Craig Harris, a young grower from Moxee, Washington
TJ Mullinax // July 6, 2017
family background / Craig is a fourth-generation farmer who graduated from Whitworth College. He grew up on a farm that was transitioning from chickens to cherries and apples — a project his grandfather Bob took on when Craig was young. Craig is the son of Jim and Dianne and brother of Krista and Karlee. grower / Moxee, Washington age / 29 crops / Cherries, apples and wine grapes business / Harris Farms, Inc.
How did you get your start?
When I was younger, I remember changing hand lines in my family’s wheat fields for summer cash and playing with all the chickens in the barns.
It wasn’t until after high school that I started working cherry harvests. One of my greatest memories was riding around in the back of my grandfather’s pickup with my cousins.
He’d take us around the orchards with the biggest of smiles. The joy he’d get from bringing his grandkids around the farm and showing us the fruits of his labor — I’ve always respected him for that, and that’s a big reason I returned to the farm.
How are you finding your place on the farm?
Agriculture is a really complex industry, and I’ve been blown away by how many things I’ve got to learn. I’ve tried to come into the farm with a fresh perspective and look at things through a different lens.
Food safety is a role that I’ve taken over. I’ve been working with all of the paperwork and traceability, to all of the documents showing what’s being done.
The tasks are all things we’ve done forever, but we’ve never had to have the documents ready to go for review. Going through this process has helped me learn about what we do on the farm.
While I’m learning, I’m also developing written plans for those procedures and putting them into practice.
The task of documenting everything is something my grandpa and dad don’t really want to deal with, so I can come in and do what has to be done. I’m ready to take on new roles, like food safety, for the company.
What new projects excite you?
This is the first year transitioning a bunch of our cherries to organic.
It’s been a cool opportunity because I’m learning something that my grandpa or dad has never done. I’m able to learn alongside them, ask the same questions they have, and figure out what our biggest struggles will be.
Growing organically comes with a whole set of problems, and I really enjoy the challenge. Another project that I’m working on is testing hand blossom thinning.
When I was handed the reins on this project, I went to a few other farms to learn.
We want to get more consistent return bloom, packouts and improve quality with this technique. It’s been a fun project that I’ve been able to dive into this past spring.
What would you tell younger growers about this industry?
There’s a lot more opportunities in this industry now than when I was a kid.
Whether it’s in research, farming, packing, sales, mechanical, there’s tons of awesome opportunities, and it’s a great industry to be part of.
Something I wish I knew when I was in high school is realizing you’re never going to know it all.
I was really nervous about returning and had to work through my feelings of not knowing enough, not being able to contribute.
I’ve learned that having a fresh perspective can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because working in agriculture is a life filled with learning.
Why are you a farmer?
It’s not just the work; it’s a lifestyle. It’s something I truly enjoy because it’s not just a job.
My grandfather was very passionate about growing cherries, and my father and I followed suit.
We’re kind of a cherry-first family — it’s our passion. From season to season, it’s always exciting. By the time you’re sick of cherry harvest, you’re onto apple harvest.
Once you’re sick of apple harvest, you’ll be ready for pruning, then you finally get some downtime that runs right into spring. I think the changes are part of why I love 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