Alfredo Jeronimo, a young grower from Wenatchee, Washington
TJ Mullinax // February 16, 2017
family background/Alfredo grew up working in orchards alongside his father. After starting a family, Alfredo followed his interests in the packing side of the industry and is currently pursuing goals in orchard management. age/30 grower/Wenatchee, Washington crops/Apples and cherries business/Kyle Mathison Orchards, Inc.
How did you get your start?
My family started off as cherry pickers after they moved up to Washington from California. I did a lot of things helping in the orchard.
I was a swamper during cherry season, hauling the lugs and dumping them into the bin trailer to flagging for Dad.
I did just about all the jobs you do in the orchard, from winter pruning, carrying the chainsaws, loppers and other equipment, too. I knew this work. I had to find a job somewhere after high school.
By the time my son was 2 years old, I needed to financially provide for him, and with the warehouse being the main source of work in the Wenatchee Valley, I decided to skip college and go straight into the workforce.
When did you decide working in tree fruit was for you?
When I was 20 years old working as an optical operator with Stemilt Growers. The thing that’s pushed me is my desire to learn.
I felt like working in the warehouse industry was a final stop for me, and I wanted to expand my horizons, gain more knowledge about the tree fruit industry. About 8 years ago I transitioned to Mathison Orchards.
What did you learn from that early work experience?
Some of the supervisors in warehouses have similar knowledge that I’ve gained. I set myself apart by being approachable to everyone.
Some of the stuff that’s helped me in the industry is learning new things and being open to new techniques. Most of all, being a good foundation for people coming up in the industry, helping them out whenever possible and not holding onto information for yourself.
My perspective is that when you learn new stuff, hand it off to others. Let others experience all the knowledge and growth that you’ve experienced throughout your career.
How does being bilingual help you?
It’s important not just because the industry has grown a lot, but because there’s still a lot of miscommunication at times.
I thought I would bring great abilities to the packing warehouse, especially considering there weren’t too many English fluent operators of that sort.
I was one of the people who helped ensure communication was relayed to growers about their packouts and their fruit look.
I was the main person growers went to talk to — which was my main motivation at the warehouse — bridging the gap between growers and the packing house.
Why are you making the switch from warehouse to orchard?
After working and learning all I could in warehouses, I wanted to expand and gain further knowledge about the tree fruit industry.
Since the switch this year, I’ve experienced many things that I will take with me throughout my career.
What excites you about farming?
It’s exciting to think about how much production we can get out of our acreage and what new things can be done to produce more tonnage, stuff like that.
Even during a season, everything from spray programs all the way to putting it into a bin and shipping it out, all of it catches my eye and attention.
This industry is a tight-knit group of good people — people who you get to learn from, who’ve been doing it for years. It’s just a great experience.
I want to be my own producer in the next five years starting my own farm. I want to be out there with the big guys.
What would you tell younger growers?
I didn’t pursue higher education because I needed to provide for my child, but I do feel like people need to pursue an education.
You need to be well rounded when working in an industry like this. Pursue your goals. No matter if it’s short term or long term goals, pursue it. Always go for it.
TJ Mullinax joined Good Fruit Grower as digital producer and photojournalist in 2013. He photographs and edits visual stories for the print magazine and online publishing spaces. Along with editorial production, TJ develops and maintains the magazine’s digital products. -- Follow the author: Phone: (509) 853-3519 -- Email