BONNERS FERRY — One of the main incomes for many people in Boundary County centers around agriculture, be it farming wheat and barley, or apples and peaches. The rich soil in the Kootenai Valley has allowed farmers to produce goods for neighbors, friends, and commercially for many years.
Larry and Robin Lammers own an orchard that spans about 4.5 acres called Points North Orchard, located north of Bonners Ferry.
The couple grew up in families that ran commercial agriculture farms, Robin Lammers being from southern Minnesota, and Larry Lammers being from central Montana.
“We looked at other places around the farm for a house, but this one was OK, it is right by the road and has easy access,” said Larry Lammers.
Robin Lammers’ family had soy and corn, and Larry Lammers’ family had cattle, sheep and wheat.
“We lived on the ranch and raised our three sons there,” said Larry Lammers. “In some of the drought years in the mid 1980s, we drove out to Wenatchee and got some loads of peaches and brought them back to our neighbors and friends and other ranchers in the area. That is what started us in the fruit business.”
As they continued their venture into the fruit industry, the Lammers continued to meet people and gain knowledge to grow their own fruits.
“We did that as a sideline for about 11 years,” said Larry Lammers.
They were distributing fruit from other farmers for about a 150-mile radius of their town to family, friends, neighbors, and visitors.
“All up and down the Columbia Basin,” said Larry Lammers.
With the tides turning in the mid-1990s for commercial agriculture, the couple sought to recede from the commercial scene and go more into the small, family farm business and provide fresh local produce to the community with their newfound knowledge.
“We didn’t want to be certified organic, but we do adhere to organic practices,” said Larry Lammers.
Being certified organic not only requires a lot of paperwork and inspections, but it costs the farmer money every year to retain that certification, making it an expensive and time-consuming process. Many local farmers practice organic growing, but with the costs, they do not carry the certificate.
“In 1996, we looked around the United States for a good place to grow fruit,” said Larry Lammers. “We thought, at that time, that we needed to be away from the commercial growing areas.”
In the summer of 2002, they came to the Kootenai Valley and decided that this was the place that they wanted to be, and it would be a great place to grow peaches, which is their main crop.
The couple spoke about how apples and cherries are everywhere, making it hard to earn a profit, but they still produce them and make them into syrup and cider.
“We are working on getting a contract with some of these new cideries,” said Larry Lammers. “We think that is probably the way we will go.”
They have a small cider mill that they create their own apple cider from, giving the company another avenue to venture down.
“We have planted varieties that will add flavor to the cider, we do sell cider,” said Larry Lammers.
The couple purchased their land in May of 2004, and have lived and worked in Boundary County since then to get their trees to maturity.
“We started out by visiting all the farmers markets, and now we sell from the farm,” said Larry Lammers.
They started selling their produce by going to the Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry farmers markets.
“We would try to go the markets on Friday and Saturday, and we had to pick on Monday and Tuesday, so the fruit was just sitting in the cooler waiting for the markets,” said Larry Lammers. “People would call us up asking if we would be at the market and we told them yes, but we have fresh fruit right now.”
The customers would drive out to their place to get their fresh produce, which was the birth of their current business.
“They wanted them as soon off the tree as they can,” said Larry Lammers.
“Our goal is to provide organic produce to everybody, and we are trying to keep it affordable to locals,” said Robin Lammers.
They have 15 varieties of peaches, nine varieties of apples, Shiro and Oxheart plums, hazelnuts, and they make cherry syrup, dried fruit varieties, and cider, among other things they produce.
“It’s a low-income community, and at this small scale, we don’t make much money at it, but we really want the fruit to go out to people and not sit here and wait for a higher price,” said Larry Lammers.
The couple frequently donates fruit to local food banks, which not only ensures that it doesn’t go to waste, but also helps support families in need with healthy options of food. They also bring boxes of fresh fruits to the Boundary County Restorium for the residents to enjoy.
“They are always excited when the peaches come,” said Robin Lammers.
“They were shocked when we called and asked if we could bring peaches in,” said Larry Lammers. “We just brought in regular, nice boxes of fresh peaches and they were just shocked because they thought they were going to get the seconds or all bruised up ones.”
Historically, the Kootenai Valley has been a good place to grow fruit. Large wineries are looking at north Idaho to grow grapes as the climate changes and water became an issue in the southern region of the United States. The Lammers have some grape vines that are producing and they continue to venture into new ideas of fruits that will grow in the area and fill a niche in the local market.
“The orchard has evolved throughout the years,” said Larry Lammers. “Finding out what grows well and that we can make a profit at, what pays its way, and a bit of trial and error, we are making it work,” said Larry Lammers.
With the love and care that the team provides to the trees, the fruit of their labor can be tasted through the sweet fruit that they produce.
Points North Orchard is located at 309 Pywell Road, in Bonners Ferry. Their phone number is 208-267-2375, and they can be found on Facebook under Points North Orchard.