The Pleasant Valley Farms Story

This pickle’s the real deal. It snaps. It crunches. Spiced and brined by the master artisans at Pleasant Valley Farms, it releases subtle layers of flavors that linger on the tongue. There are none of the chemical aftertastes or mushy interiors of bland big-company brands, produced with fructose syrups and artificial extracts.

This small-scale operation still insists on using real cane sugar, sea salt and all-natural spices. “Using artificial extracts would be cheaper, but they don’t taste right,” says Pleasant Valley Farms president Craig Staffanson. “Food has to taste right, and it has to taste good. We don’t eat food we don’t like.”

The picklers at Pleasant Valley Farms ensure freshness by rushing local-grown Skagit Valley cucumbers straight from the vine to the brine. They use well water, to prevent chlorine from interrupting the fermentation process. These craftsmen do things the old-fashioned way.

The result is a crisp, perfect, hand-packed pickle that exudes a clean but complex Northwest flavor coveted by connoisseurs.

“Pleasant Valley Farms has rewritten the quality standards for a pickle spear, pickle relish, pickle chips and sauerkraut,” wrote the editor of Scoop magazine. The editor cited the company for its “acute expectation for doing things right.”

That concern for quality infuses every daily operation at Pleasant Valley Farms. The plant, with 400 brine tanks, is located on a wooded knoll overlooking the fertile fields of the Skagit Valley, a place renowned worldwide for its pastoral beauty. Its rich delta soils and temperate climate create a perfect environment for growing the finest cucumber pickles in the world. The mild climate also supports a 28-day fermentation process that is ideal for keeping flavors tangy and textures fresh.

Until 2001, the valley produced 3,000 acres of top-quality cucumbers for big-name regional producers such as Farman’s and Nalley’s. Over the next few years, those iconic family-owned Northwest companies were bought up by a large food conglomerate, prompting Staffanson and his fellow Skagit farmers to take a hard look at the industry. They didn’t like what they saw.

Big pickling producers were leaving the Skagit Valley and turning to Sri Lanka and India for cheaper product and processing. Because of the warmer climates, these brined pickles tended to be soft inside, with a skunky aroma. Quality was slipping in America, too, where mass-produced pickles were coming off the lines with an increasingly flat, homogenized flavor.

Staffanson, who’d begun his pickling career with a cucumber-sorting operation in the Skagit Valley, was concerned that the centuries-old, small-town art of pickling in America could be lost. “The skill of fermenting was leaving the country. I thought, ‘Someday we’re going to want that skill, that ancient way of food preservation.’”

The young farmer was also concerned that Skagit Valley would lose one of its most stable and economically viable crops. Cucumbers had been farmed in the valley for more than half a century, with seed-to-harvest know-how passed from one generation to the next.

Staffanson and his fellow farmers saw an opportunity in the U.S. market for a top-quality, local, old-fashioned, fair-value product.  They saw that the place to produce it was right here, at home.

To help finance an expanded pickling operation, Pleasant Valley Farms turned to fellow farmers in the Skagit Valley, a place that has depended on neighbor helping neighbor ever since its first settlers teamed up to build dikes in the late 1800s. Community members and supportive farmers, many of them third-generation cucumber and cabbage growers, dug deep in their pockets and rallied to the pickle cause.

Today, there are still 1,000 acres of cucumbers and 50 acres of cabbage growing in the Skagit Valley, all dedicated to Pleasant Valley Farms, the only pickle and sauerkraut processor remaining in the Pacific Northwest and one of  the last true American pickle companies.

The rapidly expanding company projects sales growth of 25 percent per year over the next three years, which could eventually boost production to 2,000 acres for cucumbers and 100 acres for cabbage. In the classic four-year Skagit farming rotation that means about 9,000 acres would be kept in economically viable farming.

The company’s current business concentrates on wholesalers.  It has already captured 50 percent of the food-service market in the Pacific Northwest. The long-range plan is to expand and grow into retail sales. Conglomerate food processors have created a huge hole in the retail market for the sophisticated, farm-fresh pickles perfected at Pleasant Valley Farms.

Brine master John Vukic and flavor formulator Ben Lee, the master artisans behind that sophisticated taste, have developed their secret pickling blends from treasured 100-year old recipes. The blends typically include more than a dozen natural spices, plus garlic and sugar as called for. Exacting quality-control managers run checks at every stage of production to make sure the Kosher-certified pickles and the organic, non-vinegared sauerkraut deserve the company imprimatur.

They check for flaws, for crunch. They check to make sure spices are properly nuanced, that a pickle has the satisfying mouth-feel, complexity of flavor, and lingering finish that characterize a Pleasant Valley Farms product. “The human brain and tongue like a complicated flavor. The more complicated, the more they like it,” says veteran flavor master Lee.

Creating that flavor takes more time, more skill, more patience and perseverance. But the effort’s worth it.

The proof is in the pickle.

“We go to market with the best possible product,” says Staffanson.




“PLEASANT VALLEY FARMS is dedicated to providing the highest quality food product to the market with cornerstones of old-fashioned production, a healthy and affordable line of products, a sustainable legacy for its employees and the community at large, and a quality product with a commitment to its customers.”


Provide a product of superior quality matched with superior customer service.

Provide local producers a viable market, keeping agriculture sustainable in the Skagit Valley.

Employ best management practices that promote profitability, sustainability, and environmental stewardship.

Promote a productive and safe working environment that offers Pleasant Valley Farms employees  opportunity for satisfying long-term employment


PVF is the first new value-added vegetable processor in Western Washington in 25 years;  Twin Cities Foods (Stanwood) is the only other large processor remaining in Northwest  Washington

2008 net sales = $8.6 million; 2009 projected sales = $11 million

50 full-time employees and 150 seasonal laborers

Established in 1996, to market western Washington- grown  cucumbers through a value added process of washing, sizing, grading and brining

Owned and operated by third-generation farmers and food manufacturing specialists

Major community and farm leaders are investors and supporters

The facility meets the needs of processors in Western Washington and Oregon  for fresh and brined cucumber product line, eliminating the need for cucumbers to be shipped out-of-state

With the closure of regional pickle processors, Pleasant Valley Farms has captured 50 per cent of the food service market for pickles and sauerkraut in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska, as well as expanding into California and the upper Midwest.

In 2008, Skagit County farmers grew 1,000 acres of cucumbers and 50 acres of cabbage for pickle and sauerkraut production (20 million pounds of cucumbers and 4 million pounds of cabbage)..

By 2012, at present rates of production increase, the Skagit Valley will produce 2,000 acres of pickling cucumbers  and 100 acres of cabbage

Increasing market share creates the opportunity to increase cucumber  and cabbage production and keep farmland economically viable in Skagit County

PRODUCTS (conventional and organic)

“Old- fashioned” - brined in vats with hundreds of pounds of pickling spices for each batch

“Glacier” - pickled in refrigerated containers with unique spice blends


Genuine dills

Kosher dills

Glacier deli dill

Glacier Bread and Butter chips



Hamburger relish

Dill relish

Sweet relish


CUSTOMERS (selection)

Food service

Food Service of America (FSA)

Costco Business Centers

Unified Western Grocers

Food Manufacturers

Bernstein Salad Dressings

Lighthouse Foods

Pickle Manufacturers

M.A. Gedney Company

Klein  Pickle Company

Chicago Pickle Company

Restaurant Chains

Dairy Queen

In-N-Out Burgers

Burgerville, USA

White Spot

Retail Grocery

Puget  Consumer Co-Op ( PCC)


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