family background / Javier is a second-generation grower from Washington’s Yakima Valley. He works as the viticulturist for Brothers in Farms and is the son of Brenda Lee and Javier Ayala Valencia.
business/Brothers in Farms
family background/Javier is a second-generation grower from Washington’s Yakima Valley. He works as the viticulturist for Brothers in Farms and is the son of Brenda Lee and Javier Ayala Valencia.
How did you get your start?
As a kid growing up in Sunnyside, I was raised watching my father’s hard work and being surrounded by all of the different crops that are grown in the Valley. I did learn a lot from him, like how to drive a tractor, how to change water and properly harvest crops.
When I was young, I remember seeing people out working in 100-degree weather and saying, ‘I never want to do that. That isn’t something I’ll do as a career.’ Now that I’m older, working in agriculture is something that I enjoy. I was lucky to watch him go from a laborer to becoming a business owner and see how his hard work paid off.
Why do you enjoy agriculture now?
I really enjoy the outcome of the work I do and the satisfaction of being able to say, ‘I did that’ or ‘here’s how to do this process.’ I enjoy being outside doing data collection, taking samples while watching the plants grow all the way to harvest.
Being able to sit back at the end of the year and examine what I did wrong or what I did right. All of the work makes the next season easier. Farming is a learning experience each day out there. Harvest may only be a month and a half, but I truly enjoy the 10- or 12-hour harvest days.
What are some of your job duties?
As a viticulturist, one of the things I do is collect data. I believe a plant really only needs three things: sunlight, nitrogen and water. With those basics almost anything can be grown.
If growers can focus on and better control those basic needs, they can achieve better grapes. Another thing is I can take my in-field education and combine it with the latest technology and new studies coming out to improve the crop.
What kind of challenges are you taking on?
I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to change out an older vineyard planting — 40 acres on that land — along with an additional 30 new acres of grapes.
I get to compare and contrast those two plantings. If you want to be successful growing grapes, don’t just stick to learning about viticulture. Figure out what other things in agriculture you can learn to add to your work in grapes.
Look around and see what other people in your field are doing to learn more. Don’t be afraid to ask other people about things you’re curious about, either.
What kind of tips would you give young growers?
I cannot learn enough. Learning that sometimes experiencing failure can be progress. Especially in agriculture, you may fail on one thing, but you go back and figure out what went wrong and work to not repeat it.
That failure was another step toward a better future outcome. Don’t only jump into learning about new technology – you’ve got to learn the basics first.
Also, getting an opportunity to learn from someone who’s worked in agriculture for several years and learn about their experiences are things you can never replace.– by TJ Mullinax