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Mark and Kevin StennesKevin Stennes
age /
32
crops / Apples, cherries, pears, plums and pluots
title / Organic sales manager
business / Chelan Fresh Marketing
education / Central Washington University

Mark Stennes
age /
32
crops / Apples, cherries, pears, plums and pluots
title / Orchard operations manager
business / Stennes Orchards
education / Central Washington University

Q: What challenges do you have growing in the Methow Valley?
Mark: We’re a lot different than a tree fruit farmer in the Columbia Basin or the Yakima Valley. For instance, a 550-acre grower in the basin might have two or three locations, whereas we have 14, spread over 100 miles along river benches and up on the valleys. We are spread way out, so when hail and rain storms come, it scatters out our risk. Also, farming here brings with it higher property values. Trying to plant an orchard on a riverfront parcel is much harder to do now.

Q: What’s your biggest challenge increasing the organics operation?
Kevin:
There aren’t a lot of challenges at this point when it comes to marketing organics. It’s a pretty easy sell — buyers get pretty excited about ­organics. On the growing level, however, it’s a lot more ­challenging.

Mark: The big difference with farming organic vs. conventional is being proactive and not reactive. There is not “big hammer” so to speak, that you can go out and kill a pest with. You have to go out and be really proactive about that. The more experience we gain growing organically, the better farmers we are with it because there are fewer tools to deal with ­problems. It makes you more in-tune with what’s going on in the orchard on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis.