Grains, Goodness, and Ethos Bakery & Café

A few weeks ago I joined a capacity crowd for a festive “Dinner Under the Dome” fundraiser for the Franklin County Historical Society in Pasco, Washington, that was catered by artisan baker Angela Kora and her staff at Ethos Bakery & Café in Richland (2150 Keene Road). Angela and co-owner Scott Newell established the bakery at the present location a year ago and it has fast become one of the most popular eateries in the Tri-Cities and especially known for the wood-fired oven breads and pizzas made from Palouse Heritage landrace grains like Crimson Turkey, Sonoran Gold, and Purple Egyptian.

Capacity “Dinner Under the Dome” Crowd Catered by Ethos Bakery

Capacity “Dinner Under the Dome” Crowd Catered by Ethos Bakery

Ethos Bakery’s Angela Kora

Ethos Bakery’s Angela Kora

Attesting to the Ethos team’s catering skills was the absence of anything but crumbs on the “Dome” dinner plates. My special treat at evening’s end was finding an extra portion of Angela’s scrumptious fruit-filled pastry. Our extended family often dines out at Ethos where they serve up proprietary blends of coffee to accompany a full service menu complemented by scratch-made breads, muffins, and pastries. Among our family favorites are puff pastries filled with chocolate and croissants flavored with malted Purple Egyptian barley berries. And I’ve been known to make special morning trips there just for the raisin granola.

Ethos Baker Turkey Red Bread

Ethos Baker Turkey Red Bread

Ethos Bakery Croissant

Ethos Bakery Croissant

I was to earn my keep at the fundraiser dinner by presenting a talk on the significance of heritage and agrarian history. Franklin County is located in southeastern Washington where the county’s production of grains, vegetables, fruit and hay is a $1.3 billion enterprise. One of our Palouse Heritage growers of landrace grains is Brad Bailie who operates Lenwood Farms near Connell. Brad is known throughout the region as conscientious and knowledgeable producer of organic crops. The evening’s program took place in the presence of the majestic courthouse’s golden statue of Demeter, the Greek goddess of bountiful harvests. With area students taking part in the historical society museum’s year-end field trips, my thoughts had turned that week to the centrality of agrarian themes in classical literature and philosophy. In the event you might have interest in this topic I append below an abbreviated version of that talk:

“Founding Farmers: Washington, Franklin, and a Heritage of Goodness”

Richard D. Scheuerman “Dinner Under the Dome” Remarks (19 May 2018)

Franklin County History Society


…[A]griculture, is the only honest way wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for innocent life and virtuous industry.   --Benjamin Franklin


I hope, some day or another, we shall become a storehouse and granary for the world.  --George Washington to Marquis de Lafayette, June 19, 1788


I am never satiated with rambling through the fields and farms, examining culture and cultivators, with a degree of curiosity which makes some take me to be a fool, and others to be much wiser than I am.  --Thomas Jefferson to Marquis de Lafayette, April 11, 1787


America’s founding leaders like Washington, Franklin, and John Adams were schooled in Greek and Latin and knew well the significance of classical allusions to Demeter and grain and harvest so visible in this place [Franklin County Courthouse dome court]. They understood what we call “first principles” of personal and political life, principles that they knew must be renewed in every generation to perpetuate freedom and prosperity. We should note that notable exemplars of these principles in the context of agriculture were many of the Founders’ wives—women like Abigail Adams who actively supervised the plantings and harvests at the couple’s Peacefield Farm while John performed diplomatic duties abroad before a terms as Vice-President and President. We are gathered here because we support the mission of the historical society’s museum, a term derived from the Muses of mythic Greek inspiration. So what are Muses whispering to us these days? Perhaps we could revisit their timeless message of a special heritage for old and young.


Purpose and Meaning             

As someone who worked for over forty years in public and private education, I had recurrent reason to muse about purpose and heritage. Each fall for the past many years at Seattle Pacific University, I welcomed incoming cohorts of teacher candidates at the annual graduate studies retreat on beautiful Whidbey Island. I never let that opportunity pass without asking in the first few minutes why they had come. What is the purpose of education, why perpetuate a cultural heritage—through school, a museum, a library, a society? To have a job, to raise test scores, to exhibit interesting old objects? I received many answers ranging from the idealistic (“I love working with kids”) to the extrinsic (“free summers”). While some tended toward first principles, many did not. And I might add that to my mind “loving kids” is an insufficient basis for teaching. Most people anywhere love children, while serious dedication to their present well-being and future world is something rather different.

In this day of debate about the validity of facts, permit me to offer one: Plato, Cincinnatus, Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Lincoln—while living in different times and places—would have been in basic agreement on the significance of our cultural heritage and purpose of education. They wrote about it in explicit terms. The value of our cultural heritage, the purpose of education… is to make people good. This simple yet profound truth bears repeating: The value of our cultural heritage, the purpose of education is to make people good. You’d be surprised what quizzical looks I got from the many teacher candidates to whom I explained this fact over the years.


Goodness as Service

Goodness in the classical sense, well known to our nation’s Founders, was not some vague notion of nice feeling. Rather, it was a course of action. While the writings of these thinkers offer slight variations on the theme of goodness, they agree to a remarkable extent on the core qualities of honesty, hard work, and public service. This has important implications for a historical society like this one, and its relevance to society at large and the next generation we seek to engage.

This room is full of exemplars of such a mission. The members, supporters, and volunteers of this organization are living expressions of honest, hard-working public servants. This is the timeless key to purpose and meaning, and goodness. Moreover, it is the antidote to what syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer has termed “meism”—the selfish “what’s in it for me” mentality that threatens to derail the well-being of any community or country. It’s much easier, after all, to sit home and complain about things than it is to get involved, to vote, to attend, to compromise, to work.

While leaders like the Washingtons, Franklins, and Adamses may be more popularly known for democratic ideals, they all found vivid expression of their beliefs in agrarian affairs. They acquired farmland, helped organize rural societies, and wrote extensively about what they called “agricultural improvement.” They found through relationship with the land an incredibly enriching expression of goodness.

Washington devised some of the earliest and most comprehensive schedules for soil amendments to increase the fertility of his lands, Thomas Jefferson helped build some of the country’s first mechanical threshers, and Benjamin Franklin introduced numerous clovers, grains, and other crops to the new nation. New relevance is being found today consistent with their vision and labors to promote sustainability and prosperity. This is exciting! This is meaningful! This is goodness in full measure. Through your abiding support, may past be prologue to make our founders proud, and to inspire our youth to purpose and service.


Progressive change to promote the public good and wellbeing of future generations can be unwisely limited by amnesia as well as nostalgia. Amnesia is to forget about cultural legacies bequeathed by ancestors and society, and nostalgic appeals to life in some halcyon past often overlook the challenges of such times. But memory is a critical discipline, We remember places, mark Scriptures, and listen to elders’ stories in order to foster human flourishing and stewardship of resources and experience for tomorrow.   –-RDS

Zane Grey’s The Desert of Wheat (Part 2)

This post is the first of a three-part series about Zane Grey, the father of the modern Western novel, who spent time in Eastern Washington in the early 1900s to write his agrarian-themed novel The Desert of Wheat.

The setting of Grey’s novel blends both actual places of the Columbia Plateau like Spokane, Connell, and Kahlotus, with fictitious communities that include sufficient geographical description to suggest likely locations—Ruxton in Golden (Walla Walla) Valley, Neppel (Moses Lake), and Glencoe (Pasco). Grey also references the work of notable agriculturalists like Frederick D. Heald at the State Agricultural College (present-day WSU) and Experiment Station in Pullman. Grey’s original version, now in the Library of Congress, also mentioned the communities of Ritzville, Odessa, and Marlin. Subsequent insight by local historians regarding the book’s principal families also shed interesting light on the influence of particular individuals and farms. Grey is known to have visited areas in Franklin,  Adams, and Whitman Counties in 1917, and comparison of the writer’s itinerary with the Dorns’ and Andersons’ various travels in the book suggest composite figures drawn from families in the vicinity of Wheeler, Connell, Hooper, and Walla Walla.

The Anderson-Owsley House and Farm Today

The Anderson-Owsley House and Farm Today

Much of the book’s action takes place at the Anderson-Dorn farm, a place of Grey’s imagination but likely modeled in part on a ranch owned in 1917 by R. F. Anderson and located approximately nine miles south of Connell. The property was later owned by the Kenneth Owsley family. Connell had been platted in 1883 as “Palouse Junction” for a spur of the main Northern Pacific transcontinental line that tapped the fertile Palouse Hills grain district to the east. Later named Connell for a railroad official and pioneer resident, the town had long served as an important grain storage and transfer point with substantial timbered flathouses along the rail line for storing sacked grain, a thriving main street business district, and local newspaper, the Connell Tribune-Register.

The tableland surrounding the Anderson farm presented Grey with a stunning vista with Oregon’s Blue Mountains to the east and flaming sunsets beyond the grass- and sage-covered Horse Heaven and Frenchman Hills rising in the west. The farmstead included a two-story main house that remains on the site and substantially conforms to Grey’s description of the Dorn home, numerous outbuildings, crenelated water tower and windmill, and a 60´ x 110´ barn that enormous even by Big Bend standards. The property was situated along the area’s principal north-south “Central Washington Road” and had served in earlier days as a way-station for stage coaches who tended and exchanged teams of horses in the large barn.

Pat Boyer, “E. T. Thompson Threshing Outfit” Mural,   City of Connell, Washington

Pat Boyer, “E. T. Thompson Threshing Outfit” Mural, City of Connell, Washington

According to local tradition, Grey stayed at the Anderson place in mid-July to visit with area farmers and experience harvest field labors firsthand. During the time of his visit to the area, the Tribune-Register reported on the commencement of field operations: “Harvest has begun already and will be in full swing here by the middle of next week. While the hot, dry weather has interfered somewhat with the later grain crop, the fields which matured earlier are in splendid condition and promise a good yield” (July 20, 1917). Ezra Thompson farmed land adjacent to the Anderson spread  in 1917 and a photograph of his horse-pulled combine taken in the Twenties shows the kind of threshing equipment Grey described in the novel. The picture was recently transformed into a colorful City of Connell building mural by Pullman artist Pat Boyer.