Alfalfa field turns into a sight to stop and see

Published in Cashmere Valley Record 2012
WNPA First Place Best Business News Story 2013

A garden full of pink, purple, white, and yellow wildflowers covers a large tract of land that once was an alfalfa field in Cashmere. When the flowers first bloomed last May, many wondered about this new field of beauty on Pioneer Drive.

Jerry Loeffelbein has spent most of his life at 6556 Pioneer Drive in Cashmere. Moving into the home when he was only three days old with his parents, he learned how to do many things at the house that still stands there today.

His early years were spent on the property where there was a pasture and alfalfa growing on the five acres of land his parents owned. The seven people that lived in the house all took part in raising farm animals to help feed the hungry bellies that would sit around the dining room table every evening.

Loeffelbein’s father, Tobias, worked full time and his mother Johanna worked during harvest in the warehouses.

“We were not very wealthy growing up so most of our food came from the land,” Loeffelbein said.

His parents met in the town of Cashmere and moved their family to the house on Pioneer in 1939. After some time was spent raising cows, chickens, pigs, rabbits and ducks and growing alfalfa, the 3.5 acres of land behind and next to the house turned into an orchard. This orchard lasted for 40 years until the family ripped the trees out and the alfalfa was replanted.

Loeffelbein moved back to the home five years ago after spending some time away working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency helping people in disasters.

“That kept me out of the area for quite some time and took me all over the United States. But I’m home now,” Loeffelbein said with a smile.

After moving back and realizing 75 pound hail bails are a lot heavier to lift now than when he was 16, Loeffelbein decided it was finally time for a change.

His backyard used to be a beautiful garden but over time weeds started to take it over. When Leoffelbein’s wife moved into the house a year ago she took over the backyard garden. He said it’s not the same as it used to be when his mother was alive, but it’s getting there.

The big change Loeffelbein made was to the 3.5 acres of alfalfa.

“I like flowers, I think they are pretty so I wanted wildflowers,” he said.

Loeffelbein went to Silverton, Ore. and purchased 50 pounds of wildflower seeds in a mixture called Cascade Kaleidoscope. There are about 25 different flower types in the mixture. Some grow just a few inches tall and others grow around three to four feet.

The wildflowers first started coming into bloom in May and won’t die until mid-fall. They will grow all summer and produce their seeds in the fall. Loeffelbein will mow the flowers mid fall and hope they grow back next spring.

“The place I bought the seeds from had a photograph of what it was supposed to look like and I thought to myself, ‘yeah right.’ Well it turned out pretty close,” Loeffelbein said as he looked out at the flowers while holding his four-month-old grandson, Elliott.

Since the flowers started to bloom, Loeffelbein has had a few surprise visits as locals and visitors stop by to ask about the flowers.

A Cashmere local, Ruth Mattson, said she had to stop by and get the story. She even took some pictures of her granddaughter playing in the field of wildflowers and plans on painting the pictures.

“It’s so beautiful you just have to go see it,” Mattson said.

Along with local and out of town visitors stopping by, the flowers have also brought a large amount of Western Gold Finches, the state bird.

In response to people stopping by to ask about or look at the flowers, Loeffelbein said it feels good to not just bring joy to his family and himself, but also to other people who can drive by and come see it. As far as the birds go, it’s his favorite part about the wildflowers.

“I was raised on the land and I absolutely plan on staying here,” he said.

As far as maintenance goes, Loeffelbein thinks the 3.5 acres of wildflowers should be easier than alfalfa. He may have to irrigate it some, but not much. He said he might try and get rid of a few weeds but he has always done things organic and pulling weeds by hand isn’t as fun as he remembers.

The land is a part of Loeffelbein family heritage. He said, every two years, the family gets together on the property.

“To all my nieces and nephews, this is grandma and grandpa’s place and they really enjoy coming back here.”