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Rob and Linda Cordtz – Eagle Creek Orchard – Richland

“Robert can literally grow anything, he would plant the sky if he could.”

Linda Cordtz

“We have owned and produced organic produce from our farm for 16 years and have just 6 more years left until the farm is paid off. What we grow and how we manage the orchard is for the community. This is really a small community orchard, we’re caretakers right now, but it really belongs to the community. To tell you how small we are in the grand scheme of things, a gentleman servicing our one wind machine had just been at an orchard that had 300 wind machines. We are, in the scheme of things, small and being organic is our niche. The other way we’re different here is tree-ripening. Most produce is picked green and gassed with a natural gas called ethylene, but this process doesn’t get the natural sugar content we get.

We have over 1200 trees on our certified organic farm including apples, apricots, cherries, hazelnuts, peaches, pears, and plumcots. Running an orchard is truly a labor of love. Peach trees last about 20 years and then you have to replant them and wait for them to produce. It took us 7 years to get our first bowl of cherries. Now we are averaging about four to five hundred pounds a year. We only have 30 cherry trees and of those only about 15 that are considered adult trees. Everything is complicated, each year is different, every harvest is different. The old-timers would say can up or dry 3 years worth of apricots because you simply don’t get them every year. Many of our trees are pollinated by wild pollinators. We did have bees for 10 years but can’t seem to keep them going any longer, they kept dying as so many are worldwide. We also have two vegetable gardens. We did a low tunnel up by the house and we grew vegetables over the winter as an experiment. We learned a lot and that we could do it! Robert can literally grow anything, he would plant the sky if he could.

When we decided we were going to buy the orchard, we knew we would farm using organic methods. The whole process with transitioning the soil to organic production took about three years. One of the first things we did was inoculate the soil with enzymes which help breakdown woody debris thus adding organic matter to the soil. So when you see mushrooms coming up in the orchard that tells you the soil has a lot of organic matter, that we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We are certified organic by Oregon Tilth. The process required a lot of paperwork and hoops such as filing a complex farm plan, which would deter most people, but we just look at it as we do with all tasks and do it.

We sell our produce to our community via schools, stores, and farmers markets. Last year we sold our fruit to the Pine Eagle School District and let them set the price per pound since they are working with a restrictive budget. We can’t do that with everyone, but felt the kids should have it no matter what.

The orchard is open by appointment. We love to give tours, but we’re also always working, tending to the trees, always doing something. If people are interested in buying just a couple of peaches, they’re better off buying our produce from the Baker Food Co-op, Bella Market or one of the local Farmers markets. Most often people call us up and let us know they want a couple of boxes of whatever and come to pick up their produce, say hello, then we get back to work. With the amount of responsibilities here at the farm, our time is very tight. We get up at 5:00 and need to remember to rest. Sitting down on the swing where we live is everything. We won’t have this forever, someday we’ll pass it along to someone else. This belongs to Baker County, we are just care-taking right now. It’s why we farm, no farmer does it to get rich.”