Seventeen years ago, when Don and Julia Ellis set out to create an agro-tourism destination on the Trinity River, they never imagined tossing pizzas and roasting coffee in a house made of straw. Now Don, head pizza chef and chief roaster, wouldn’t want it any other way. The Strawhouse Café & Resorts is perched just off Highway 299 in Big Flat, California, a hitching post sized town halfway between Redding and the Pacific coast. The scenic highway hugs the bubbling whitewater and blue-green pools of the Trinity River as it rushes west. Nearly every year, winter storms send massive boulders bouncing down the mountainside, resulting in frequent road closures and long delays. After an onslaught of rain last winter, the highway was closed, incredibly enough, for two long months. In this wild and mountainous country, even on an average year, the challenge in accessing fresh and organic foods is huge. Against all odds, the Strawhouse Café has been weathering the storm for seventeen years.
“We wanted to farm. We wanted to be truly self-sustainable,” says Don, reflecting on the dreams that led them to Big Flat. After selling most their possessions, the Ellises bought a truck and headed north, leaving … Read More