Albert Ravenholt 1919-2010
Albert Ravenholt, a founding partner of Sagemoor Farms, Pasco, Washington, was a visionary.
Albert Ravenholt was, among many other things, a visionary. In 1968, he and founding Sagemoor Farms partner Alec Bayless shared a belief that tree fruit and wine grapes would thrive in Washington’s Columbia Basin, an area then still mainly scrub brush and tumbleweeds. Ravenholt of Seattle, Washington died on April 25 at the age of 90.
Though Ravenholt traveled extensively in his life as a foreign correspondent and analyst and was well connected— photos of foreign diplomats, U.S. presidents, and military generals he met lined his wall—grape and tree fruit production were one of his passions, said Seattle’s Winslow Winslet, a Sagemoor Farms partner who invested in the partnership in 1971.
John Pringle of Kennewick, Washington, an early Sagemoor employee, said that Ravenholt had tremendous energy, a brilliant and photographic mind, and was interested in new fruit varieties and more efficient ways of farming. He was an expert in the world food supply, and had a farm in the Philippines as well as Washington State.
Sagemoor Farms started with about 300 acres of tree fruit, mostly, cherries, mixed with pears, peaches, prunes, and open ground, according to Kent Waliser, Sagemoor's general manager. In the early 1970s, some of the original tree fruits were replaced with cherries. Later, as crops were replaced and adjoining property purchased, Sagemoor Farms grew to 550 acres comprising 230 acres of cherries, 180 acres of apples, and 170 acres of wine grapes. Three other partnerships were formed for the Bacchus and Dionysus Vineyards (350 acres) and Weinbau Vineyards (450 acres).
Pringle was involved in planting about 600 acres of Sagemoor’s wine grapes that are credited with helping to establish the state’s wine industry. According to Ronald Irvine’s book “The Wine Project – Washington’s Winemaking History,” Sagemoor Vineyards became important because it had no captive winery and was a crucial supplier to small wineries throughout the Pacific Northwest. “It can be said that Sagemoor Farms and its companion vineyards (Bacchus and Dionysus) truly became the mother vineyards for many of the first wineries that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s.”
Dennis Courtier of Pepin Heights Orchard in Lake City, Minnesota, first met Ravenholt in 1977 during a trip to China sponsored by what was then called the International Dwarf Tree Fruit Association. “He was the real deal, interested in everything,” Courtier said, adding that Ravenholt and his wife Marjorie befriended him on the trip, and they developed a lasting friendship.
Ravenholt, one of ten children, grew up during the Great Depression on a family farm in Milltown, Wisconsin. He attended one semester of college before hitchhiking from the New York World’s Fair in the summer of 1939 to California where he signed on as cook on a Swedish freighter sailing for Asia. Realizing war was imminent; he got off in Shanghai, China. Starting in 1941, with Japan already waging war against China, he led relief convoys for the International Red Cross on the Burma Road and into the Chinese interior. From 1942-46, he served as a war correspondent for the United Press International in the China-Burma-India theatre.
In 1946, he married Marjorie Severyns, a Sunnyside, Washington native serving with the State Department’s wartime intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services. When they returned to the United States, the couple kept a home in Seattle and The Philippines and he continued to write for the Chicago Daily News and the Institute of Current World Affairs until 1978, reporting on the communist takeover in China and Southeast Asian affairs.
He wrote several books on Asia and lectured as a founding member of the American Universities Field Staff, which was a collection of writers and analysts posted around the globe to bring foreign affairs information back to the member universities.
He is preceded in death by his wife Marjorie and is survived by four sisters and three brothers.