FRESH NATURE FOODS
Eastern Washington farmer Ryan Davenport could be driving a tractor one afternoon and boarding a jetliner the next to see retail executives about the products of Fresh Nature Foods.
The family-owned company directly cultivates creation of edible items made with its specialty crop: fresh young chickpeas grown on family acreage and at contracted Pacific Northwest farms. Harvested while green and moist, the chickpeas go into such products as Fresh Nature-branded hummus at grocery stores or frozen pan-fried falafel cakes for food service operators and deli sections at Whole Foods and Haggen supermarkets. “I quite regularly go straight from the
fields to major cities across the United States marketing and selling our finished products,” says Davenport, company president and part of a three-generation family farm.
“We’re intimately involved, from putting the seed in the ground to the point it’s sold. We work with third-party copackers who make our finished goods, but we’re very involved. We do all the direct sales and have worked with customers to position the product for sale.” Fresh Nature Foods started selling fresh frozen
young chickpeas five years ago to food service operators like delis, restaurants and hospitals, which use them for salads and hummus, and as an ingredient in other preparations.
Its Fresh Nature-labeled hummus premiered a year ago in stores such as Fred Meyer, Whole Foods and Safeway — in classic, jalapeño and falafel flavors, with garlic available soon. This fall, grocery stores will sell retail packages of its falafel cakes in freezer sections. Davenport’s family originally grew chickpeas in rotation with wheat. It began experimenting in the early 2000s when overseas sales for the traditionally hardened chickpeas declined. Now, the family grows only the young chickpeas. In August, Davenport heads to Hong Kong to market newer products in Asia. Sales now span across North America, including Canada, with some international customers, he says. “Our company in Washington state is the only one we know of growing young chickpeas and actively taking them to market,” Davenport says.