May 15, 2000
Gary and Bonnie Remlinger with the marketing trophy awarded by the North American Farmers' Direct Marketing Association.
Staff photo by Lisa Allen.
CARNATION--During their development of Remlinger Farms, Gary and Bonnie Remlinger always focused on learning what the public wanted and then doing their best to provide it.
Their 30-year investment in "marketing" their farm products and responding to customers' needs have paid off. The business has grown from a simple fruit stand in Bellevue to the 200-acre showplace farm in Carnation that attracts 200,000 visitors yearly from around the globe.
This year, they were nationally recognized, both for marketing and for what they have created--what the country calls a "Local Legacy." In February, the couple was named the "Most Outstanding Farm Marketer of the Year" for 1999 by the North American Farmers' Direct Marketing Association at the annual conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.
And later this month, they are invited to Washington, D.C. to represent their farm, selected for inclusion in the "Local Legacies" project, which will join the collections in the American Folklife Center to be preserved by the Library of Congress as part of the "Bicentennial of America's Library."
The Library of Congress had asked each member of Congress to lead the effort in his or her state to create documentation for the program. Rep. Jennifer Dunn nominated Remlinger Farms, the Issaquah Salmon Days Festival (30th Anniversary), Mt. Rainier 100th Anniversary, and the Bellevue Art Museum's Pacific Northwest Arts Fair.
Other nominations include Seafair and Northwest Folklife Festival (Sen. Slade Gorton and Rep. Jim McDermott); Suquamish Tribe (Jay Inslee); Salmon Cycle (Rep. Jack Metcalf); Lewis & Clark Annual Celebration (Rep. Brian Baird); Columbia River, Western Lifestyle, Hanford, Agriculture, Native Americans (Richard "Doc" Hastings); and The Centennial Trail (Rep. George Nethercutt).
The Remlingers, however, will not be attending the celebration in the nation's capital, since it comes at a very busy time. Gary has spring chores to do, and Bonnie is busy with school tours. And they show no signs of slowing down. The farm continues to grow and expand, and it is clear that what the two of them have created over the years is a testimony to the ethics of hard work and innovation.
The story reads like a how-to book. Early in their fruit-growing career, when Gary was selling strawberries on the wholesale market, like his father Floyd had done, his major purchaser decided instead to buy California berries. Faced with over 100 acres of ripe strawberries, he advertised the fruit for sale in the fields. The U-pick was wildly successful, which enabled Gary to enlarge the fruit business. Next came a nursery, then a farm animal pen to attract more visitors.
When customers began requesting pumpkins for Halloween, Gary was right there to give them what they wanted. The fall pumpkin harvest developed into a "Country Fair" family entertainment park, now boasting a train, carousel, miniature roller coaster, flying jack-o-lantern ride, canoe ride, pony rides, a haunted house, and hay jumps and mazes.
Bonnie added weekday school tours to their October activities in the early 1990s. With the increased visitors, Gary soon noticed that customers needed a place to eat and opened an ice cream parlor that developed into a full-service restaurant and bakery.
The couple reared three children on the farm--son David and daughters Diane and Debrah. David lives close by and works with Gary on numerous projects. David also operates his own farm in Snohomish. Diane, after graduating from law school, returned to handle the farm's legal work. Debrah lives in Michigan, where her husband is completing his residency in orthopedic surgery.
Gary and Bonnie said it was a great honor to be recognized for their accomplishments, both by their peers and by their country's representative.
"We were just blown away," said Bonnie. "It's very humbling, especially when you consider all the other nominees. It's very nice."