If you have ever gone for a summer drive out toward Wilder Idaho you have seen the past, present and future of a very famous beverage. No, it’s not any of the great Idaho wines from Sunnyslope, nor is it grain destined to become Pendleton Whiskey up at Hood River Distillery. Growing upwards of 20 feet on vertical ropes suspended from a gridwork of poles are thousands upon thousands of hops, one of the most important ingredients in beer.
Beer is made from 4 basic ingredients, grain, hops, yeast, and water. Add in time and that’s the recipe! The craft comes in with the ratios of ingredients to one another as well as the specific types of grains, hops, and yeasts. Fermentation does a lot of the work too as yeast eats sugars and turns them into carbon dioxide and alcohol. While a winemaker uses different oak barrels toasted and aged as their spice rack, the brewmaster uses different cultivars of hops to create the flavor profile they want in their glass. That’s where our local hop growers come in.
Alternating with Germany for the largest volume produced every year, the United States is producing high-quality ingredients for some of the best craft beers in the entire world. The soil and weather really lends itself to hop production but there’s a lot of technology and science involved too.
As these tall vines of little gems mature the vines are just about 20 feet tall. While they used to be harvested individually by hand from ladders mounted on trailers, the new industrial processing machinery means that the farmers now can cut the entire vine off at the top and transport the hop strings to a processing plant. There the hops are hung on a conveyer belt and moved along to be mechanically separated from the stems and the ropes.
Once the hops are all separated they head up to a special drying room to be stacked 4 feet deep and get hot air circulated through a perforated floor to dry them out a bit.
Bale the dried Hops up and off they go to your favorite brewery. While the majority of the hops head out to the huge international beverage giants (maybe in St. Louis or Golden Colorado), a growing percentage are being redirected to local and regional craft brewers across the Intermountain West. Mill 95 in Wilder is a new local specialty hop provider for clients like Payette Brewing, Squatters Craft Beer and White Dog Brewing. While they market hops from around the world as well as Idaho their commitment to regional brewers really shines through in the way they market local hops and the pelletizing technology that makes local hops even more attractive to brew masters everywhere.
It’s even more incredible when you consider that after a quick drive down Idaho Highways 95 or 19 you can swing into Caldwell for a sample of the end product. A cold pint at White Dog Brewing on the banks of Indian Creek or any of the other great restaurants near Indian Creek Plaza make a perfect finale to a glorious day exploring Canyon County’s agricultural economic engine!
The Wandering Ambassador
© 2022 Jim Thomssen LLC
The blazing sun and rising temperatures are starting to make it feel like summer. Barbeques, lake days, and concerts fill up most of our calendars, but a select few are trading these hangouts for their harvests.
As July quickly approaches, Cherry Hill Farms prepares for picking season and festivals. Selling a variety of orchard fruits and garden-grown vegetables, summertime invites visitors to the property to experience farm life.
The first estate to grow tart cherries in the state of Utah, Cherry Hill Farms was founded by Moses Aaron Rowley in 1927. Continuing their family’s farming legacy, the Rowley descendants expanded the organization to include three Utah properties. In 2012, Maurina Rowley and her family brought Cherry Hill Farms to Caldwell, Idaho.
Moving into an established agricultural community like Caldwell, the Rowley’s were unsure of how they were going to fit in. As new kids on the block, they didn’t want to uproot any current farms, but Rowley said the Caldwell community was incredibly welcoming.
“It was really neat because people told us that we were all trying to accomplish the same thing together,” Rowley said. “The community has been awesome, and people have been really supportive.”
The farm began growing fruit and selling it commercially to Walmart and Costco, but Rowley noticed the community’s desire to buy local produce from the source. After a few years, Cherry Hill Farms was able to expand their operations to welcome visitors to their property and to sell produce off of the tree.
“2020 was the first year we invited the public onto the farm. We did some U-picks and some harvest tours and it was really fun,” Rowley said. ““People want to connect with their food and know where it comes from. It was really cool to see people experience things most aren’t able to, like picking a peach off of a tree.”
Joining the Destination Caldwell family as a member of the AgVenture Trail the same year, Rowley said this partnership was instrumental to the farm’s success.
“It’s been great to have another avenue to get that word out that we’re here,” Rowley said. “One of the great things about Destination Caldwell is being able to work together and promote agriculture, instead of having to do it ourselves.”
As their produce selection grew from peaches and cherries to include flowers, a vegetable garden, and corn, the Rowley family wanted to continue creating opportunities for individuals to learn about the farming and harvesting processes.
“We opened a portable stand and were able to sell fresh produce. We learned a lot from it and decided that it was worth continuing,” Rowley explained. “We're actually in the process of building a permanent farm store right now, so we don’t have to transport our produce anymore.”
Along with the farm store, Cherry Hill Farms will debut a seven acre corn maze at their fall festival in September. With fresh produce, a pumpkin patch, and corn maze routes perfect for all ages, the Rowley’s farm is guaranteed to blossom over the next few months.
So whether you’re looking to learn about tart cherries, pick your own peaches, or tour blooming orchards, make sure to mark Cherry Hill Farms as your next destination and know the tale behind the trail.
Written by Megan Williams
All photos courtesy of Cherry Hill Farm's Facebook page.
What if I told you the meat aisle in your local grocery store is missing an essential type of protein? Beef, chicken and fish usually occupy your cart, but it's time to expand your horizons to the up-and-coming star of the meat industry: lamb.
That’s where Boise River Lamb comes in. Their mission is to provide high quality, great tasting lamb to all who want it. Whether you’re an expert griller or new to cooking, Boise River Lamb’s founders, Brett and Liz Wilder, are here to provide and teach you about this nutritious, tasty protein.
The Wilder family has been committed to Caldwell’s agricultural community since 1864, and as a sixth-generation farmer, Brett is continuing his family’s legacy through his business.
“There haven't always been sheep there. My ancestors did a lot of cattle and some other crops. Sheep was started by my dad’s family,” Brett said. “We raised breeding stock for other people. A lot of really high-quality animals in small quantities, which allowed us to grow our flocks over the years.”
The Wilders began to help run the family farm in January 2020. As they continued to grow their flock, they received more requests for special cuts of lamb.
“We would always get asked for racks of lamb or legs or ground lamb, and we never did that. We sold whole and halves of lambs, but not everyone wants a whole lamb in their freezer,” Liz said. “It got to the point that we were getting these requests from our friends or family or random people almost every week, so we just decided to do it.”
And that’s how Boise River Lamb was born. In September, the Wilders set aside 10 lambs for meat sales, believing that would get them through the rest of the year.
“We sold out of those 10 lambs very quickly, before they were even processed,” Liz said. “There’s a huge gap in the lamb industry and lamb in general. People really like to eat it, but they don’t know where to buy it.”
With most lamb products coming from Australia or New Zealand, Liz explained consumers wanted domestically grown, American lamb. Bridging the gap between supply and demand, and refusing to sacrifice quality, the Wilders established and grew their business in record time.
“This year, we expect to do 24 times the amount of business we did in 2020,” Brett said.
With deep roots in Caldwell, the Wilders wanted to find ways to stay involved in the city’s agricultural community. From helping raise lambs for Future Farmers of America to sitting on the Agritourism Board, Brett and Liz are doing their part to give back.
As participants of the Farm to Fork Farmers’ Market and the AgVenture Trail, Boise River Lamb attributed their connections and growth to non-profit Destination Caldwell.
“Because we were a part of the AgVenture Trail, we participated in the Taste of Caldwell Harvest Festival last year. We partnered with Chop Shop BBQ and Chef Kriss Ott made an amazing lamb tzatziki slider,” Brett said. “Being a part of the AgVenture Trail in our first two years has been very beneficial to us.”
As they continue to supply the Treasure Valley, and the rest of the nation, with domestic, high-quality lamb, the Wilders are grateful to have their home base in Caldwell.
“We feel really fortunate that we’re in Caldwell of all places; this just happens to be where Brett’s ancestors decided to live,” Liz said.
Whether you’re craving a good steak or just need to cuddle a fuzzy, little lamb, look no further than Boise River Lamb, and know the tale behind the trail.
Written by Megan Williams
All photos courtesy of Boise River Lamb's Facebook.
If there is one thing that keeps coming to mind as food and fuel prices go up it’s the curious urge to make sure we are getting what we are actually paying for. Even before inflation kicked in a lot of folks were wondering about what was in their food. Here in Canyon County, we are the bread basket of SW Idaho with over 180 crops and ag products being raised in our back yard. Agriculture actually accounts for just shy of $700,000,000 in annual sales in Canyon County. From apricots to teff, wine to beef or cherries and honey, there are a lot of folks out on the AgVenture Trail making sure they can put high-quality food in our pots, in our glasses, and on our grills.
One of those producers, McIntyre Pastures, has just opened a new farm store out south of Lizard Butte on their sloping farm overlooking the Snake River. With family farming roots stretching back to 1909, growing crops isn’t new to these hard-working folks. When the latest generation came back to the farm in 2009, they started to realize that the health of the soil was the key to their future. With a commitment to no-till farming, soil conservation, soil health, and grazing rotations the McIntyre clan started to reinvest in the ground they currently farm
By bringing back cattle and hogs to the land, they started to rebuild the soil. The larger animals also helped make the decision to bring back pasture-raised chickens and poultry to help deal with the “side effects” of hogs and cows. As the biology got healthier and flocks and herds grew, more folks heard about the quality of the products they were selling at local farmers' markets and local specialty retailers. They had a tiny shed with some freezers for onsite sales but they quickly outgrew that space.
Starting in June of 2022, you can cut out the middleman and purchase their quality Grass-Fed Beef, Pastured Pork and Poultry, eggs and produce right on the farm at 17708 Lewis Lane in Caldwell (Closer to Marsing). While it might not be possible to source all the food for your family from local suppliers, it is vitally important to support these intrepid folks whenever we can. Whether you swing by Peaceful Belly Farms, Lakeview Fruit, a local market like Cliff’s Country Market, or the Destination Caldwell's Farm to Fork Farmers' Market, this is one way you can make sure you are helping to secure our local food supply for the future and also ensure you have fantastic, healthy food on your plate right now!
Remember, eat local when you can. If we don’t have farmers, we won’t have food, or wine, or beer so we all have a vested interest in making sure we help farmers plant crops as well as houses in this fertile county we all can share!
The Wandering Ambassador
© 2022 Jim Thomssen LLC
It might be the 1940 M-72 motorcycle and sidecar displayed in the window that draws your attention. Maybe it’s the exposed brick, the matte black walls or even the name – Bond & Bevel – that pulls you inside. Whatever it is, you’ll be mesmerized by what you find in one of Indian Creek Plaza’s newest businesses.
I wandered in one morning, hoping to grab some coffee before work, and was astounded by the shop’s interior. On the right, there’s all the makings of a chic, industrial coffee shop: a letterboard menu, sprawling wooden bar and tin light fixtures.
Across from the espresso machine, wood and steel racks line the wall. But instead of coffee mugs and stickers, these racks are adorned with handcrafted axes, leather flasks, and earth-toned apparel.
Bond & Bevel isn’t your run-of-the-mill coffee shop, but it’s also not a classic leather storefront or an outdoor shop; it’s an honest, modern blend of all three. And according to the owners, Heath and Krista Albers, that’s absolutely ok.
Heath said they had this unique vision for a blend of coffee, outdoor supplies, and leather, but it never made sense in a business plan or blended together the way they wanted it to.
“The coffee has always been there. The leather is fairly new; I’ve only been doing it for two years,” Heath said. “We’ve always liked the outdoor stuff, so how does that all work together? This is the first time it made sense.”
Bond & Bevel began in the midst of the lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. With more free time on his hands, Heath decided to take up leatherworking. His first project was a leather satchel, which is on display at the store.
“Normally people start with keychains or wallets, and they look like total garbage, but this was really good,” Krista said. “We didn’t have a sewing machine or anything, so he was literally punching two holes into the leather, all around the stitch line, and then going back and hand stitching the pieces together.”
After posting the bag on social media in an attempt to show her husband’s handiwork, friends, family, and strangers began messaging Krista and asking for different types of bags and products. While working 60 hours a week as a contractor, Heath began fulfilling orders during his free time. Converting their garage into a workspace, the Albers established their brand, Bond & Bevel.
“Everything was black: the door, the ceiling, the floor. People thought it was so cool, but they were just hanging out in our garage. We sold a lot of stuff that way,” Krista said.
Planning to move to Idaho, the Albers visited the Treasure Valley in December of 2020, hoping to find a town they could connect with and see themselves moving to.
“No one told us to check out Caldwell, but we did,” Heath said. “We came down by the movie theater and the skating rink, and we saw all the lights and were like, ‘What is this place?’ It was almost immediate; we wanted to be here.”
The family walked around Indian Creek Plaza, standing on the stage and looking out at all of the businesses. Krista explained the restoration of old buildings, the construction of new businesses, and the city’s commitment to its history all aligned with Bond & Bevel’s mission.
“There was this newness, but it wasn’t like someone decided to flatten the whole thing and start over; they were restoring what once was,” Krista said. “We design our bags to look 100 years old and we sell things that look old, so this is our brand.”
After choosing to become a part of the Caldwell family, Heath began renovating their space. With 15 years of contracting and construction experience, he took the project on by himself, restoring and reworking the entire storefront to fit the Bond & Bevel brand. Everything in the store was either handmade, painted, or installed by Heath.
“Usually his work was for other people; it was to fulfill other people’s dreams. This one was for our dream, and that was the real difference,” Krista said.
So the next time you find yourself in search of a leather tote, a lantern, or a vanilla latte, you can stop in at Bond & Bevel in Indian Creek Plaza and know the story behind the storefront.
Written by Megan Williams
All photos are courtesy of Bond & Bevel's Facebook page.