Fertile time for Peaceful Valley | TheUnion.com

Fertile time for Peaceful Valley

John HartPeaceful Valley Farm Supply in Grass Valley sells organic farm supplies. Warehouse supervisor Shawn Sullivan takes supplies off the shelf.
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A controversy over federal organic farming regulations two years ago sparked 280,000 comments to the federal government, one indicator of the public’s interest in organic food supplies.

That same interest in organic food has helped a Grass Valley business grow.

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply has doubled its revenues in the last five years, said Eric Boudier, who owns the business with his wife, Pattie.

That has come on top of revenues that more than doubled from 1989, when organic growing started to catch on, to 1996 when the Boudiers bought the business. They had experience in retail, but not in organic farming.

“The business has grown significantly over the last decade,” said Eric Boudier, who jokes that it is now a “large small business.”

Much of that is due to more organic food consumption. Though organic farming comprises a relatively small part of the nation’s agricultural sector, about 5 percent says Boudier, there are many people concerned about chemicals in their food.

“Our success has mirrored the success of organic farming and gardening in general,” Boudier said.

The business on Spring Hill Drive sells organic farm supplies to organic growers at every level, large or small, from gardeners to Central Valley commercial growers.

The farm supplier will be awarded the Quarterly Community Appreciation Award by the Economic Resource Council at a May 21 breakfast.

Larry Burkhardt, the ERC’s president and chief executive officer, said the company was picked because it has a longstanding history in the community, with current owners taking the business to another level.

With the community’s agricultural roots, it’s good to bring attention to some of the successful farming businesses, noted Burkhardt.

This month is the company’s seasonal peak, a three-month period which began in March. Peaceful Valley employs 38 people, who are busy getting 300 packages a day out of the 14,000-square-foot warehouse in what Boudier describes as a “tsunami of orders” when the season starts and the company’s catalogs hit the mailboxes.

Boudier said United Parcel Service has told him the company is the largest shipper in western Nevada County.

Peaceful Valley has a retail section, but most of its sales – 85 percent – leave the building in trucks for shipments via UPS, Federal Express or other shippers. The company does 50 percent of its business in California, and the rest in other states.

The Internet is also an important component of the supplier’s sales. Peaceful Valley went online in 1997, only a year after the Boudiers bought the company. Its Web site, http://www.groworganic.com, attracts 500 visitors a day and 20 percent of the business.

Some customers are not deterred by the costs of shipping even a large, heavy bag of phosphate, suggesting pure economics is not their only motivation.

The company’s most popular product is a $7.95 bag of phosphate used for fertilizer. Peaceful Valley gets orders from the East Coast, despite shipping costs of as much as $40. Even Florida residents order the bags of phosphate, a substance which is mined there.

The company also issues a yearly catalog, that at one point in the organic regulations debate had a clip-out form for people to object to genetically modified organisms in their food – a controversial early proposal.

Because the company has made the effort to increase its visibility through the Web site and a catalog, Pattie Boudier said she is not surprised at the company’s growth.

“I think that we also put an effort into exposing ourselves to a lot more people,” Pattie Boudier said. “We increased advertising like crazy when we first bought the business, we did the Web site, we made ourselves available to a lot more people, too, so that’s why I said I wasn’t surprised at the growth.

“Even though it’s maybe a trend, I think it’s a trend that’s here to stay, and the more people who know to shop for things like this, the better we will be.”

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