age / 24 crops / manages cherry and apple orchards business / Roy Farms. Curtis is part of the fifth generation working the family farm. education / BS in Agriculture Economics at Washington State University
Q: What was your path to farming? Growing up, I saw Dad waking up at one in the morning to go out and do frost protection for the cherries and apples—it didn’t sound fun at the time. When I was older, I found that putting in the extra work pays off in the fruit that you get to harvest.
Q: What challenges have you faced? Labor. The problem will only get worse in the future. It’ll come down to how farmers adapt, whether they go through the H-2A guest-worker program or go more into mechanical-assisted harvesting.
Q: How are you adapting to that challenge? There are different training systems for fruit. For cherries, there’s the new UFO system where it’s mechanically assisted with fewer pickers needed. For apples, there’s new harvesting technology that assists pickers. I’m excited about these new technologies and getting more efficiencies out in the field.
Q: What technology do you want to get into the field now? The electronic irrigation systems. I know they’ve been around a little while and they are still being developed, but I mean the ability to turn on your irrigation from your iPhone or iPad will just make things a little bit easier, and hopefully less labor involved.
Q: What excites you about farming? For me, I mean—I’m still amazed every time during harvest, whether cherries or apples, I see that every single piece of fruit is picked by hand. It still amazes me that people go to the supermarket and they don’t know the effort that goes into it. They don’t know the guys waking up at 1 a.m. to turn on wind machines or, to do irrigation at 6 o’clock in the morning every day. It’s the little things. The day-to-day things that farmers do that makes a consumer’s life easier. I can’t believe that I’m going to be part of that.
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