Stephanie Coleman, Taking Valley Cakes and Bakes to the Top Tier

August 22, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Stephanie Coleman is a native of the Wenatchee Valley and owner of her business Valley Cakes and Bakes.  She operates out of her commercial bakery attached to her home in East Wenatchee.  It is a tiny area but makes it work.  Here she bakes cookies, cupcakes, and cakes to sell every week at the Wenatchee Valley Farmer's Market.  You can also see her work on Instagram - @valleycakesandbakes.  In addition to vending at the market, Stephanie makes custom orders for people to pick up and wedding cakes for a busy summer wedding season.  Her business is booming, and Valley Cakes and Bakes will soon be moving to a larger kitchen in the Rock Island area.  Stephanie asked me to photograph her at work in her current location to document this stage of her business.

Mixing frosting.

Stephanie has been in the cake business for twelve years, getting her start decorating cakes at her first job at Baskin and Robins.  She took a break from cakes and attended the Art Institute of Seattle, studying Interior Design.  Stephanie came to realize Interior Design was not as fulfilling as baking and cake design.  She switched her major and received an Associate of Applied Arts Degree in Baking and Pastry from the Art Institute of Seattle and returned home to the Wenatchee Valley and cake decorating to grow it into a thriving business.

Stephanie's love of cake decorating is evident.

Stephanie says her favorite part of Valley Cakes & Bakes is watching it grow and evolve into what she always hoped and dreamed it would be.  Her favorite part of working her business is the final stages of cake decorating, when all the ideas and elements come together to create the final look.  Especially setting up wedding displays because there is enormous satisfaction in having the extra details to compliment the cake and desserts created.  Stephanie says, "I love stepping back and taking in the final product." The busiest week of 2021 consisted of four weddings and filling 16 custom cake and cookie orders. 


Stephanie is excited about the move to the new location.  She envisions her business growing over the years, employing five or more people to assist her with daily production.  She would like to be the most desired bakery to get custom cakes, special occasion cakes, wedding cakes, and desserts in the Wenatchee Valley and the greater surrounding area. Her goal is to sell at farmer's markets in the area, including Wenatchee, Cashmere, Leavenworth, Quincy, and Moses Lake.  Stephanie says, "At this time, we don't have a cafe/storefront plan, and I don't see that happening in the future. Our focus will continue to be Weddings; Custom ordered Cakes/Cookies, and Farmer's Markets."

When she is not baking, Stephanie enjoys painting, growing houseplants, hiking, fishing, camping with her boyfriend and two dogs.  Not only is Stephanie a popular vendor at the Wenatchee Valley Farmer's Market, but she also volunteers as a board member for the market. "While it's a lot of work, I love being a part of something that serves our community and small business owners like the market."

I always admire people who can run a thriving business and find time to return genuine support to their community and help others.


The Scablands are not Barren at Scabland Farm

July 20, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Jill and Paul Knittel met while serving in the Navy, stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.  They got married, started a family and eventually moved to the Scablands of Eastern Washington when Paul got a job at a major hydroelectric supplier in the area.  Five years ago they started raising heritage Large Black Hogs and have since begun to grow their business, Scabland Farms, producing pork that is NOT the "other white meat."  This is a breed of hog developed in England during the 1800’s and was more commonly consumed prior to the Second World War. 

untitled shoot-0780untitled shoot-0780 Their dark skin allows them to be outside in the sun being less prone to sunburn.  This pork is not washed out and flavorless like many people are accustomed to coming from the factory meat producers who have hybridized the animals to be not too bold in flavor and survive long enough in concrete enclosed buildings to become meat. 

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Heritage Large Black Hogs are animals who live outside  and romp around in pastures and large pens except when they need the protection of a barn when they are young or during severe weather.  The meat is red (not as dark as beef) but it does have color and flavor.  Like an heirloom tomato, this is a return to what once was.

untitled shoot-0907untitled shoot-0907 Jill and her daughter were kind enough to show me around their farm and let me know which hogs were safe to pet and which ones were not so receptive to human touch.

untitled shoot-0852untitled shoot-0852 There were piglets and protective sows.

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Jill said she always wanted to be a pig farmer, but it has its ups and downs.  Nevertheless, to her, it beats life in suburbia.  She still thinks pigs are cute and becomes attached to some of the piglets and even names some, but realizes she is in the pork business.

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Their business has been expanding in the last year and they have had hogs purchased by Tavolata, Radiator Whiskey, and also the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle to be featured as chef’s specials. 

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Raising pigs is hard work, but I am glad Jill and Paul are willing to do it, and that they come to the Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market so I don’t have go to Seattle to to taste their heritage pork!

The Artisan Bread Company - Part of the Solution

September 28, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Listen to Your Inner WisdomListen to Your Inner Wisdom “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem” 

Those are the words that characterize what motivates Scott Parsons to do what he does.  Scott is an artisan baker in Wenatchee, who bakes special breads, rolls, and pizza crusts. He sells these in his shop and distributes to restaurants such as Campbell’s Resort in Lake Chelan, Cafe Mela, The Windmill, The Bar - Organic Cafe and Deli and other restaurants in the Wenatchee Valley area. 


Where he is most visible is at the Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market selling breads flavored with basil, garlic, dill, olives, peppers, apples and raisins, Bavarian dark rye with caraway seeds, and his very popular rosemary bread.  His products are substantial and flavorful and never leave that cloying sweet aftertaste found in the mass produced over processed bread products at the supermarket.


Artisan Bread Company at Wenatchee Valley Farmers MarketArtisan Bread Company at Wenatchee Valley Farmers MarketArtisan Bread Company

How does an artisan baker survive in these times where many are seeking gluten free products?  Scott says that his bread is made with a long ferment process taking 18-36 hours of fermentation which allows gluten proteins to break down and lowers the glycemic index of the bread.  Pizza DoughPizza Dough


Scott explains that bread is a basic human food and that bread made in the traditional manner is healthy. He has had reports from people who are sensitive to gluten “sneaking” a taste of his bread and finding no ill effects as a result, and many realize that they can have bread made with the long ferment technique. 


Hand CraftedHand Crafted

Scott was initially on the track to a career in medicine, but while at Carleton College became keenly aware that prevention of disease was more of a calling to him than treating the aftermath (symptoms) of poor eating habits.  He came to realize through his research, travels to areas inhabited by indigenous people and life experience that eating the right nutritious food is the best way to prevent a number of ailments.  Scott has been a practitioner and advocate of organic gardening and farming since 1972.  This is the passion that drove Scott to be a part of, and promote, farmers markets over the years. 


Be InvolvedBe Involved People need to know where their food comes from, how it is produced and be more involved in the decisions affecting their food supply.  Scott says, “Take care of the environment and the environment will take care of you.  Indigenous peoples have known this for millennia.  It's time to be more than just ‘smart.'  Learn to listen to your inner wisdom, and let the truth shine through.“ 

Let the Truth Shine ThroughLet the Truth Shine Through

Here is a dinner put together with Artisan Bread Company's toasted rosemary bread and Tieton Farm "Sonnet" soft ripened cheese, onion and zucchini frittata topped with tomatoes and basil from Spencer Farm.

After Market DinnerAfter Market DinnerOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you are in the Wenatchee area, visit the Artisan Bread Company or the Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market and try the flavorful hand crafted breads made with traditional methods.


The Artisan Bread Company is Located at:

1556 North Wenatchee Avenue

Wenatchee, WA  98801


Start to Finish Lavender

July 26, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Volunteering at the Wenatchee Farmer's Market provides me the opportunity to get to know some of the people who produce the goods sold at the market.  Purchasing a product directly from the person who grew or made the item feels so efficient.  Joseph Downs and his business partner, Stephanie Brook, make products out of lavender.  They make health care/hygiene products, culinary products and gift/craft items.  When I first met Joseph I did not know the depth of their operation The Lavender Boutique.  They are involved with every step of the process from the growing, selection, extraction of essential oils and hydrosols, product and recipe development and crafting those into a finished product.  Having sampled a couple of their spice blends, salt and lavender blend and a refreshing lavender flavored lemonade, I can say their products are excellent, flavorful and well balanced.


   Columbia Basin Culinary-5280066Columbia Basin Culinary-5280066Columbia Basin Culinary the shirt matches the lavender.

Columbia Basin Culinary-5280070Columbia Basin Culinary-5280070Columbia Basin Culinary spice blends,

After the market this last Saturday some of the other vendors and staff from the farmer's market and I were invited to see the Lavender Boutique operation, learn about their process and more about the big guy who sells lavender products at the market.  Joseph is originally from rural Central Washington, but spent a number of years playing professional basketball in Australia.  It was there that he became interested in growing lavender.  As he learned more about lavender he became interested in exploring the many uses for the blossoms and extracts from the plant.  Upon his retirement at the end of the 2012 season, Joseph moved back to The States and began getting involved with large scale lavender growing and gaining more knowledge about the biology of the plant and learning about the different varieties.  Some lavender is good for making soap and other grooming products, but not as good for culinary applications.

Wanting to move in the direction of developing and promoting lavender based products Joseph teamed up with Stephanie to establish The Lavender Boutique.  Joseph is in charge of product marketing, packaging and label design, managing the website, setting up shows and participation in farmer's markets and other selling events.  Stephanie, who is also a massage therapist, has developed the majority of the formulation of the products and recipes.

The farm/venue is located amongst orchards overlooking the Rock Island area and the Columbia River Valley just south of Wenatchee.  They are just establishing lavender gardens organized by the specific end use of the plant.  They will have separate gardens for craft, culinary and health/beauty varieties of lavender.

Young lavender.Young lavender.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   The barn has a couple of copper stills and fruit bins filled with different varieties of lavender. Bins of different varieties of lavenderBins of different varieties of lavenderOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Taking a dried blossom and pinching it between your fingers yields a very strong fragrance.


Joseph demonstrated the process with the new still where he extracts the essential oil and hydrosol from the lavender.  The essential oil is what is used for producing soap and it is very potent.  The hydrosols are used for producing body washes, fragrance sprays and other applications not requiring the concentration of the oil.  For each gallon of essential oil produced, twenty gallons of hydrosol is also produced.  This is done by using steam to extract the oils and hydrosols from the blossom and then condensing the products out of the steam.  Joseph can process about five pounds of blossoms at a time.  After the extraction process is complete the lavender is uncannily dry and devoid of fragrance   - only smelling like damp grass.


Here Joseph packs five pounds of lavender into the basket. 

Packing the basketPacking the basketOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Joseph and Troy (Still Master) clamp down the lid to the still.

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The condenser coils are cooled with water.

The condenser coil cooled by waterThe condenser coil cooled by waterOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Oil and hydrosols exit into a glass separator.  The essential oil is floating on the top and the hydrosol is on the bottom layer.  Each is drained off into separate containers.


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They have big plans for his property to make it into an event venue for weddings and other gatherings as well as offering a place for other lavender enthusiasts to learn more about this versatile plant and to learn how to make various products, crafts and cook with it in a commercial kitchen.  If you ever happen to be at the Wenatchee Valley Farmer's Market, stop and visit with Joseph.  He always has samples to smell and taste, and a lot of information to share about lavender.


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The Wenatchee Farmer's Market and Hosting Bees

June 01, 2016  •  3 Comments

I don't have too much spare time on my hands, but I did sign up to volunteer at the Wenatchee Farmer's Market to provide photographic services.  Nan and I went to the orientation and met a some of the vendors.  It was a great way to take some photographs of people and products and at the same time promote local farming and production of useful goods.   McGregor Farms Honey -5210058McGregor Farms Honey -5210058McGregor Farms Honey McGregor Farms Lavender Honey-5210072McGregor Farms Lavender Honey-5210072McGregor Farms Lavender Honey McGregor Farms Honey, Bees'wax-5210066McGregor Farms Honey, Bees'wax-5210066McGregor Farms Honey, Bees'wax




We met Kim and Mike McGregor of McGregor Farms who were selling honey products from their bees.​  During the conversation they mentioned that they were looking for places to put hives to increase production and variety of honey. We were considering bee keeping as a way to produce honey, help with local pollination of wild flowers and promote bee activity.  Mike and Kim were looking for a place to host hives in trade for some honey.  This was the perfect opportunity.  We did not need too much honey, we want bees in the area and it helps out a local honey producer.  And best of all, there was no work involved other than providing a space and helping mike unload the pallets of hives.  A little over a week ago Mike arrived at 5:00 AM with a truck load of bee hives, six pallets.  Bees are less active in the early morning hours.  I met Mike in our pasture with my skid steer loader and pallet forks and helped him unload six pallets, with four hives on each pallet.  It is great to have the space being used productively.

Today Mike stopped by to check on the hives and shuffle some frames around to make sure the bees had enough room in the hives to keep constructing their combs, tend to the brood and make honey.  Mike had an extra bee jacket and hood for me and gave me a tour of the hives and quick lesson on hive operations and politics.  Yes, even bees have politics.  If a queen is not doing the job, the bees can get rid of her.

Bee Hives-6010005Bee Hives-6010005Mike tending the hives.

 Here the bees are tending to the queen, who is under the pile.

Bee Hives-6010025Bee Hives-6010025Tending to the queen.

Mike checks the status of a frame.

Bee Hives-6010034Bee Hives-6010034Inspecting the frames.

Mike said the bees must be happy in this location since they are particularly good natured, nonetheless, he did have his smoker on hand to calm the bees.

Bee Hives-6010030Bee Hives-6010030Reaching for the smoke. We were able to scoop some nectar off the frames with our bare hands nudging some of the bees out of the way.  The nectar was sweet and fragrant.

Through our volunteering at the Wenatchee Valley Farmer's Market we have had the opportunity to help the Farmer's Market and meet some great people.



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