Cider mill celebrates Costco deal

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Olympia — The apple festival at Lattin's Country Cider Mill and Farm got underway Sunday, a monthlong event in which the public can visit the farm to buy apples and apple-related goodies such as their wildly popular apple fritters, see farm animals or pick out a pumpkin in time for Halloween.

But amid the activity at the farm Sunday came even bigger news: Costco stores between Seattle and Portland will begin selling Lattin's apple cider soon, said Carolyn Lattin, the longtime owner of the 25-acre, family-run farm that she operates with her two daughters on Rich Road in East Olympia.

Lattin's cider already is sold at 250 grocery stores and restaurants, she said, but supplying Costco means the farm will have to double its weekly production, from 5,000 gallons of cider to 10,000 gallons.

The farm expects its first Costco order within days, with a lead time of seven days, she said.

Although Lattin was modest about the announcement, she did acknowledge that the added exposure for the cider comes at the right time because some stores that used to sell her product have closed due to competition from discount retailers.

Lattin employs about 15 people year-round and 25 during peak season. With the addition of the Costco account, she expects to add another five people to that peak-season total.

Costco is selling her product only during cider season, which is September through Christmas. A decision about whether to sell the cider next year still has to be determined, she said.

Lattin has been making cider for 37 years. She pointed out Sunday that Thurston County is not "apple country," so she buys her apples from the Yakima area.

Once at the farm, apples are used for cider, apple butter or apple fritters - which were golden, gooey and oozing with an unmistakable aroma that patrons experienced as soon as they walked into the country store.

The farm sells 50,000 apple fritters a year, Lattin said.

Although Lattin doesn't grow her own apples, the farm grows vegetables, including pumpkins, and is home to various livestock, including turkeys.

Several people ventured out to the farm on a wet and windy Sunday.

Susan Causin of Seattle visited with family. She didn't know what to expect, but was surprised by the variety of food, including the gooseberry jam, which she found more often in her original homeland, England.

"I thought that was interesting," Causin said, adding that her uncle was standing in line to buy apple fritters.

Marie White of Kalama was picked up by her daughter from Portland, and then the two drove north to see the farm. White said that rather than drive to Hood River, Ore., for apples, they decided to check out Lattin's to buy apples and pears.

Asked what she thought of the farm, White replied, "Oh, we're coming back."