History runs deep in the O’Brien family’s orchards, which stretch along the lower Yakima River Valley just outside Prosser, Washington.
A couple of months ago, I got to spend a wonderful afternoon with brothers Mike and Craig, our two Good Fruit Growers of the Year honorees for 2014. I tagged along to help my Good Fruit Grower colleague TJ Mullinax as he took photos for this month’s issue and prepare for the special photo shoot that led to this month’s cover.
I sensed the depth of these orchards’ rich history as we wandered through rows of trees bearing big, beautiful fruit while taking in Mike’s and Craig’s insights and philosophies on growing. The history was ever present, whether they were describing the new plantings from just last spring or sharing stories about their father’s early plantings from decades ago.
But standing on a hillside overlooking acre after acre of orchard land, the valley’s history grew deeper as Mike reflected on the impact of the ancient Ice Age Floods that enriched this land. Those mighty floods, which were unleashed eons ago when massive ice dams gave way near Missoula, Montana, transformed the landscape throughout much of the Pacific Northwest.
The floods, repeated over tens of thousands of years, carved out canyons and changed landscapes. The heavy rich layers of silt that flowed in the floodwaters and settled in the valley where the O’Brien family now grows today make it one of the most fertile regions in the nation.
It was very enriching to hear their story and to be out in the field to see first hand what these two brothers and their workers have accomplished. They have a rich history of growing. One I’m sure will continue in this valley for many more years to come.