family background / Jose was born in Mexico and grew up next to the farm his family worked on in Wenatchee. He pursued agriculture at Wenatchee Valley College and Washington State University and is currently an assistant ranch manager in Quincy. Jose is the son of Anita and Juan Garcia.

grower / Wenatchee, Washington
age / 26
crops / Apples, cherries
business / Stemilt Growers

How did you get your start?
I started working in agriculture at a young age. At that time, I would go out with my dad, riding around and helping him out through the season.

I remember going and picking cherries at 8 or 9 years old at my uncle’s farm, too. I remember that I could only pick the bottom half of trees, but I kept asking neighbors and others for jobs.

When I was in high school, I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do because I didn’t have a plan.

Then, two months before graduation, my ag teacher asked me what my plans were, and I said I wanted to do something in agriculture. The next day he connected me with the program at Wenatchee Valley College and it took off from there.

What motivated you to pursue farming?
I think it’s important to enjoy what you do because it doesn’t seem like you’re waking up to just any job. With what I’m doing now, I’m doing something different that I look forward to each day.

What things do you do in your job?
Right now, I’m running all the new apple plantings in Quincy, Washington. I’ve been planning the new orchard blocks that include irrigation, tree spacing and equipment needs.

One of the challenges has been figuring out all the materials for each block and lining up the crews to get everything installed. Besides the new blocks, my job also requires that I take care of the normal seasonal tasks such as figuring out the upcoming spray plans. It’s also fun having other things come my way that end up helping the entire team.

What tips do you have for new orchard managers?
One of the things I pay attention to is making sure you have your equipment ready to go when it’s necessary.

For example, before harvest, you need to have all the bins ready to set out in the blocks when you’re ready to pick. Also, making sure the tractors are prepared for the particular work ahead of time — not the night before you plan on using them.

What challenges are you seeing in the industry?
One of them is finding ways to get away from using ladders or having to rely on them. If we’re able to move away from so much ladder use, then we could reduce a source of injury.

I think platforms are the future because we can do just about any job off them, from pruning, thinning, to small jobs like putting pheromones up into the trees.

Are there any systems you prefer to work with?
I like V-trellis primarily because of the amount of sunlight it captures, but also because I think it’s easier for the crews to work. We don’t need to use ladders and they can use platforms that navigate through the orchard.

The crews love working in the system and we are able to grow higher-grade apples. The new blocks that I’m planning are also predominantly V-trellis.

Any advice for young growers?
Don’t just focus on one job because there’s a lot of different opportunities in agriculture. When I started, I expected to be doing just one specific job. I learned that to advance, you’ve got to apply yourself toward different job positions and stay open-minded about future opportunities.

—TJ Mullinax