Nick Anderson, a young grower from The Dalles, Oregon
TJ Mullinax // May 14, 2018
family background/ Nick graduated from Columbia Gorge Community College, married Annabeth and has a young son and daughter. Beyond working just about every job on the farm, he wants to continue his education taking horticulture and business classes. He’s the son of Bill and Deede Anderson. age/26 crops/Cherries business/Anderson Fruit Inc.
How did you get your start?
The story goes that three days after I was born, I was on the cherry packing line in my mom’s front pack. Since then, I’ve always been around agriculture.
Growing up, when all five of us kids were asked to help outside, we’d all raise our hands. We’d bicker over who was going to go out and do water with dad.
Usually, to be fair, he’d pick a different son every night. On bad years, we’d have something called “free Saturdays” where we’d all go out and pull brush that day, from first thing in the morning till night.
It’s just how work is on our family farm. Free Saturdays is where everyone in the family would work because it was for the good of the farm.
Since college what responsibilities have you taken on?
I have a vast number of jobs. Starting out, I worked with bookkeeping and keeping up with changes in regulations.
I now take care of our Global GAP and annual maintenance around the farm, also helping run our orchard during harvest.
I’m responsible for figuring out what we’re picking that day, monitoring the quality of the fruit and how much we should be delivering each day to the packing shed.
Why are you a farmer?
When I was little, it seemed everyone wanted to be a superhero, cop or fireman; I wanted to be just like my dad, a farmer. I thought my dad was the coolest and my mom was the hardest worker I’d ever seen.
For me the business isn’t just farming, it’s not just an 8 to 5 job. It’s a way of life. I don’t mind going out at 3 in the morning to start spraying, then work until late at night.
Farming is fun and I enjoy feeling like I’ve accomplished something through my hard work.
What kind of challenges are you working on?
Our first challenge is always labor in the field. It’s making sure we have enough people and it will always be farming’s No. 1 issue.
The next one is making sure you have a good spray, fertilizer and pruning program because they determine the quality of your fruit, tonnage and size. It’s really important to have those things worked out.
Are The Dalles area growers tight knit?
Here’s an example: If you’re picking and you’re needing a few pickers, one of the nice things here is you can always call someone and ask for help.
Usually someone will spare a few to fill the gap — or we’ll share pickers depending on what’s going on. If you’ve got a piece of equipment that’s down and you can’t figure out the problem, someone will make the time to drive over and help you.
This area has a phenomenal sense of community where everybody is ready to help each other — no matter how super-busy they are.
What would you tell younger growers?
Nothing is the same every day — you get to be a jack of all trades. One day you could be welding equipment, the next you could be building a new work bench or figuring out plumbing to repair picker toilets.
As a farmer you have so many fun things to do, so I think a young person who’s ambitious and wants to learn should job shadow a farmer to really see what we do during a work day.
They’d get to learn the job and have some fun. If more young growers did that, I’m sure the experiences would tilt them over the fence and we’d have a few new farmers jumping into ag.
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