Saturday, 23 February 2019

C Columns

New Choices Doreys lead thriving food, church ministries

By Gaye Bunderson


April  Dorey  checks  some  of  the  plants  her  and  her  husband  Rick  grow  in  their  greenhouse  at  New  Choices  Farms  in  Emmett.  The  couple  also  leads  a  church  in  Boise  known  as  New  Choices  Fellowship.  The  Doreys  give  away  a  percentage  of  the  food  they  grow  to  help  reduce  food  needs  in  southwest  Idaho.  (Photo  by  Gaye  Bunderson)

Rick  and  April  Dorey  managed  to  become  ministers  and  farmers  without  any  training  in  either  vocation.  What  opened  so  many  doors  for  them  was  dutiful  submission.

“We  just  learned  over  the  years  to  obey  God,”  Rick  Dorey  said.

Their  original  occupations  included  computers  for  Rick  and  cleaning  homes  for  April.

Rick  grew  up  in  a  Catholic  home  with  parents  who  mainly  went  to  church  only  when  they  needed  something.  Then,  after  he  was  grown  up  and  met  and  married  April,  the  couple's  infant  daughter  died  of  spinal  meningitis.

“I  was  so  angry  at  God,”  Rick  said,  “I  used  to  shake  my  fist  at  Him.”

His  anger  led  him  toward  alcohol  and  substance  abuse.  April  said  that  she  was  sad  after  the  loss  of  their  baby  but  not  mad  —  they  tend  to  process  things  differently,  she  explained.

God  worked  on  their  hearts  over  the  intervening  years  until,  one  day,  they  met  church  leadersRay  and  Katherine  Smith  at  Eagle  Christian  Center.  “We  started  going  back  to  church  when  we met  Ray  and  Katherine  and  saw  what  real  Christianity  looked  like,”  said  Rick  who,  at  63,  now  realizes  God  used  his  past  experiences  to  give  him  compassion  for  people  in  similar  circumstances.

Along  with  active  involvement  in  the  Smiths'  church,  Rick  and  April  also  worked  with  Kimbra  Shaw,  executive  director  at  LOVE  Inc.,  as  well  as  Denie  Tackett,  founder  of  a  food  ministry  for  the  homeless  called  Mosaic  Street  Ministry.

While  attending  church  services,  Rick  said  he'd  listen  to  the  sermon  and  think  how  he'd  have  done  it  differently  —  “not  being  critical,”  he's  quick  to  say,  just  starting  to  be  comfortable  with  the  idea  that  maybe  he  could  stand  in  front  of  a  congregation  and  give  a  lesson.  The  notion  was  confirmed  when  the  Smiths  told  him  they  felt  they  had  started  the  church  for  him  to  take  it  over.  The  Doreys  were  associate  pastors  with  the  Smiths  until  that  church  door  closed  —  the  Lord  had  other  plans.

“God  told  me,  'I'm  going  to  send  you  people  who've  been  hurt  by  church,  and  you're  going  to love  on  them  and  they're  going  to  make  new  choices,'”  Rick  said.

In  October  of  2009,  New  Choices  Fellowship  was  born.  Over  the  years,  the  fellowship  met  in Chapel  of  the  Chimes  and  then  in  a  warehouse.  For  the  past  four  years,  services  have  been  held  at  Cloverdale  Funeral  Home's  reception  center.  

“It's  just  like  a  conference  room,”  April  said.

About  25  people  regularly  attend.  

“We  have  an  intimate  group;  we  have  an  open  format,”  Rick  said.  “I  may  speak,  but  people  share  their  own  gifts,  talents,  and  what  they're  hearing  from  the  Holy  Spirit.”

Rick's  day  job  for  many  years  was  working  at  Boise  State  Public  Radio.  “I  took  care  of  their  overall  network  for  all  their  stations,”  he  said.

After  he  began  serving  on  weekends  with  his  own  and  others'  ministries,  he  would  go  to  work  on  Monday  mornings  and  —  typical  for  workplaces  —  people  began  talking  about  what  they  did  on  Saturday  and  Sunday.  They  would  talk  about  getting  drunk,  for  instance;  and  while  Rick  remained  non-judgmental,  when  they  asked  him  how  he  passed  his  weekend,  he  would  reply  that  he  had  seen  people  healed  and  saved.  

He  was  ultimately  approached  by  management.

“They  told  me,  'We  don't  want  you  to  preach  or  try  to  convert  others,'”  Rick  said,  explaining  he  had  only  talked  about  his  weekends  when  asked  and  never  tried  to  push  any  points  of  view  on  anyone.  

“If  I  had  been  drunk  over  the  weekend,  I  wouldn't  have  been  in  so  much  trouble,”  he  said.

Rick  and  April  lived  in  Boise's  North  End  at  the  time,  and  in  order  to  help  ministries  helping  people  with  food  needs,  they  began  growing  a  garden.  Rick  studied  up  on  aquaponics,  the  full  definition  of  which  is,  “Any  system  that  combines  conventional  aquaculture  (raising  aquatic  animals  such  as  snails,  fish,  crayfish  or  prawns  in  tanks)  with  hydroponics  (cultivating  plants  in water)  in  a  symbiotic  environment  (from” In  its  simplest  form,  it's  using  fish  waste  to  nutrify  plants,  and  then  recirculating  the  water.

They  harvested  as  many  plants  as  they  could  grow  in  their  backyard,  and  they  started  to  ask  themselves,  “How  do  we  maximize  what  we  raise?”  They  prayed  about  it  and  felt  God  was  saying,  “Do  it  bigger.”

They  initially  took  that  to  mean  “do  it  bigger”  in  the  backyard,  until  they  figured  out  it  was  time  for  them  to  move  to  a  place  with  more  space.  They  searched  the  Treasure  Valley  for  the  right  piece  of  property;  they  knew  they  wanted  ample  room  for  crops.  They  looked  at  a  number of  properties  until,  finally,  they  found  a  plot  of  land  outside  of  Boise,  30  miles  away,  in  Emmett.

“I  stepped  out  of  the  car  and  put  my  foot  on  this  property  and  said,  'This  is  it!,'”  said  April.

Just  over  9  acres  at  5445  W.  Highway  52  is  the  site  of  New  Choices  Farms,  where  the  Doreys  moved  in  2015.  Rick  left  BSU  and  took  his  retirement  savings  with  him,  and  the  Emmett  property  became  not  only  their  new  home  but  an  expansion  of  their  food  ministry  as  well.  With  help  from  others  —  including  Kimbra  Shaw  and  her  son,  as  well  as  a  homeless  man  the  Doreys  befriended  named  Forrest  Tucker  —  they  constructed  a  3,000-square-foot  greenhouse  on  the  acreage.  When  they  raised  the  rafters  on  the  greenhouse  —  which  was  paid  for  by  Rick's  retirement  money  —  it  felt  like  an  old-fashioned  barn  raising.  Afterwards,  they  talked,  shared  and  prayed,  Rick  said.

There  is  a  972-square-foot  home  on  the  property  and  a  smaller  greenhouse  where  they  hope  to  grow  plants  to  sell.  They  also  have  an  open  garden  separate  from  the  greenhouse  and  a  chicken  coop,  with  chickens  roaming  freely  —  85  chickens  in  all,  providing  farm-fresh  eggs.

Rick  admits  that  if  he  had  known  more  about  agriculture  at  the  time  he  looked  at  the  Emmett  property,  he  likely  would  have  seen  some  of  its  worst  flaws.  

“If  I  had  looked  at  it  from  a  farmer's  standpoint,  I  would  have  walked  away,”  he  said.

The  pasture  had  been  over-grazed,  and  the  soil  was  depleted.  The  Doreys  are  working  to  steward  the  property  better  than  its  original  owners  and  will  enrich  the  soil  and  farm  the  land  sustainably.  Everything  raised  there  will  be  natural  and  organic.

Rick  took  a  master  gardener  course  and  continues  to  study  online.

Their  products  currently,  or  will  soon,  include  carrots,  beans,  peas,  and  radishes;  they'll  have root  crops  out  on  the  open-air  property,  and  in  the  greenhouse,  they'll  have  kale,  salad  mix,  herbs  and  tomatoes.  (As  of  March,  much  of  it  had  already  begun  coming  up.)  They  also  intend  to  plant  lots  of  flowers  near  the  house.

The  greenhouse  produces  1,000  plants  a  week  when  it's  in  full  bloom  and  holds  4,000  plants  in  all.  Still  working  with  aquaponics,  the  greenhouse  holds  large  fish  tanks  and  state-of-the-art    rafts  that  float  on  water  and  house  and  nourish  the  growing  plants.  The  only  thing  less-than-efficient  in  the  greenhouse  is  a  double-barreled  wood  stove  that  Rick  has  to  throw  logs  into  every  two  hours  throughout  the  colder  months,  including  during  the  night.  The  couple  is  seeking  a  gas  heater  that  would  be  more  effective  and  less  time-consuming  in  winter.

The  couple  sells  goods  at  the  Eagle  Farmers  Market  for  income  each  year.  They  give  away  roughly  10  percent  of  everything  they  grow  to  LOVE  Inc.,  Mosaic  Street  Ministry,  WICAP  (Western  Idaho  Community  Action  Partnership),  and  the  Friendship  Pantry  of  the  Emmett  Valley  Friendship  Coalition.

“This  year  will  be  a  banner  year  for  us,”  Rick  said.  “We  will  see  a  profit  for  the  first  time  since  we  moved  out  here.”

They'll  be  selling  some  of  their  produce  to  a  chef  at  Redfish  Lake;  are  getting  involved  in  a  Community  Supported  Agriculture  project;  will  work  the  Eagle  Farmers  Market,  as  well  as  have  people  come  to  the  farm  to  buy  produce;  and,  down  the  line,  will  convert  an  old  building  on  their  property  into  a  roadside  vegetable  and  plant  stand.

Rick  and  April  talk  about  the  peace  they  experience  on  the  farm.  An  employee,  Micheal  Trigg,  also  mentions  it,  stating,  “It's  the  best  job  I  ever  had  —  it's  peaceful  and  rewarding.”

“When  you're  called  to  do  something  and  you  know  it,”  Rick  said,  “you  have  peace  about  it.  You  know  that  no  matter  what  happens,  God  will  take  care  of  it.  He's  got  your  back.”

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