The founders of Premium Growers, are three friends who grew up in the same rural community in Oregon, attending Gervais high school together.
Brent LaFollette, Marty Miller, and Bob Woodry.
The community of Gervais is located in the center of the Willamette Valley of Oregon, one of the greatest agricultural regions in the world. It is surrounded by fields of deep, nutrient rich soils. Water is abundant there, flowing from the pure snow melt from the cascade mountain range to the East, and the abundant rains of coastal range to the west. Rivers crisscross this area like dark ribbons on a lush green patch quilt of fields bordered with stands of Douglas Fir and White Oaks. Combine the soil and water with the mild seasons and you have the perfect environment for growing almost anything, but especially Hazelnuts.
Marty and Brent are the farmers of this business, working the soils of their forefathers some 5 generations before them. Bob is a business man who carries on the tradition of retail entrepreneurialism from several previous generations as well. The heritage of our forefathers while contrasting between farming and retail sales, are similar in many ways. Take away what we lay our hands on during the day, and you’ll find that the three of us utilize the same fundamental approach to perfecting the various aspects of our businesses and daily lives.
When Premium Growers started, each of us independently, were looking to diversify what we were doing as an extension to our businesses. Conversations were had and the desire to work together in a business venture came about with hazelnuts at it core. Ironically, shortly after this venture began an old poster was found. It was an advertisement for an auction of farm goods, equipment and animals from the early 1900’s. The poster features Bob & Brent’s great grandfathers working together to host this auction. I’m sure Marty’s great grandfather attended as this was advertised as a major community event. So here we are repeating history, family & friends from our farming community still working together a 100 years later. We find that it is relatively easy to create great things when your passionate about it. Together we manage this company, growing the nuts and transforming them into tasty and healthy snacks. We do so with pride.
In 2017 the three of us came together in an effort to unveil to the world a new version of a very old, healthy snack food. Hazelnuts have always been a snack around our homes on the farm, as they have been grown on and around them for decades. In a desire to take what was already a very tasty snack and make it even better, we began experimenting with roasting the nuts. From BBQ’s to ovens, many variations were tried until one day we happened upon a roasting process that was very unique and from this came an entirely new appreciation for what a hazelnut could taste like.
As wonderful as this new style of roasted nut was, we couldn’t stop there, we had to take it further. Because if good is great, great could be greater, right? We enlisted the help of some professionals to assist with the technical aspects of blending special seasonings and then took them home to our kitchens where we put on aprons and began to experiment. The wives were not overly happy with our occupying the kitchens, but I believe they were amused with our enthusiasm and so allowed the mess to occur.
The results of the experiments were offered to every friend, friends of friends and family member we could find. Honestly, the results were very positive, most of the time. There were some failures, but in the end, well, you have the opportunity to see what came from these efforts.
Three generations of LaFollette farmers: Brent, Byron, and Daniel.