Lourence Dormaier: Ephrata farmer finds meaning in tillage

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A local man found his purpose in farming and turned it into a thriving business.

We were in 2006 and Lourence Dormaier had just been demobilized from the army. Unsure of what to do next, after spending nearly three years in the armed forces, Dormaier said he decided to return home to Ephrata, where his family had farmed for generations.

Realizing he was looking for his next mission, Dormaier says, he turned to farming, just as the five generations before him had done. In 2018, after raising cattle for several years and wanting a change of pace, he decided to grow produce. That’s when Next Mission Farms was born.

As he navigated the transition and challenge of starting a business, Dormaier realized there were plenty of veterans like him looking for their next mission after military service. Discovering that there are programs and organizations dedicated to supporting veterans who have chosen to enter the agricultural sector, Dormaier found himself involved in helping other veterans take advantage of these opportunities and find their own mission in agriculture, he said.

One such organization is the Farmer Veteran Coalition; Dormaier is a member of the Washington Chapter’s Board of Directors. Dormaier said it is through this organization that he is able to connect with veteran farmers in the basin and state to leverage the resources available to them.

“We believe veterans have the unique skills and character needed to strengthen rural communities and create sustainable food systems,” FVC’s website says.

Dormaier said Next Mission Farms has not only become his focus, but also a family business. Her five children have each found their own way of supporting or helping the farm. Quintin, 24, is in the army reserve and helps out as much as he can when he comes to visit the house. Dormaier’s oldest children, Vaden and Jared, 17 and 15, though busy with high school life, enjoy growing produce and tending the stall at the various farmers’ markets they attend during the summer. Cyrus and Kenzie, the youngest of the group at 8 and 7, love being around the farm and helping to sell the vegetables at the markets.

While Dormaier only sells in the summer, farming is almost a year-round obligation. Each year he must order seeds for the following year, plant the seeds to start indoors, till the soil, move the seeds outdoors, harvest their production, dispose of dead plants at the end of the year and start all over again.

“So with all these plants here, I started in January,” Dormaier said, pointing to the plants he had already planted in the large greenhouse. “I have about 1,000 plants, then I made another 1,000 on another plantation.”

When asked if he would plant more this year than the year before, Dormaier replied, “A lot more.”

He frequents many different markets around the basin, but mainly sticks to the farmers markets in Ephrata and Quincy.

Dormaier has worked with many different local businesses to bring farm-to-table food. A few of these businesses over the past two years include the Blue Bell Cafe in Quincy and Pita Pit in Ephrata.

He also set up community-supported direct farm sales in the summer to prepare boxes of produce for customers. Unlike most CSA sales, there is no prepayment requirement. Dormaier said it allows him and his customers more flexibility so he can support what he provides to people. Each week, customers can decide what they want in their box based on what’s available that week, and they can come across a set location each week. In some cases, it will even deliver to their doorstep.

He has formed cooperatives with neighbors and other veterans in the area to supply produce that he does not grow himself. One is with Chris Dzubay, a Moses Lake Marine veteran who grows mushrooms, among other produce.

His business was so well received that he was able to quit his job at the company and make farming his full-time job. While he remains busy with farming and being a father, Dormaier said he also finds time in the fall to be a line coach for the Ephrata High School football team.

Dormaier grows, among other things, peppers, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, herbs, potatoes and countless different varieties of tomatoes.

Fresh produce is not the only thing he sells in the markets.

“We canned cowboy candy jalapeños last year and sold them with great success,” Dormaier said. “I have to do more, I’m out.”

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