Volcanic Farms near Eagle
Pamela Kleibrink Thompson, Photo by Lance Thompson
Not far from Eagle, a family farm with bucolic fields and orchards on the banks of the Payette River near Emmett, Idaho, has an unusual centerpiece–an ancient volcano. The landmark is the birthplace of Volcanic Farms and home to Don and Donna Heffner, their daughters Lyndee and Angela, and their grandchildren. Donna grew up in Montour and the land of Volcanic Farms has been in her family for three generations. Her parents owned the Montour Grocery.
The Heffners started selling produce to grocery stores in 1968. “When ‘truck gardens’ became popular in the late 1970s, we sold direct to the public along busy roads out of the back of our Ford pickup,” recalls Don Heffner. This year, Volcanic Farms is celebrating its 47th anniversary of farming and gardening professionally. But it hasn’t always been easy.
In 1972, when the ice from the Payette River backed up and destroyed Montour, the Heffners lost part of their Jersey cattle herd and more than 20 acres of land. That flood was devastating to the Montour community but did not destroy the spirit of the people who lived there.
There were other challenges. The deer population in the Montour Valley multiplied rapidly and Idaho Fish and Game built special fences around the fields, which did as good a job at keeping the herd in the fields as keeping them out. Don found the best solution was “to plant them their favorite produce items–cantaloupe and sweet corn–away from our most important crops. Apparently word spread because everything from raccoons to the occasional mountain lion have been seen leaving the fields. All the local wild life is pleasantly plump in our neighborhood.”
Don Heffner’s talents for farming were nurtured as a school boy when he worked during the summers on his grandparents’ farm in Emmett. “He has a special gift. He was born to farm,” states Angela. The easy-going Heffner started raising registered Jersey cows in 1964 and Volcanic Jerseys became well known in the area for the high butterfat content of their milk. He sold a young bull named Volcanic Transfusion in the early 70s to a consortium of ranchers for almost $20,000. His cows weren’t the only high achievers–Don was President of the Hay Growers Association and even his alfalfa was the best in the area. He admits, “I always had a green thumb.”
In 1986, Volcanic Farms created “a tiny little produce stand out of straw bales and a little shack,” Don reminisces. “We changed locations in 1988 to the site where our current building is.” A permanent produce stand with a commercial kitchen was built in 1999 on Horseshoe Bend highway just south of Highway 52, approximately 20 miles from Boise and about 80 miles from McCall. In 2002, Stephanie Kykema, Lyndee’s mother in law, rented the kitchen. She opened a restaurant in Emmett the following year but allowed the Heffners to keep her pie recipe because it was such a huge success at the produce stand. With a bakery and a permanent outlet, Volcanic Farms offers pies made from their delicious peaches and apricots. In addition to a wide variety of produce and pies, customers can also find fresh chopped salsa and chips, pickled asparagus, and jams at the stand in Horseshoe Bend, open from April through November, 7 days a week from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. (open until 7 p.m. on Friday and Sunday)
At Volcanic Farms’ produce stands, you can find raspberries, beets, watermelons, peaches, cantaloupes, cucumbers, onions, strawberries, tomatoes, green beans and potatoes. You can also find Volcanic Farms produce at farmer’s markets or at their roadside vans and pickups throughout the region.
“We are still in business after 47 years because we provide great products consistently,” asserts Don. Volcanic Farms is still family owned and operated. “We focus on supplying high quality product for the people who want the best,” notes Don.
Don is thrilled to be part of the new Boise Farmers Market, which only allows authentic producers to sell locally grown product. “I am impressed by the quality and selection offered in our group. It’s been more than 15 years since I was excited about Volcanic Farms participating at a farmers market–that says a lot!”
Besides plants, Don also has a knack for nurturing customers. Perhaps it’s because he enjoys visiting with them, meeting their needs and desires, and supplying them with top quality products. “I know you,” one Idahoan exclaimed, when he met Don. “I heard you have the most expensive produce stand in all Idaho.” Don replied, “But you’ve never heard we’re the second best.”
Volcanic Farms Produce Market
457 HIGHWAY 55
HORSESHOE BEND, ID 83629 – 5029
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 10th and Grove