History of Our Family Farm
E very family has a story. Our family’s story goes back 200+ years when our ancestors decided to leave southern Germany, the Black Forrest region, and migrate to the Volga River area of Russia. This group of immigrates became known as the Volga Germans. Invited by Catherine the Great they brought advanced agricultural methods to rural Russia. They had been promised freedom of religion, the right to retain their culture and language and immunity from Russian military service. Later, many of these rights were revoked and families began to migrate to the United States.
By the late 1890’s a large contingent of the Greenwalt family had migrated from the Odessa region of southern Russia to the United States. The first winter was spent in Chicago, Illinois. The family split in the spring of 1899 with some of the family staying in Illinois, some went to Colorado and others migrated to Eastern Washington. Through all the migrations the Volga Germans had retained their culture and their language. My father, Christian, was the first generation born in this country. He attended a rural school to learn to speak English.
My great grandfather homesteaded land west of Ritzville, Washington and south of Odessa, Washington. Here our family has farmed for over 110 years. At times the farm has flourished, at times it has struggled. I remember my Dad telling stories of how as a youngster they would pick apples in the orchards around Wenatchee and Yakima to support the farm.
Even though our farm is located near highly productive orchards we are constrained in the types of crops we grow, as we do not irrigate our fields. Through the course of our farm we have primarily grown wheat with a fallow year in-between production years in order to build the soil moisture to adequate levels. In 2009, we began growing camelina. Camelina has allowed us to enhance the sustainability on our land by building soil biomass, controlling weeds (slightly allelopathic), and other benefits from crop mix diversification. We’ve found that the crop performs well in our low-rainfall area (12 inches of precipitation), and minimal inputs. Further, we do not use synthetic herbicides or insecticides in the production of our crops.
My great grandfather moonshined during prohibition years to earn enough money to keep the farm afloat financially. Today we are proud to offer a different value-added product, Camelina Gold. Camelina is a plant that produces oil high in Omega 3’s and low in saturated fatty acids. The health effects, technical stability and pleasant taste make camelina an important edible oil. We are a family business proud to sell you a product healthy for you and sustainable for our farm.
Starting Up Ole World Oils
Ole World Oils began innocently enough. There were no grand schemes or get rich quick ideas. Travis, the oldest son, was researching the crop as a feedstock in for a potential biofuel development. Curt, the dad, had just taken back the family farm when Travis suggested raising camelina. Having never heard or read about camelina before, Dad’s first response was simply, “no.” However, the more Travis learned about the production of camelina and the human use potential of the oil, he was convinced that this could be a good crop and a new business associated with the family farm. He enlisted the help of his younger brother, Tyler. The two boys soon wore dad out with the idea, and began work converting an empty building on Main Street in Ritzville into a food processing facility. Lynn, the mom, wanted nothing to do with the new adventure at first. She thought the whole idea was a typical “man thing” and at best, it might be a good bonding time between Dad and his two sons.
It took 1 ½ years working on nights and weekends to remodel the building on Main Street. Once the building passed inspection by the Washington State Department of Agriculture and we received our Food Processing License we began pressing oil. Our first commercial batch of oil was pressed in May of 2011.
We are now in approximately 70 stores across the Northwest. We distribute or work with distributors who service stores and restaurants from Port Townsend, Washington to Billings, Montana. We are in major grocery outlets in the Seattle/Tacoma area as well as Portland/Vancouver.
It has been a positive experience introducing people to a plant and oil that have been used in the human diet for at least 3,500 years. Many times we hear “why haven’t I heard of this before?” There are several answers to that question: The crop does not yield as much as other crops in the farming regions of the Northwest so it is not as popular to grow. Furthermore, the food industry showed a strong preference for oils that can be hydrogenated back in the middle of the 20th century, and camelina cannot be hydrogenated (made into margarine) easily. So, even though this oil was a common everyday oil in certain regions of the world, it was essentially forgotten when the food industry became industrialized in the 1920’s and 1930’s. It has been fun discussing the health benefits of the oil with people as well, including the high omega three levels (35 percent) and antioxidants (one tablespoon provides 100 percent recommended daily allowance of Vitamin E).
We plan to continue expanding our production capability and adding more product lines, including camelina seed and ground seed for people to use in baking or salad toppings. We are also working with a soap maker to develop a line of camelina soap. These products will be available in the summer of 2013. It has been a good experience working together. Curt, Travis, and Tyler all bring different skills, backgrounds and perspectives to the business that has meshed well together. In addition, other family members and friends have helped get the business off the ground. Notably, Sasha (Travis’ wife) has helped with designing labels, marketing materials and working the Clark Fork River Farmers Market. Linze (Tyler’s girlfriend) has helped by doing demos all over Washington State with the oil. Even Lynn (Mom) who vowed not to help in the beginning, has become a champion for the oil, and has taken on running the Kootenai County Farmers Market booth with Dad, bottling, labeling, and doing demos nearly every weekend. Our friends; Joyce, Dayna, Kevin, Tammy, and others have helped us with demos and farmers markets.
The Greenwalt Family is committed to bringing a high quality product to your family’s table. We hope that in the very near future you will enjoy an Ole World cooking experience with Camelina Gold.