Sierra Williams, a Young Grower from Cedaredge, Colorado
TJ Mullinax // February 24, 2016
family background / Sierra, a fifth-generation tree fruit grower, is one of three siblings and is the daughter of Dan and Connie Williams. The family farm, which is more than 100 years old, is on Colorado’s western slope at an altitude above 6,000 feet. age / 21 crops / Apples, peaches and pears business / Williams Orchards
Why did you join the farm? My oldest memories on the farm are of picking apples with my great-grandfather, going out into the orchard with my cousins and eating a dozen peaches at once and getting horribly ill.
I’ve always had a love for growing fruit. Going into college at Florida State, I thought about pursuing a career in exercise science and physical therapy, yet I missed being with my family and farming. So, I decided to come back, learn about the business and help plan for its future.
What are your plans? There’s a lot of change going on in the industry. Growing up, I wasn’t all that involved with the farm as a child, never paying too close attention to the details.
Now, I plan to use what I’ve learned from school and other resources that maybe my dad and grandfather wouldn’t have known. I see potential in expanding the use of technology.
I think our farm has a lot of opportunity for growth, and I’m just excited for the future.
It’s exciting for me to be starting out learning the base-knowledge now — finding my niche in the company.
Describe how the company works? Since we both grow and pack our fruit, it requires a lot of work. The work has its rewards, especially since we are part of such a tight-knit grower community.
Our packing line can now accommodate their needs, and we can help keep the local industry alive. I think it’s great that we can pack their fruit and show them other markets for sales.
Where do you see areas for growth? I think it’s a great time to be getting into the cider industry, and it’s a great way to use all the second-grade fruit and make it into another product.
It not only helps us out during the slower times of the year but it provides income during the off season, and it’s a fun market to get into. The cider market’s booming nationwide.
How did you find your place in the company? Going out and learning things like, what the new varieties are coming out, about shelf space in stores. Obviously there are several SKUs of apples you’re trying to put into stores and you’re having to figure out which stores will put your product out to consumers.
In the apple industry especially, we’ve been cannibalizing ourselves in competition for shelf space. I need to gain knowledge of what we can bring to the marketplace to have that competitive edge for the future.
Fruit growing is always a gamble. Anything I can bring to the table will help the company be more successful.
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