Fresh from the farm: Produce stands fill local niches
Sunny Farms owner Pam Schmidt at her stand near Othello. Produce stands like Sunny Farms bring fresh fruits and vegetables – and often more – to the local community.
Cheryl Schweizer/Basin Business Journal
Quincy-area wines are among the products for sale at White Trail Produce in Quincy.
Onions fill a row of baskets at the Sunny Farms produce stand near Othello, Washington.
Employee Paige Wood shows off one of the famous milkshakes from White Trail Produce near Quincy.
For the Basin Business Journal | October 27, 2022 1:00 AM
OTHELLO/QUINCY — Nature is said to abhor a vacuum; agriculture definitely does. Two produce stands, one in Othello and the other in Quincy, show how farmers saw a niche in the market and fashioned a product – a similar product, but not the same – to fill it.
Pam Schmidt said her family’s Sunny Farms Fruit Stand, 2050 E. Main St., Othello, serves mostly local customers.
“We get to do a lot of visiting, a lot of talking. We know our customers very well,” Schmidt said.
White Trail Produce, 10024 Road U NW, Quincy, is located just off Highway 28, a main route to and from Wenatchee. Alejandra Toevs said the family fruit stand gets a lot of customers who are in transit.
“We’ve met people from all over the world,” Toevs said.
Both Sunny Farms and White Trail Produce sell fruit and vegetables produced on the family farm, and both farms produce an abundance.
“We sell everything from berries to watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, cucumbers. Sweet corn is one of our biggest sellers,” Schmidt said.
There’s a large pumpkin patch next to the fruit stand, and she said the family helps co-manage an orchard that supplies apples and pears, supplemented with fruit bought from other Columbia Basin producers.
“We purchase potatoes. It’s great, because I can get fresh-dug potatoes right out of the fields,” Schmidt said. “So we can sell potatoes with the dirt still on them; they last a long time for winter.”
The family has plans to convert about 20 acres of the property near the fruit stand to organic farming, she said.
Most of the fruit and vegetables sold at White Trail Produce comes from the surrounding fields.
“Most (of the produce) is grown by us. We have our own garden here,” Toevs said.
The orchard operation, operated by her husband John, takes White Trail Produce into account.
“He grows extra stuff for the fruit stand,” she said. “We grow apples, peaches, nectarines, apricots. All the berries, we also grow.”
The orchard and surrounding fields also produce cherries and Concord grapes. Toevs said most of the fruit and vegetables sold at the stand are certified organic.
Both Sunny Farms and White Trail Produce are focused on fresh fruits and vegetables – apples and tomatoes, squash and pears, onions and pumpkins. But different locations and different clienteles mean that from their core products they have moved in different directions.
Sunny Farms is mostly focused on produce. White Trail Produce also features wine from local wineries and products from artists and crafters throughout the Pacific Northwest and northern California. Toevs said she sells wines from Quincy wineries, jewelry from local artists, preserves from Pacific Northwest producers.
A lot of customers, though, come back for the milkshakes.
“We’re famous for our milkshakes,” Toevs said.
The peach and berry milkshakes are made with fruit from the farm, and the menu includes a number of other flavors, from caramel to pineapple.
Schmidt said Sunny Farms is an offshoot of a business that started with her husband’s parents in Sequim.
“It started there in the late ’70s, out of the back of a pickup truck,” she said.
Roger and Ellie Schmidt built it into a sizable operation, one that’s still in business today. Jeff and Pam Schmidt moved east of the mountains in 1990, she said, and grew produce for the Sequim market.
“A couple years later, we realized we were growing produce on this side of the mountains to ship over to our store, and realized there was a need to get some of this to market,” Schmidt said. “So we started going to farmers markets.”
The family’s four children were part of the operation as it grew. It turned out one day a week at the farmers market wasn’t enough, she said, so they started selling out of the family garage. The produce stand outgrew that, and moved to the current location, just off the street behind the house.
“My kids have all grown up. But here’s Mom, right in the fruit stand, waiting for the grandkids to grow up enough to come to work,” she said. “We’re lifers at it.”
White Trail Produce opened in 2001. The Toevs family grew a lot of fruits and vegetables, Alejandra Toevs said, and under the circumstances a side business seemed like an attractive option.
“Everybody in the family figured, ‘Why not have a fruit stand?’” she said.
Since the product is mostly fresh produce, both are seasonal operations. White Trail Produce opens in April.
“As soon as the asparagus is ready,” Toevs said.
It’ll be closing for the winter at the end of October or early November, as apple harvest is winding down, she said.
Sunny Farms opens in July.
“My husband has an approach to growing sweet corn, so we try to have it right about the third week of July, all the way through mid-October,” Schmidt said. “He plants it just right so that we can keep going that long.”
It too closes near the end of October, as harvest in general and apple harvest in particular nears its end.
Toevs said White Trail Produce is a place to meet people from all around the county and some from around the world, and that makes it an appealing job. Her employees have told her it’s fun working there because of the variety of people they meet.
“I love it,” she said.
Schmidt said sometimes there are other things she’d like to do, like spend time with the grandchildren, but to her Sunny Farms provides a needed service.
“Our community needs a place to get locally grown fresh vegetables and fruit,” she said. “And we don’t really have anything in this area that can fulfill that need. So this works out great.”
Their customers, many of them seniors, become regulars, she said.
“Here we get to hear about their pets, and their grandchildren. We just love to hear all the stories,” she said.
Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.