Pasco poppy farm sees success

Ken French never expected his Pasco poppy farm to be such a success.

The Kennewick native, 57, came out of retirement last year to plant four acres of poppy plants with his son, Kyle French, to harvest and sell the seedpods.

He said he is weeks away from harvesting 40 acres this year.

"Every single day we're getting new customers. It's turned out to be a lot more successful than we ever dreamed," he said.

The father-and-son-owned Poppydog Farms sells poppy seedpods wholesale and retail to more than 2,400 customers nationally.

"We allow the pods to dry on the plant before we harvest and then people purchase them for all kinds of things," Ken French said.

Crafters use the pods for ornamentation and florists grow red, pink and white-and-purple flowers with the seeds.

"They're stunningly beautiful," he said.

And the pods are big. They range from the size of a golf ball to tennis ball, he said.

The poppy popularity has given the French family's business a chance to grow.

Last year, Ken French stored his crop in a 4,000-square-foot building at the farm on 5100 Elm Road in Pasco, but to accommodate the larger harvest this year, he also will rent a 2,900-square-foot building in the Port of Kennewick's Oak Street Industrial Park.

On July 10, the port accepted the lease, which begins in August.

French said he hopes the new building will have enough space, but he might apply for the adjacent building if necessary.

He plans to hire two permanent employees to help manage the warehouses and about six temporary employees to bring in the harvest.

French is not new to running businesses in the Tri-Cities.

He and his wife owned Jack-sons Sports Bar and Restaurant in Kennewick for five years before they closed shop in January.

Before that, he was a partner of InStar Corp., an insurance software company that was bought by Vertafore Inc. in 2005.

Ken and his wife, Shanna, live at the Pasco poppy farm.

The poppies can be purchased at www.driedpoppiesdirect.com.

-- Eric Francavilla: 582-1535; efrancavilla@tricityherald.com