Free Sept. 30 workshop to cover basics of Financing Your Food Business

Want to start a value-added food business? The Small Business Development Center at Columbia Gorge Community College is working with the Gorge Grown Food Network to roll out the wisdom.

From 2 to 5 p.m. on Sept. 30, the two will conduct a Financing your Food Business Workshop in the upstairs conference room at pFriem Brewery, 707 Portway Avenue Suite 101, in Hood River, OR 97058.

Best of all? It’s FREE, thanks to a Rural Business Enterprise Development grant. But space is limited, so register early.

The workshop will cover such topics as:

  • Simple demo on how to use a break-even analysis to assess feasibility (setting a rough desired earnings goal)
  • Factors to consider for financing needs (equipment/initial inventory/receivables/other typical start-up costs/working capital)
  • Potential funding sources (including warnings about high cost leases and scams to avoid)
  • Bootstrap techniques (ways to get going with limited outside investment)
  • Some marketing/branding (proven techniques)
  • Measuring success after opening (simple budget techniques)

Register today with the SBDC via e-mail or by calling 541-506-6121. Space is very limited.

For more information, contact Rick Leibowitz at the Small Business Development Center, (541) 506-6120



Rep. Johnson holds business forum at Gorge Hotel on Sept. 22

Thanks to the Chamber of Commerce for passing along a reminder about the business forum being held by state Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22.

The event will be in the Bensen Ballroom of the Columbia Gorge Hotel.

According to Johnson’s office, he will offer a short presentation on the state of the economy and business related legislation passed in the 2015 session. He will reserve most of the time for questions and comments from business owners.

Questions? Contact Cassie Hayt by e-mail or 716-799-3969.

A little of this and a lot of that and …

File under “interesting side note to short-term vacation rental and second home debate” — BloombergBusiness did a data crunch on small-town wealth, and ranked Hood River 22nd nationally among the “wealthiest” towns of 10,000 to 50,000 population. Stuck smack dab between Laconia and Concord, N.H. Thanks to Sarah Sullivan of Gorge Grown Food Network for pointing this factoid out …

Speaking of the Network, it will be hosting its second annual farm-to-table Harvest Dinner on Sept. 27, 2015 at Kiyokawa Family Orchards just south of Parkdale. Chef Ben Stenn of Celilo Restaurant & Bar will be preparing a four-course seasonal meal featuring local produce, meat with wines from Cor Cellars paired with each dish. Cocktail hour begins at 4 p.m. with beer from Pfriem Family Brewers. Enjoy live music from the June Bug Boys, and the harvest moon and lunar eclipse. All proceeds go to GGFN, which just this year has sponsored over a dozen  workshops for food producers, supported all 10 Gorge farmers’ markets with technical assistance, increased fresh food access with programs like their food stamp match, Veggie Prescriptions and the Mobile Farmers’ Market. Tickets for the dinner are $85, and available online. …

And speaking of Kiyokawa, Randy Kiyokawa is drumming up reader support for his orchard’s possible selection to USA Today’s Readers Choice 10 Best Apple Orchards contest. Vote early and vote often, before the Sept. 28 deadline …

Trew, the Hood River maker of ski and snowboard apparel, just got a shot in the pocketbook to help it expand, including a new physical presence in southeast Portland. Check the story in the Portland Business Journal

Do you lie awake at night, wondering what really is going on underground upstream at the Hanford nuclear site? Local photog Jurgen Hess visited recently, and offers a photo tour at the envirogorge web site

You may see smoke and flames, but the folks at Insitu see opportunity … for aerial monitoring of huge conflagrations that might otherwise put piloted aircraft — and their pilots — at risk. Read what Insitu is doing about fire monitoring


New owners plan expansion of grape harvest at legendary Celilo vineyard on Underwood Mountain

More grapes, more grape juice, and more wine.

That’s about the only change Northwest winemakers — and consumers — can expect from the July sale of the famous Celilo vineyard on Underwood Mountain.

Nicole Backus, communications manager for the Columbia Gorge Winegrowers Association, confirmed the purchase in early July by Walla Walla-based Corliss Estates. Owners Michael and Laurie Corliss produce wine under their own name, and the Tranche Cellars brand.

“Celilo is probably the most widely known vineyard in the region,” Backus said. “It’s not the oldest, but it’s certainly the most well known.”

Longtime vineyard manager Rick Ensminger told the Buzz that he intends to remain involved, directly or in a consulting role, for the short term. Beyond that? Hard to say, but winters in Yuma look awfully nice.

Ensminger will work with Todd Harrington, vineyard manager for all the Corliss properties.

Ensminger showed up at Celilo shortly after Seattle surgeon William McAndrew bought the property and planted its first vines in 1972.

The property encompasses two blocks, one at higher elevation of about 80 acres, and a second block at lower elevation of just over 50 acres.

Of the 80-acre block, 30 are planted in grapes and the rest in pears. Those trees will remain.

Corliss plans to remove older pear trees from the lower property and convert those 20-plus acres to vines.

Ensminger assumed vineyard management on Jan. 1, 1976. Right place, right time.

“They had about 15 acres in grapes when I came on board,” he recalls. “They had a guy from California to be the grape guy, and I was to be the orchard guy. Well, the grape guy left before first harvest because his wife hated it up here. So that’s how I got the job.”

At the time, Ensminger recalls, he and his wife, Jody, both preferred cocktails.

“When we first started, neither of us liked wine,” he says. “Now I’d like to fill a Jacuzzi with it and jump in.”

Rumors of a pending sale started circulating locally toward the end of 2014. Scuttlebutt had Corliss partnering with Charles Smith, he of K Vintners and the widely sold House label.

Celilo produces chardonnay, gewurztraminer, pinot gris, gruner veltliner, pinot noir, muller thurgau, lemberger and merlot varietals, some sold to Columbia Gorge wineries, but good quantities to other notable Northwest wineries.

Sippers find Celilo juice in wines from Woodward Canyon, Ken Wright Cellars, Abeja, Savage Grace, Gorman Winery, and Ross Andrew Winery.

Others want a piece of the action, which explains the vineyard expansion. It wasn’t always that way.

“A lot of people thought we were crazy for getting into it up here,” Ensminger recalls.

“Years and years ago, with the chardonnay, we knew that it would be special for us. I’d go to a winery and say, ‘I’ll give you a couple of tons, I’ll flat-ass give them to you, and see what you think.’ Now we have waiting lists.”

Existing customers should have no concerns, he says.


“There shouldn’t be any changes in the near future,” Ensminger says. “Corliss is only getting two acres of grapes off this place. They want to honor the contracts we have and deal with the people we’ve been dealing with since 1980s.”

Backus says sale of the Celilo vineyard suggests that the unique growing conditions of land in the Columbia Gorge has vaulted the region onto the radar of other Washington wineries.

“From a Washington perspective, this is the only region that has a cool climate growing region,” Backus says.


“Washington state will be grappling for property here. There are not that many places to grow white grapes. Several winemakers in Washington are looking to do their own thing and open wineries in the Gorge.”

Coll though the hillside site may generally be, the super-warm summer of 2015 adjusted the Celilo harvest calendar. As he spoke about his 41 years at Celilo, and what the future holds, Ensminger in late August was already well into picking grapes and pears.

“We already did 3.5 acres of chardonnay,” he says. “Everything is early. We started picking Anjous on Aug. 31. I’ve never ever picked Anjous this early, and this is my 40th harvest. Last year was early. This year breaks the record.”



County planners welcome public comment on adjustments to farm, forest zones

As the city of Hood River tackles the issue of housing for all — including the question of short-term vacation rentals — planners for Hood River County are close to wrapping up an extensive process to adjust land-use language affecting exclusive farm use and forest resource lands.

Earlier this month, about 1,800 Hood River County property owners got notice of pending changes to the county zoning code that could affect how they use their property.

It all comes before the Hood River County Planning Commission during a public hearing at 6 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, Sept. 9, in the Board of County Commissioners’ conference room at 601 State St., Hood River.

Some property owners, like Brian Camastral, are concerned that possible changes might limit use of their land value-added agriculture – including agri-tourism.

The state Department of Land Conservation and Development selected Hood River, Union, Coos and Lake counties to update their farm and forest zoning codes as part in the Model Codes Update Project. Why those four counties?

Josette Griffiths, a planner with Hood River County, says the last such update to exclusive farm use lands was in 1996, and for its Forest Zone in 2001.

The updates are designed to bring county code into synch with uses and limits on uses that have trickled since then into the Oregon Revised Statutes and Oregon Administrative Rules.

Some of the updates are mandatory. The county took the update opportunity to consider optional changes as well.

“My wife, Lynn, and I own the 25-acre Lavender Valley farm operation at 5965 and 5985 Boneboro Road in Parkdale, and the 91-acre Riversong Sanctuary on Odell Highway,” says Camastral, a former president of Mars Global Food, a division of the company that makes products that include Snickers, Dove, M&Ms and pet food products such as Sheba and Whiskas.

“We bought both properties because we come from rural beginnings, and love the life that comes with extracting a crop from good soil,” Camastral says. “I want to invest my energies in helping grow and diversify Hood River County’s historic farm- and forest-based economy.

“For ourselves, and many young people seeking a path to sustainable farm life, the secret to success is adding value to our limited harvest.”

In response to a query from the Gorge Grown Food Network, county planning director John Roberts explained that concerns seem to revolve around possible elimination of language that would guide activities considered “agri-tourism.”

Roberts says county code allows — and would continue to allow — such things as farm stands, wineries, wedding venues, and things like the Alpaca farms that also have shops, activities that many people think of as agri-tourism.

“But none of these are ‘agri-tourism’ as used in the code update,” he wrote to Gorge Grown. “And there are not any proposals to limit or change those categories in the code update.”

He said “agri-tourism is a new category that has been included in state law to allow a limited number of commercial or educational events on farmland that doesn’t already have a permit for something else.”

He said state law gives four possible categories of agri-tourism events. 1) single event (less than 16 hours/100 attendees) 2) single event (up to 72 hours and 500 attendees) 3) up to six events a year 4) up to 18 events a year but only on properties of more than 80 acres. Under state law, categories 1-3 have to be on 10 acres or more (smaller parcels require all the adjoining property owners to give their permission).

He said the county has the option to adopt some, or all, or a modified versions of what the state has defined.

“Additionally, there is another provision in state law and under our code–‘outdoor mass gathering’ — which could cover events like Lavender Daze,” Roberts says.

“Right now the Planning Commission seems to be leaning towards allowing single agri-tourism events as an over the counter permit but restricting the larger or more frequent events–that’s why those sections are crossed out on the draft online.”

During earlier work sessions, representatives of the Hood River Valley Residents Committee expressed the opinion that limiting use to a single event “could be too restrictive and that a little more flexibility might be worth exploring.”

He told the small farm group that the Planning Commission could probably use more input from farmers who might put on events like the Gorge Grown Harvest Dinner coming up this fall, “so they have a better idea of what they are like and how they fit into farming operations in Hood River.”

In defending the importance of value-added products such as Gorge Delights, Juanita’s Foods, The Fruit Company, Foxtail Cider, Oregon Brineworks and Big Yogi Salsa, Camastral noted that “value” is occasionally is an on-farm experience.

Camastral said that limits on agri-tourism events would constrict economic opportunity.

“What if, for example, 100 people were invited to glean a crop, learning at the same time about who grew it, and how,” he said. “What if that many people could enjoy a meal created from crops grown on that land, or – heaven forbid – sleep it all off under the stars on a cloudless night?”

He hopes to encourage a variety of uses, subjecting those of potential concern to staff review through a conditional use permit.

“The growing appeal of locally sourced foods, the so-called “farm to table” movement, could and should have the opportunity to flower in the farm zone,” he says. “Why should farm products require shipment to an urban table, because we don’t allow agri-tourists to attend a table – at the farm?”

Roberts told Gorge Grown “the Planning Commission could probably use more input from farmers who might put on these events so they have a better idea of what they are like and how they fit into farming operations in Hood River.”

Healthful, local prepared meals drive early response to Wy’Eats

Sarah Scaruto is tapping the appetite for healthy, prepared meals.

Sarah Scaruto is tapping the appetite for healthy, prepared meals.

Walking down the aisles of the local groceries, Sarah Scaruto could see that industry was working the appetite for quick edibles.

Given the debatable quality of frozen dinners in Aisle 6, she figured she might tap some of that appetite by preparing flavorful, local, plant-based, veggie-forward meals.

Wow, that’s a mouthful. Which is the idea, right?

Scaruto, a veteran of years in corporate human relations, is charting a new path with her nascent business, Wy’Eats. It’s modeled on the consumer support agriculture concept — a box of veggies grown locally, prepared by the farmer and delivered to a central pickup location.

In the case of Wy’Eats, Scaruto prepares and delivers full meals to an insulated box outside the front entrance to the Hood River News. Food comes in reusable Tupperware containers, with ice packs to keep it from spoiling. Subscribers get a one-hour window to grab their grub and go.

If they can’t do the pickup, they can pay an extra $5 to have Scaruto deliver.

“This is for people who want to support the local food system but don’t have the time or desire to prepare their own meals,” Scaruto says. “It’s designed to support health and convenience.”

Her meals go light on animal proteins, not because she is pushing a vegan agenda, but just to keep costs under control. That said, meals include eggs from pasture-raised chickens, nuts and seeds as protein sources.

She prepares her menu on Monday night, currently using the commercial kitchen at River of Life Assembly on the Heights. Buyers can subscribe for one or two meals per week, at $35 for two servings per meal, or $60 for four.

Scaruto and her husband moved to the Gorge in April from Vermont. As she builds her business, she enhances her longtime love of food and cooking with studies in holistic nutrition at The Wellspring School for Healing Arts in Portland.

“I’ve been wanting to try something different,” she says. “This idea has been in my head for a long time.”

It’s working. In the first four weeks of business, she lined up 50 subscribers.



Once planned for Wal-Mart expansion, 16.3-acre site sells to Ryan Holdings

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has sold the 16.3 acres on the west side of Hood River where it once hoped to build a Walmart Super Center store covering 186,000 square feet.

So, who bought it? Ryan Holdings LLC, owned by the same David Ryan who runs Hood River Juice.

In an Aug. 19 filing of a special warranty deed at the Hood River County Assessor’s Office, the Bentonville, Ark., mega-retailer said it had transferred the land to Ryan Holdings LLC.

The land sits south of Country Club Road and east of Frankton Road. It was the center of a protracted land-use dispute from 2001 to 2004, led by the Citizens for Responsible Growth.

The Hood River County Board of Commissioners in January 2004 voted 3-2 to reject the expansion plans as incompatible with surrounding properties.

Wal-Mart appealed that ruling, and was rejected twice — by the state Land Use Board of Appeals, and the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Incorporated in January 2014, Ryan Holdings LLC is owned by David Ryan, who also owns Hood River Juice Co. (dba Ryan’s Juice). Both entities share the 550 Riverside Drive address, at the Port of Hood River.

A call to Ryan Holdings for comment about intended plans had not been returned as of this report.

As a condition of the sale — for $10 “and other consideration” — Wal-Mart stores stipulated that the land could not be used for “a discount store including, but not limited to, a variety, general or “dollar” type store, wholesale membership/warehouse club, grocery store/supermarket, pharmacy/drug store.”

It also cannot be used for an adult book store or similar adult entertainment business, a topless dance club, pawn shop, bar or gaming center, any business that gets most of its sales from alcoholic beverages, check-cashing or payday loan shops, and any business having anything to do with the production or sale of medical or recreational marijuana.

A representative with a local title company, on condition of anonymity, said that the law requires only that deed filings indicate an exchange of value. Nothing requires reporting of the exact sale price.

(Thanks to local commercial real estate agent Greg Colt for tipping us off to the sale.)


Ogawa buys Crazy Pepper, plans new concept: Wicked … Sushi, Burgers and Bowls

crazy_pepperTommy Ogawa, the nephew of the late Hood River businessman Butch Ogawa, has reached a deal to buy the Crazy Pepper restaurant.

Ogawa will quickly transition the menu to support a space that he says will be called Wicked … Sushi, Burgers and Bowls. Ironically, it will occupy the same space that his uncle’s restaurant, Kanpai, once occupied.

Local commercial real estate broker Greg Colt helped Ogawa find and secure the deal.

Ogawa grew up in the Ontario area, but worked with his uncle during the summers, including one summer at Kanpai. The word “kanpai” is the Japanese equivalent of various familiar words — skoll, prost, cheers, down the hatch — expressed before sipping a favorite beverage.

Before embarking on this Hood River adventure, Ogawa owned and operated Ogawa’s Wicked Sushi, Burgers and Bowls.

He says the menu will keep a few of the Crazy Pepper’s signature dishes, but tilt toward … well, sushi … burgers … and teriyaki rice bowls.

The burgers, he says, will be built from hand-pressed wagyu beef from Snake River Farms in Idaho.

“We’ll do prime rib Friday nights, and will bring on a variety of different styles of burgers,” he says. “We’ll do an edamame burger. We’ll have quite a mix.”

The change of ownership takes place Thursday, Aug. 27. Ogawa plans to close briefly after the end of peak summer season, in October, for two or three days of converting the interior to a more modern decor.

The Buzz was unable to reach the owners of the Crazy Pepper for comment but will update this report after we connect.