family background/ Jaden and John are the fifth generation to work on the family farm. Jaden will attend the University of Montana, majoring in business, sales and marketing this fall, and John graduated from Wenatchee Valley College’s tree fruit program. Their parents are Mauri and John Griggs, and they are grandchildren to Marcus Griggs.
age/ Jaden, 18, and John, 23
grower/ Orondo, Washington
crops/ Cherries, apples, pears
business/ Griggs Farms
How did you get your start?
John — I grew up working in the orchard with my dad, mostly mowing with the tractor. When I got older, I helped with swamping, pruning and now that I’ve graduated, I’m on my own. I remember when Jaden and I were little, one of our early jobs was putting stickers on peach boxes at our old red barn. That was our job.
Jaden — Until we got promoted to do bigger jobs.
John — Promoted to working in the cold storage facility stacking boxes. Those are nice memories growing up working on the farm.
What things do you enjoy?
John — For me it’s waking up early, beating the sunrise and not being in the office. I hate being cooped up. I want to be outside working. That’s how I’ve been since I was about 10 years old, just like my dad. It’s good working hard and knowing you are getting something done for the family. As farmers, we’ve worked from spring, watching the fruit grow from blossom to help deliver the final bucket of cherries from the block.
Jaden — It’s definitely hard work. I’m thankful for growing up working along with others who work so hard; it’s really helped create a strong work ethic. Working cherries is pretty tiring — so much that I’m tired the whole month of cherry harvest. But after, it’s very rewarding feeling the accomplishment of contributing to what the orchard produced.
What challenges come from farming in a small community?
John — Way back when, our family pretty much handled everything ourselves by keeping every step of the fruit process in-house; from growing, packing, storing and selling our own fruit. Now, labor is getting more challenging. Fewer people want to work in the orchards. We’ve brought in H-2A crews for the past three years and that program has helped tremendously.
Jaden — It’s pretty hard taking risks with new things because you don’t really know how things will work out until you try them. Right now, we know what’s working, so there’s always the question of ‘why try?’
John — It takes us a while to do larger projects, because it’s a family thing. We’re either going for it, thinking about it for three to four months, or getting it done.
Jaden — Decisions have to go through everybody. I think that’s one thing that’s helped us out, being such a close family that can work through plans. It’s just smart to have more than one person making decisions.
Why do you want to work in agriculture?
Jaden — I enjoy the business negotiation part of this industry. I think I have the personality to work well in the sales and marketing side of fruit and I want to be able to sell fruit for my family. I believe it’ll be a rewarding career that also honors everything our family has given to me. My work experiences in the orchard and around the farm will also benefit me in marketing.
What were some of your early lessons?
John — I’ve watched how my grandpa and dad interacted and learned that you’ve got to work hard, be the last one to go home and succeed in whatever you do. I try to learn how they manage the farm and look ahead to next year with a perspective of doing better next time. I do want to improve on what they’ve built.
How do you see yourself doing that?
John — Improving our company’s use of technology and making the orchard a little more modern, system-wise. We are pretty modern on the cherry side — most of our cherries are on V-trellis with 3 feet between trees and 14-feet spacing. I’d like to improve our apple blocks by incorporating new varieties and put them all in trellis systems with 10-feet row spacing. Our spacing between trees needs to be improved. By moving to a tighter spacing we could increase our yield. Standardizing our apple blocks will help our blocks reach their full potential.
What would you tell younger growers?
John — You can’t give up. You’re going to have highs and lows working in ag. Every year comes with the possibility of having a good crop or a bad crop. Just do your best. I think prior generations didn’t look at farming as a job, it’s their passion. I admire my grandpa’s perspective of, ‘I’ll do it until I can’t do it anymore.’ I don’t think this is a job, it’s a passion for farming.