Anel Dorantes, a young grower from Tieton, Washington
TJ Mullinax // December 4, 2017
family background / Anel grew up on her father’s farm with five younger brothers and sisters and has since taken over the farm, operating it with her mother after he passed away a few years ago. She plans to pursue agricultural science and grow the family orchard. She is the daughter of Pedro Dorantes and Rosanel Aldama.
age / 19 crops / Apples business / Dorantes Orchards
How did you get your start? Dad used to take me out irrigating with him from when I was about 6 years old, running hand lines. We’d take care of the irrigation in the evening, when it wasn’t hot.
Then, just as I was finishing high school, he suddenly passed away in the spring, right when the farm was getting ready to thin apples.
What did you face after your father died? Dad started out with his own orchard when I was about 10 years old. He worked his way up, renting nearby orchards, then he bought another one.
When he passed away it left us with a really big orchard that mom didn’t know what to do with. We didn’t know how to farm, how to manage the property — it was really hard on us.
Dealing with the upcoming crop and the loans — we didn’t even know who was going to work that orchard during that time.
Mom and Dad are young and he didn’t have a will, so there were questions about who the orchard was going to be left to.
Shortly after that, I turned 18 and had everything transferred into my name. There was a lot of work trying to get me ready and setting up business accounts. Everything moved so fast.
Through all that, my dad wasn’t here. Mom had to do all this on her own and still take care of my five other siblings.
Why did you choose to become a farmer? I was still undecided about what I wanted to do. When the responsibility of the orchard came to me, I realized that I had to do this.
I had to take that responsibility to keep the farm going. In a lot of ways, I’m glad I took this challenge because now I have a reason to continue learning about farming and to improve this business. I like having that responsibility.
What were the first things you had to learn? At first, Mom and I’d go to agricultural classes and meetings at night.
The first thing I had to learn after Dad passed away was attending accounting classes for the farm. It was difficult because I was finishing up high school at the time.
We also were figuring out the lease arrangements, equipment and land assets for the loans. Then Mom and I went through the Labor and Industries courses to manage our workers.
I also made the decision to go through the pesticide training courses so we could spray our trees instead of relying on others.
Are there challenges being a Latina in a largely male industry? It’s been a challenge. I remember in the pesticide class, my mom and I were the only women, so there were times that were uncomfortable.
At the same time, I liked the challenge, because whatever a guy can do, I can do as well. I can prove it, break barriers to help others what I’ve learned — especially Latinas.
Another thing is I’m really young, so getting other people to work for me, especially guys to listen to me, is tough. Sometimes they look like, “You don’t know what you’re doing,” or “We have more experience than you do,” even though I’m the owner. Sometimes it’s weird telling them what to do because they may not want to listen.
They are getting orders from a kid that’s a girl; it’s not even a guy, it’s a girl. I know I may not be as tough as they are, but I’m trying. I keep motivated by telling myself, “I’m a minority, I’m really young, I’m a girl — so what? I’m still doing this.”
That’s what keeps me going. I can prove to others that I can do it. And try not to fall into the criticism, because you will get a lot of criticism. Tell yourself that you can always get better.
What do you enjoy about farming? I like watching all the work pay off. Although it’s a hard process helping the fruit grow, it’s worth it seeing how well they do.
I’ve also enjoyed going to the classes and learning things that not every 19-year-old gets to experience. I’ve got a sense of running a business, first hand.
Being a farmer isn’t just about going out and growing apples and working in the orchards. It’s also about doing your paperwork, filing everything and making sure the business runs. The work pays off and you can see your farm grow.
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