family background / Fletcher is a fourth-generation farmer who graduated from the University of Utah. He’s the son of Tami and Brian Hukari.

grower/Hood River, Oregon
crops/Pears, apples and blueberries
business/Hukari Orchards

How did you get your start?
I was pretty shy as a kid around the farm. When I started taking Spanish classes in high school and college, I found the school Spanish didn’t translate well into the orchard.

For me, when I found that one person who was willing to help me enhance my vocabulary, that’s when I really started to enjoy myself on the farm.

You learn to have fun while you’re working and, for me, it was because I was able to communicate with pretty much everyone who was working here.

Has that skill helped you on the farm?
In some ways. Several of my tasks could be considered on the human relations side of the business.

Making sure the employees enjoy coming to work is one of the best things I think I can be doing for the farm. Whether it’s working with a full-time employee or a seasonal worker, or just someone who comes by to pick blueberries for a week, they all have stories and I enjoy hearing them.

I believe the connection you make with people leads to higher work quality. Being able to communicate with everyone on the farm helps create relationships with those who you want to work with year after year.

What are some of your work challenges?
Finding labor during pear harvest is a challenge because there are so many other local pear farms who need workers.

The available labor pool in the Hood River Valley really gets stretched. What I’ve been helping out with the most is the H-2A process.

With our packer, we share a pool of H-2A workers, and we house six people here every year. I’m directly involved with everything that goes along with being a good host for the guys.

What are some of your personal challenges?
I’m not a morning person. That can be a challenge because there’s so many critical things that need to be done on the farm in the morning. Tractor time can be rough on the body.

Yoga is pretty important because you don’t want a bad back in your older age. If you are a younger grower working on the family farm, let your family know that your health and safety is paramount.

What are you working on for the future?
I went to college and studied film and art media — and it’s an industry I still have a lot of interest in. I’ve been able to do some documentary and branded advertising work.

Because my job on the farm is largely seasonal, I’ve been able to dip my toe into that industry and see if I like it. It’s one of the amazing benefits of working on a farm.

Now I’m at a point in my life where I’m wondering about the career paths in front of me and what I’ll choose long term.

What would you tell other younger growers?
If a younger grower was looking at career options, I’d advise they try to keep things in balance. Keep your day job, so to speak, and in the free moments when you aren’t working on the farm, work on your passion projects or skillsets that you have an inkling for.

It’s really beneficial to do this because it’ll help you discover what’s really important to you and what makes you happy. You can follow that joy — whichever direction it takes you.

—by TJ Mullinax