Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, January 30, 2015, Page 6, Image 42

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January 30, 2015
Elk ranch dream continues to evolve
Calvin and Gail
Ansley transition
their operation to
Western Innovator
Calvin and Gail Ansley
Occupation: Owners, CA Bull Elk
Location: Richfield, Idaho
Business: Agritourism; all natural elk,
pheasant and lamb meat; antler art; upland game bird hunting;
chickens and eggs; goat milk and cheese
Capital Press
Calvin and Gail Ansley’s dream
when they married was to have
a farm. They saved for 25 years
to purchase their first farm in
Hazelton, Idaho, in 2002.
Even then, they soon real-
ized it would take an off-farm
job to support it.
“Cal worked construction,
and I built the business,” Gail
Considering the low price of
farm commodities at the time,
they started to look at non-tra-
ditional farming opportunities.
With elk velvet selling for $125
a pound, plus the fact that they
were already looking into rais-
ing elk, they made the plunge.
But by the time they finally
entered the business the value
of elk velvet had decreased, and
Acreage: 800 acres
Amenities: Guest lodge
Family: Three children, two grandchildren
Carol Ryan Dumas/Capital Press
Calvin and Gail Ansley, owners of CA Bull Elk Ranch near Richfield, Idaho, and their granddaughter,
Miah Ansley, 9, look out over the elk ranch and upland game bird hunting preserve the Anslays have
transformed into an agritourism operation on Thursday, July 17.
they were lucky to get $5 to $10
a pound, Gail said.
They switched gears and
focused on hunting, breeding
and raising meat animals. They
started with 20 bred elk cows
and one bull and grew the herd
to more than 425 head. Unfor-
tunately, the couple was facing
challenging times. The price of
hay jumped from about $70 a
ton to $180; regulatory, trans-
portation and USDA slaughter
fees increased; and the elk mar-
ket remained depressed.
The Ansleys had been har-
vesting about 45 head a year,
but the high hay prices made
the operation unsustainable. In
2011, the couple sold off all the
bulls — 105, including many
trophy bulls — keeping a three-
year option on five of them,
Gail said.
She said she wasn’t sure
what the next chapter in the
evolving operation would be,
but she was determined to keep
moving forward.
A couple of years earlier,
Gail had an epiphany. It came
while hosting their son’s wed-
ding at the farm. The wedding
was held on the front lawn,
surrounded by elk, and sever-
al guests commented on how
great it was to sit and watch and
listen to the elk, she said.
“I thought, ‘I’m pushing the
wrong thing. I should be selling
the experience,’” Gail said.
The idea that people could
stay at the farm and enjoy lis-
tening to elks bugle and watch
cows calving came full circle
and the Ansleys set their sights
on agritourism.
To do that they needed
more land than their 160 acres,
and the land surrounding their
Hazelton farm was locked up.
They began looking for more
acreage and found it near Rich-
field — 800 acres and an old
They moved their operation
a year ago, and in many ways
they are just starting in business
again, Gail said.
They’ve turned the home
into a guest lodge for “farm
stays.” The lodge offers four
nicely appointed guest rooms
with private baths, a large game
room, broad views from the
large den and deck, and three
meals a day of locally sourced
food. The ranch also offers
stocked upland game bird hunt-
The elk are currently in cor-
als near the lodge but are des-
tined for open pasture in front
of the lodge when the Ansleys
get fence constructed. Visitors
can also enjoy a farm setting of
alfalfa fields, pastured lambs,
pens of milk goats, caged
pheasants and free-range chick-
ens, geese and guineas.
The Ansleys use the meat,
milk, eggs and cheese for guest
meals and also sell to high-end
restaurants in the Wood River
Valley. They buy produce from
local growers and farmers’
markets and plan to add green-
houses and aquaponics to raise
some of their own.
Gail’s goal is to help people
understand where their food
comes from and the rural, farm-
ing life through first-hand expe-
There is still a lot of work to
be done, but it’s an evolution,
Gail said.
“Do I know it’s going to
work? No. But you have to
have an idea what people want.
And everybody who comes
here loves the place, the rural
setting,” she said.
Some have even said the farm
stay was life-changing and they
would never again go the tradi-
tional travel route, she said.
“That is my hope and
dream,” she said.
Potato company stays ahead of trends
Steve Theobald:
among buyers’
main concerns
Steve Theobald
Occupation: CEO of R&G
Capital Press
ho — R&G Potato Co. plans to
overhaul its 20-year-old ware-
house and is changing the way
it operates, based on increasing
attention among buyers to food
safety, produce traceability and
sustainable agriculture.
Steve Theobald, CEO of the
chip potato supplier, believes the
proactive approach positions his
company to address potential
government mandates aimed at
protecting consumers.
R&G contracts for 5,000
chip potato acres from 12 Ida-
ho growers and a few growers
in Arizona and New Mexico.
Founded in 1977, the company
bills itself as the West’s largest
spud supplier for the niche po-
tato chip industry, selling to Fri-
to-Lay, regional chipping com-
panies and In-N-Out Burger for
fresh-cut fries.
Spuds bound for the burger
chain bear a special label with
enough data to trace a box back
to an individual farm field. The
label complies with the Pro-
duce Traceability Initiative —
the industry’s voluntary effort
to trace the origin of produce in
case of a recall.
In the interest of complying
with food safety audits, Theo-
bald had a written food safety
plan drafted about a year ago,
and his staff began “document-
ing everything.”
“I think 90 percent of what
we have been doing has been
correct, but we haven’t been
documenting it,” Theobald
R&G also plans to make
Potato Co., American Falls,
Family: Wife, Judy; daugh-
John O’Connell/Capital Press
Steve Theobald, CEO of R&G
Potato Co. in American Falls,
Idaho, stands by potatoes bound
for In-N-Out Burger. Theobald
said his company is upgrad-
ing its warehouse, tracking
grower inputs and implementing
improved product traceability
labels to comply with increasing
customer expectations.
several warehouse upgrades,
starting this summer by replac-
ing old insulation with a more
rigid product. To eliminate the
potential for hydraulic oil to
mix with food, he’s begun re-
placing motors with models
without exposed chains and
gears and installing drip pans in
the interim.
Within the next two years,
he plans to install new potato
washing technology, and he’s
contemplating the purchase
of three optical scanners that
would better remove foreign
matter and off-grade potatoes.
Within the past three years,
R&G has also begun tracking
growers’ farm inputs, water
usage and carbon footprints to
comply with a major customer’s
sustainable farming program.
Theobald agrees with good
stewardship, but he’s concerned
sustainability programs may
begin demanding that growers
make unrealistic reductions to
their inputs.
“They’re watching water
like a hawk,” Theobald said.
“Sustainability for us, quite
ters Stacey and Corinne
Education: Bachelor’s
degree in business, Idaho
State University
Hometown: Pocatello, Idaho
frankly, is a lot of reporting, a lot
of paperwork and a lot of extra
United Fresh Produce Asso-
ciation spokesman Ray Gilmer
believes there’s more “audit
fatigue” within the produce in-
dustry than ever as buyers ask
producers and food handlers to
comply with an array of differ-
ent audit standards. He said the
industry has been encouraging
use of a harmonized standard
designed to cover most audit re-
Ed Treacy, vice president of
supply chain efficiencies with
Produce Marketing Associa-
tion, advises food suppliers to
educate buyers who demand
specific audits how the harmo-
nized standard, or another audit
they may be using, addresses
common goals. He emphasized
anything an audit doesn’t cover
can be reviewed separately.
Regarding traceability, Dan
Vache, vice president of sup-
ply chain management with
United Fresh, estimates 40-60
percent of produce cases now
bear PTI-compliant labels. He
said the industry has been wait-
ing for restaurants and retailers
who receive produce to update
systems to make use of the new
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