By Lisa Britton
For the Baker City Herald
The fruit trees at Eagle Creek Orchard near Richland “woke up” in March when the temperature topped 80 degrees, coming out of dormancy earlier than usual.
Then, in mid-April the orchard alarm went off, alerting owners Robert and Linda Cordtz that the temperature had hit the danger zone of 28 degrees.
The night got colder, and despite seven hours of their frost protection measures they lost 90 percent of the apricots, peaches and plums.
“The alarm went off at 12:30 a.m. and the temperature plummeted,” Linda said.“We knew it was bad."
They are looking at a loss of more than 70 percent of their total yearly harvest.
Linda said they should be able to provide enough fruit for those who have purchased CSA shares (Community-Supported Agriculture) but they will not have fruit to sell at the local Farmers Markets.
Last week, they launched a fundraiser on Indiegogo, which Linda describes as a “crowd sourcing” resource.
Their goal is to raise $30,000 to upgrade the frost protection system in the orchard to guard against another loss like this in the future.
“We won’t have this forever, so let’s get it set up for frost protection,” Linda said.
Their plan is to install a sprinkler system under the trees and set up efficient propane orchard heaters.
To find the fundraiser page, go to http://igg.me/at/eaglecreek/x/3175648.
The page includes a video of Robert and Linda, who describe the orchard and this spring’s loss of the fruit crop.
Funders can contribute any amount, but some specific donations come with perks:
$25: Peach Futures. The orchardists and their dog Tattoo thank you for your support.
$50: Orchard Angel. You will receive a handmade card and note of appreciation.
$75: Peach Lover Set. You will receive a set of six cards featuring photographs taken in the orchard.
$100: Little Tree Hugger. Adopt a new, young organic fruit tree that will be labeled with your requested name. You are welcome to visit the farm and your tree.
$500: Orchard Tour. Receive a personal tour of the orchard in the season of your choice.
$1,000: Orchardist. Receive all the above perks, plus the adoption of a mature tree.
As of this morning, the project had raised $4,795 and has 40 days remaining in the fundraiser.
About the orchard
Linda and Robert bought Eagle Creek Orchard in 2005, and began the steps to become organic. It was certified by Oregon Tilth in 2008.
Linda said that in the orchard’s 18-year history, this is the first time the peaches have been hit by a killing frost.
Their fruit crop feeds about 1,000 families each week during the harvest season. It is the only certified organic orchard within 200 miles, and the only orchard within 100 miles.
Linda knows a lot of people will be affected by this year’s loss.
“This is going to be really personal to a lot of people,” she said.
In addition to the fundraiser page, you can learn more about the orchard on their website, www.eaglecreekorchard.com, and on their Facebook page.