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Oasis Farms company sign outside of their new office in Prosser, Washington. <b>(TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)</b>

Oasis Farms company sign outside of their new office in Prosser, Washington. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

For Grower of the Year Brenton Roy of Oasis Farms, life isn’t just about the crops. It’s about the people, too.

In addition to serving on boards to promote and lead the hop industry, Roy also has given time to wine associations that lobby on behalf of and help to educate growers and promote growers’ interests.

He is the former chair of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers and Wine Grape Growers of America, is vice-chair of the Washington Wine Commission and is a founding member of Wine Yakima Valley.

With a wife, three children, and a growing farm operation to run, why devote so much time to industry organizations?

“Early on in my career, I really was pretty unprepared to take on this kind of responsibility. Those board involvements helped me learn each industry much faster than I would have otherwise,” he said.

And over the years, he’s found he gets a lot out of serving: intellectual stimulation, an intimate knowledge of the political side of the respective industry of that organization, and getting to know people he otherwise might not meet. “The standout thing is getting to know the people,” he said.

Todd Newhouse, current chair of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers who has served with Roy, considers him a model for future board chairs. “He has a good head for farming and politics, and his opinions are usually really well researched and backed up,” said Newhouse, a member of Good Fruit Grower’s advisory board.

WAWGG Executive Director Vicky Scharlau has seen board members come and go over the years. She noted that it’s often difficult for people who are the boss of their own operations and who run successful companies to be in a room with eight other people to make a decision jointly.

Roy’s skills as chairman stood out, she said. “He knows when to lead, he knows when to be part of the pack, and he knows when sometimes he has to push from behind. He’s an astute student of interactions of people and how they best listen, how they best provide input, and also how to progress an issue. That’s a real skillset.”

She also noted the delicate balance he struck as chair of the national wine grape growers board, since Washington is No. 2 in production behind California.

“We can be completely overshadowed, or we can stand up and not do things in a consensus-based process,” she said. “He did it exceptionally well and laid a lot of groundwork for how that should be done within the organization for future generations of board members.” •

– by Shannon Dininny