Virtue of the Week: Enterprise

The Farmer and His Sons

A farmer, being at death’s door, and desiring to impart to his sons a secret of much moment, called them round him and said, “My sons, I am shortly about to die. I would have you know, therefore, that in my vineyard there lies a hidden treasure. Dig, and you will find it.” As soon as their father was dead, the sons took spade and fork and turned up the soil of the vineyard over and over again, in their search for the treasure which they supposed to lie buried there. They found none, however: but the vines, after so thorough a digging, produced a crop such as had never before been seen. There is no treasure without toil.

Enterprise of the Traeger Family

Traeger Bros. original locationThe legacy of the Traeger family stretches back across the centuries to the Tauber River Valley of rural Germany, where Friederich Traeger and his family immigrated from to the United States. As the Traegers became settled in their new homeland they tried their hand at farming, blacksmithing, and operating a tavern in South Dakota.

During the Great Depression of the 1930’s Joe Traeger, Sr. journeyed to Oregon, where he fell in love with the bountiful land of the Willamette Valley. Writing to the family in South Dakota, he convinced them to move to Oregon. The rest of the Traeger family joined Joe, Sr. in Mt. Angel, Oregon.

Traeger BrothersIn 1939, Joe Traeger, Sr. and his brother Tony opened a business called “Traeger Brothers”, a combination blacksmith metal fab shop, trailer building facility and cabinet making operation. (In fact, the original foundry building, which housed Traeger Bros., is still being used to this day.)

Joe Sr., and Tony worked hard and along with their perspiration came inspiration in the form of new inventions, including the “stake setter, “pole bean stringer”, and “screw-in-the-ground-anchor”. Tragically, Tony would pass away in 1953, with Joe Sr. passing away the following year.

Joe Traeger JrIn 1959, Joe Traeger Jr., began working in his cousin Leo’s heating business (Traeger Heating) located in Mt. Angel. Three years later, Joe bought out his cousin’s interest and took over the business, which supported his growing family of nine children. Sons Randy, Mark, and eventually Brian and Greg Traeger would join their father in this growing enterprise. Joe Jr., like his father developed a knack for inventing. In 1978, he developed the Elf Wood Furnace. The following year, Joe incorporated as EWF Corporation and began production of wood-fired furnaces. The Elf line would grow to a dozen different models.

Fate In A Bucket

In 1982 an old farmer walked into Traeger Heating with a tin bucket full of wood pellets that he had picked up somewhere (most likely from the original Woodex Pellet Mill in Brownsville), and asked Joe if he thought he could figure out a way of burning them. Joe threw them in an old wood fired boiler. They didn’t burn well, so he added a blower and it burned a little better. He then made a little firepot, it burned even better, etc., etc. The first Pellet Fired Furnaces and Stoves were installed in the local area in 1982. The business experienced strong growth and the stove line was eventually sold to Earth Stove in 1987.

Traeger licensed their Central Heating Products line of commercial and residential furnaces and boilers in 1992. Both product lines continue to be manufactured and sold today under the Traeger brand name.

As heating products (stoves and furnaces) were licensed off to other manufacturing companies, Traeger’s attention focused more and more on the barbecue business. What was once a small part of the business has grown into what could be the most successful product line ever conceived by the Traeger family.

The Traeger’s remarkable success is due to the innovative spirit of the Traeger family and ingenuity of Joe Traeger who along with his four sons continue to tinker with new ideas for improving peoples lives.