Devon Newhouse, Young Grower from Sunnyside, Washington
TJ Mullinax // July 29, 2016
family background / Devon’s family started out raising cattle in the Yakima Valley, then moved into hops, tree fruit and grapes. He and his wife Halley operate the family farm. Devon is grandson to Irving Newhouse and son to Dan and Carol.
grower / Sunnyside, Washington age / 28 crops / Wine and juice grapes, cherries, nectarines and hops business / Vice president of Newhouse Farms Inc.
Why did you return to the farm? When I first came back, I did what I knew. Every farm needs a fabricator or a welder, and that’s what I did for the first year and that slowly changed to where I was getting called to help with other tasks.
It finally came to a point where now, I do just about every job imaginable.
What does future farming mean to you? The best thing now is that everything in farming is changing. With many of the current technological advances, you just have to be open to change and the latest discoveries.
An example would be with orchards. Every orchard I know of that’s getting pulled out is being replaced with trellis and high density. It’s the same way with grapes.
They are planting them tighter to make up for weather changes — and growing is totally open to anything you want to do. These changes are a big experiment as well.
Are you planning to use new farming techniques? A couple things — for one, tree spacing. We were at 20-by-20 spacing for all of our cherries, and that has shrunk significantly to where you need a trellis system to support the trees.
Farming has had a resurgence recently because consumers have more interest in what they’re eating and drinking.
The problem is consumers change their mind, seemingly from month to month, year to year. Agriculture can’t react that fast.
Where did you learn the horticultural aspect of the job? It was really just groundwork. I didn’t go to school for farming, I went in for construction and became a welder. When the recession hit, I lost my job, at the same time the business of farming was climbing.
And based on what I knew from growing up on the farm, when I came back, I was able to apply all that knowledge and really pay attention.
I asked questions, kept my eyes and ears open and never think that I know it all.
What horticultural lessons have you learned the hard way? For me, the biggest thing is pest management. For example, in the nectarines, we hadn’t had any mildew, then I miss one spray rotation because I was busy working with the hops and then we’re dealing with it.
Now, three years later, I hope we’re going to have the mildew cleaned up by next year. It just took one missed spray rotation to get us.
What challenges have you faced returning to the farm? I’ve been here for nine years and the challenge, for me, is trying to treat the farm like a business. For most cases, you’re out in the middle of nowhere, being your own boss.
You have to get yourself up in the morning, go out to make impactful decisions, while staying out until the sun goes down. No one’s going to hold you accountable — except your own finances.
If you try to focus solely on the business side of the farm, there’s a risk that your whole day will be consumed, seven days a week, and you’ll never get out in the field. Some people choose that, but that’s not really me.
I help with that, but having people around that I trust with the business side of the farm really helps. I work with my wife who works in the office as well as out in the field.
To have a partner like that, where we can rely on each other and share the burden, is important.
What would you tell younger growers? I’d say that farming is a lot harder than many of the jobs you can have in this world, but it’ll get better, easier and more rewarding. It’s a long-term business.
You aren’t going to see the fruits of your labor in the next quarter. Maybe in the next three or five years. When that does happen, you’ll never stop trying because you’ll want that reward again.
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