Kevin & Mark Stennes, Young Growers from Pateros, Washington
TJ Mullinax // August 28, 2014
age / 32 crops / Apples, cherries, pears, plums and pluots title / Organic sales manager business / Chelan Fresh Marketing education / Central Washington University
age / 32 crops / Apples, cherries, pears, plums and pluots title / Orchard operations manager business / Stennes Orchards education / Central Washington University
Q: What challenges do you have growing in the Methow Valley? Mark: We’re a lot different than a tree fruit farmer in the Columbia Basin or the Yakima Valley. For instance, a 550-acre grower in the basin might have two or three locations, whereas we have 14, spread over 100 miles along river benches and up on the valleys. We are spread way out, so when hail and rain storms come, it scatters out our risk. Also, farming here brings with it higher property values. Trying to plant an orchard on a riverfront parcel is much harder to do now.
Q: What’s your biggest challenge increasing the organics operation?
Kevin: There aren’t a lot of challenges at this point when it comes to marketing organics. It’s a pretty easy sell — buyers get pretty excited about organics. On the growing level, however, it’s a lot more challenging.
Mark: The big difference with farming organic vs. conventional is being proactive and not reactive. There is not “big hammer” so to speak, that you can go out and kill a pest with. You have to go out and be really proactive about that. The more experience we gain growing organically, the better farmers we are with it because there are fewer tools to deal with problems. It makes you more in-tune with what’s going on in the orchard on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis.
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