Family farm finds success with produce

BUHL, Idaho — Fresh, wholesome and local are the keys to the success of Blue Rock Farms.

Owners Ty and Trenda Regehr transitioned their conventional commodity farm to produce production in 2015 and have learned a lot along the way.

“I’ve always been intrigued with produce. I thought it would be fun; I didn’t know how much work it would be,” Ty said.

In 2014, they started a small wholesale produce venture growing winter squash on 10 acres.

Unfamiliar with the wholesale business, they used a broker and saw no profit.

But it gave them an education. They expanded production and opened a retail store in nearby Twin Falls to sell the farm’s produce themselves.

“The first year, we grew every vegetable you can grow in Idaho,” Trenda said.

They still do and are always pushing their luck a little trying non-regional produce such as okra, she said.

They also grow watermelon, cantaloupe and strawberries and partnered with an orchard in Fruitland, Idaho, to make fresh stone fruit available to their customers.

“The big thing is we wanted it to be transparent,” she said.

They keep the stone fruit labeled as to its origin. They also label the avocados they stock, which come from Peru.

Everything grown on the farm is started from seed, except for the seedless watermelon. The farm is set up on drip irrigation for most of the production with gravity irrigation for the sweet corn to avoid getting water on top of the plants, which could leave bacteria.

They’ve also been trying cover crops the last two years for weed suppression between rows and to keep the dirt down to have cleaner plants and cleaner produce.

The farm isn’t certified organic, but its practices are probably the same, Ty said.

They grow more than 30 different crops in succession planting, covering them to protect from frost when needed. Fresh produce is harvested May through November, and they are trying to extend the season with hoop houses and greenhouses.

“All the plants get picked every day while it’s hot,” Trenda said. Otherwise they’d end up with giant produce they can’t sell.

The produce is washed, packaged and cooled on site so it’s fresh and cool when it goes to the store — a popular outlet in Twin Falls.

The store also carries the farm’s grass-fed beef, pastured broilers and pork from non-GMO fed hogs — all USDA inspected. It also stocks dairy products from local artisan dairies, local eggs and honey and baked goods from Blue Rock’s on-farm bakery.

“The store has gotten busier and busier every year,” Trenda said.

It saw traffic of nearly 700 cars on a recent Saturday.

“There’s big demand for locally grown. People want to know where their food comes from,” she said.

This year has been particularly busy with people canning like crazy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

Any produce that isn’t sold fresh daily is donated to area food banks or taken back to the farm and fed to the animals.

“There’s hardly any waste at all,” Ty said.

Between the farm and the store, they have 25 people on payroll.

“We’ve been really lucky to have good people who come back, and we try to pay them well,” Trenda said.

The Regehrs are also expanding into wholesale — without the middleman. The reputation they’ve built now has buyers coming to them.

“This year was so busy, there was hardly any extra for wholesale,” she said.