After ten years of independent growers raising and marketing strawberries, the Orcas Island Berry Growers Association was formed in 1935. That year they made an agreement with the Olympia-based National Fruit Canning Company (NFCC) to build a berry processing plant. The NFCC agreed to provide the plans, building materials, all the electrically operated equipment and to supervise the erection of the plant with the farmers providing the land and the labor to erect the building. The timeline was based on when electricity would reach Orcas Island. With the support of the New Deal’s Rural Electrification Administration (REA), the electrical underwater cable reached the Island in 1938. Glen Rodenberger purchased the half-acre lot just outside Olga at the intersection of Olga and Pt. Lawrence Roads where the building still stands.
In November of 1937, the building materials were brought from Seattle to the Olga dock on the freight boat “Bellana” and trucked to the site. In the early summer of 1938 the plant was ready and processing began. Flats of berries were unloaded from trucks through large side doors of the barreling plant and then weighed on scales that still exist just inside the front door. After going through the washing machine, they were whisked onto a belt where they passed the view of the sorters who removed all imperfect berries. The main producers of the Berry Association were Glen Rodenberger, Oscar Carlson, George Loomis, Henry Leatherwood and Merton Christianson. Together they had more than 450 acres of Marshall Strawberries in the Olga/Doe Bay area.
On October 8, 2004, this historic building was placed on the Washington Heritage Register of Historic Places
Full Story on History Link of Washington State History
We were down, but certainly not out! The front of the historic strawberry barreling building was basically intact; however, the entire east end where the café was located was severely damaged and much of the crafts and artwork within the building were ruined or damaged by smoke and water. The origin of the fire has been labeled "suspicious" and strongly believed to be arson. There is still a $10,000 reward for information leading to a conviction of the person or persons responsible.
See these links for information about the fire and recovery efforts:
Islands Sounder Story 7/22/13
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