family background/Kai graduated from Wenatchee Valley College with a degree in horticulture and works at Northwest Wholesale and his family business. He has four siblings and is the son of Heather and Justin Jenks and grandson of John and Mary Jenks.
hometown/Royal City, Washington
business/Jenks Bros. Cold Storage and Packing

How did you get your start?
My siblings and I had jobs at the warehouse growing up. When I was 8 years old, I remember being dropped off at the warehouse and given a broom and told by Dad, “Alright, go sweep out room number one.” And when we finished room number one and called my dad that we were done, I remember asking if he’d come take us to lunch. He replied, “Maybe after you do room two.”

Then we had to go and do room number two. And lo and behold, after two days of sweeping, we finally got our lunch. I learned how to work hard, and how to put in a good honest, hard day’s work. And that’s something that’s been really important to me. I’m really grateful for the opportunity that I had to work on the farm.

The jobs sucked and I didn’t always want to do them. But at the end of the day, and even still, it feels so good to come home and know that I did everything I could today.

Did you want to go into farming as a kid?
When I was trying to decide what I wanted to do, it was really difficult. I heard about horror stories of people trying to go and work with their family where it turned the family upside down and ruined relationships. And that was something worrisome to me, and I took that into consideration. It was about two years of working for the farm when I finally decided that this is what I wanted to do.

I started to see the potential that it could mean for me and my family. So, I decided to go to school in Wenatchee in their tree fruit and horticulture production program. As I went through that program, it just re-solidified my desire to see what I could do in this industry.

My dad’s run our company for 20-plus years, and he’s done an incredible job at growing the business. That’s what I want to do. I want to continue the legacy that my grandpa started and that my dad has continued, and I’d like to continue that for my kids.

Did you work while going to school?
As I was getting ready to go to school, my dad saw my desire to work in the industry and started giving me bigger jobs. I started working more on the tractor in the orchard and watching over some picking crews, helping pull bins out of the orchard, and loading trucks and unloading trucks.

When I started going to school, I got a part-time job checking codling moth traps with Northwest Wholesale. That’s been a huge opportunity for me where I learned a lot over two summers. I gained great mentors through that work, and they really helped me to see and learn what it takes to be in this industry.

What would you tell young growers about working your way into the industry?
For me, it was a conversation with a current fieldman, asking: “I’d like to do this. What would it take and what would I need to do? What experience would I need?” He replied that when there’s a need for me, they’d give me a call — and in the meantime, I should learn everything that I could about codling moth, how to identify the pest and how to find them.

Eventually they had an opening, and I was lucky enough to be able to check traps for him one summer while I was going to school. I knew this is what I wanted to do and showed that desire to learn. I think that’s what it takes to make it. You have to want to learn, you have to really love learning. And if you do that, then every day you’re going to find things that you don’t know, you see something you’ve never seen before.

If you’re totally wrong, that’s totally fine because you’re just learning. It’s crucial to have a desire to farm, and I think that desire will determine how quickly you find a job that you want to do.

The more people you go and talk to and express your desire, that will lead to someone wanting to have you on their team. Because they want somebody that’s excited to work for them.