grower / Parkdale, Oregon
age / 21
crops / Pears, apples, cherries, peaches, blueberries, kiwi
business / Kiyokawa Orchards
family background / Catherine is a fourth-generation farmer. Her grandfather, Mamoru Kiyokawa, started growing tree fruit on the farm. Catherine works closely with her father, Randy, and older brother Cameron.
What was your path to farming?
When I went to college, I majored in business because our farm continues to expand. At the time I believed having a business degree would be a useful tool for me to have on the farm.
Not including the accounting, it was really good to learn how the everyday business functions work.
What projects would you recommend other young growers take on?
Definitely the technology aspect of the farm. Some farmers don’t even use texting or computers.
There’s tech out there that can help them, like online spray records, GlobalGAP record keeping — you have to document everything. It’s really important to stay up to date with technology because everything’s digital, paperwork-wise.
What are the goals for the future?
I’m learning how to take on projects like our GlobalGAP and Oregon Tilth certifications. About four years ago we acquired land that allowed us to obtain organic certification. Dad has since put me in charge of that project.
I’m learning how to document everything for that land including regulations, organic farm management, auditors and studying manuals. I’ve also been learning from other organic farmers — it’s taken a lot of time.
How do farmers’ markets work into your job?
My dad got this grand idea that we should go into this farmers’ market one season. Even if it was just a one-time market, we just did it. We wanted to get our fruit out there. That’s why my dad went with it, and now we are doing 26 different farmers’ markets in Oregon. It’s been a challenge.
Some markets have very specific requirements, like only wanting heirloom varieties for instance, or another one that basically wants an overload of Honeycrisp. There’s a lot of inventory to do just to keep things straight.
We have over 100 varieties of fruit and the markets will never see all of them. I know the farmers’ markets have really helped during poor seasons. Every farmer experiences off years, but it’s a cushion.
Did you see yourself returning to the farm after college?
My dad has never pushed me to come back and farm; he encouraged us to do anything and everything else.
He didn’t want us to use the farm as a crutch, however, I knew that I would not get a lifestyle like this just anywhere.
I’ve talked with several kids my age and if they want to start farming, it’s really hard for them. I find myself really blessed with the opportunity to farm. That’s what really drove me back. I want to keep this lifestyle available to my future family.
I love harvest time when my family comes together. It’s something that you just can’t get anywhere else.