live sometime Friday, May 1 —  in hopes of raising $7,000 to finance the gear and such to take her hobby at least to the micro-business level.

She says she needs honey extractor and jars and lids and … well, “the whole shebang.”

Scott and her startup will be the featured guest of a Kickstarter Launch Party at the Butler Bank Building, 301 Oak, from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, May 1.

Scott has plans to site 11 hives on farm properties of friends in Hood River and Mosier. One of the friends is Pfriem brewer Gavin Lord and his partner, Giselle Kennedy. Scott works with Lord. Kennedy studied and worked in video with Scott’s brother, Whit Scott, who lives in Portland.

Whit raised over $34,000 in a Kickstarter effort to fund a film project, and encouraged his sister to take a similar route.

As Scott grows her collection of hives and harvest of honey, she’s hoping to pay some out to investors and some to people who like it sweet and like it local.

Before all that starts, however, Scott had to track down and figure out how to convince her bees to return home. She says they did a swarm thing Wednesday, in which they all decided to run away at once. Ask a beekeeper what it all means — it’s fascinating, but mysterious to us.

The thing Scott loves is that she put a call-out to the local beekeepers group asking what she should do to resolve this swarm situation, and got a half-dozen responses full of advice and on-site help.

Beekeepers, it seems, gotta stick together — because their bees don’t always share the same sentiment.