family background/ Jared is a first-generation farmer who worked several orchard jobs growing up in Parkdale, Oregon. He has a daughter, Kate, is the son of Jim and Joyce Gidley, and his wife, Kathryn, grew up in a farming family. grower / Parkdale, Oregon age / 31 crops / Pears and cherries business / Orchard View Inc., Gidley Ag Management
How did you get your start? I got my taste of farming when I was about 15 years old, thinning Bartlett pears. I think it would take me about a day to thin one tree. I hated it, but I made it through the summer.
Years later, I started working for a cherry orchard planting trees in the spring, did irrigation work, weed spraying and mowing — just about everything — and I found myself loving the pace of it.
I ended up doing it every summer from high school through college and it helped me get through school. I knew I loved agriculture, though it never occurred to me that I should go through the agriculture program.
How did you make the transition to agriculture? When I was in college, I pursued economics. I thought I’d have it made and there were jobs everywhere. It didn’t happen that way.
My first job out of college was not in finance, it was for a roofing company. I ended up getting laid off right before cherry harvest, so I jumped right back into harvest. It was something I could just jump in and do.
When the season was over, I started looking for a “real job” and I found one at a bank.
Even though I loved working the trees, I ended up working at a bank for a year, because that’s what I thought I was going to do, being a banker, a credit analyst.
When I realized that banking wasn’t for me, a job opened up at a packing house in Hood River as a field representative. I’ve been working as a field representative for about six harvests now.
What are your primary duties? As a field representative, I’m a liaison between the packing house and the grower. So I am always working through issues with the market, fruit quality, scheduling of the fruit.
Basically I’m that person on the front line of relaying all the information from one central source to 20 to 30 sources.
One thing I didn’t expect when I took the job was how personal relationships can get between grower and representative.
There are intense periods of the year, and sometimes you are with them every day, sometimes multiple times a day checking on them. You really get to know the people you work with on a very in-depth, professional level.
What can other young growers learn from being a field representative? As a field rep, I’m exposed to a lot of people, and that’s one of the biggest assets of the job.
I have so much exposure to what’s going on in agriculture. In some cases, the people you work with have been farming for 30-plus years and if I have a question, you can find an answer.
There’s plenty of stumbling at the start. Having those people around you has really helped me from making too many mistakes starting out.
If there’s something that’s got you stumped, all you need to do is make a few phone calls to get advice.
What do you enjoy about growing pears? I’m from Parkdale, Oregon, and the Hood River Valley is known for its pears.
There’s a lot of opportunity for me to pursue pears because it’s a very site-specific fruit.
You can grow an apple just about anywhere, yet pears are a little more of a microclimate fruit, which intrigues me. If you try to grow a pear in unsuitable areas, you end up with poor packouts.
Why do you enjoy farming? There are plenty of challenges starting out so you need to be pretty determined.
There’s nothing easy about farming. What I enjoy about it is seeing the progression of the farm over the year.
From bare trees in the dormant season that you’ve got to prune; then it starts to swell and you’re looking for bugs and applying spray; then everything begins to open and bloom — and you get excited about bloom and getting bees out; then after petal fall you’ve either got fruit that’s dropping or sticking and you’re sizing every day in some cases; now you’re watching that fruit grow — it’s that constant change that’s so very rewarding.
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