My husband and I purchased two acres near where we live in Yakima Valley, Washington to build our next home and farm. We’re thinking of growing table grapes.
After 14 years of marriage (we married as teens) we’re confident we can be business partners. We do most everything together, from woodworking and hunting to feeding our family and raising three great kids.
But before we get started, I want to learn from other couples and see how they’ve succeeded. Farming is high stakes and I want to make sure we make the best decisions. (We’re fully aware to expect the unexpected.)
So I asked my friends Jim and Cindy, who run one of the only u-pick farms in the Valley, how they built their business. Here’s what I found out, including the secret to their success:
In 2003, Jim approached Cindy with his idea to buy a farm. According to Jim, starting a farm together was all about timing.
“We knew going into it that we would have to devote a lot of time to the farm,” Jim explained. “We were both working so we needed to wait until closer to my retirement.”
Jim, who retired after 30 years in the civil service, would manage the operation full-time with the support of one employee. Cindy would continue working in her administrative job to help fund the venture.
Farming was not foreign to them. Jim worked on orchards as a teen in Upstate New York, and Cindy’s family owned and operated orchards and a warehouse in Yakima.
After discussing the pros and cons, they purchased a 10-acre parcel of land that was already growing pears and Red Delicious and Gala apples.
Jim and Cindy tried to compete in the apple market and sell their harvests to bigger, better-known farms, but there was too much competition and they struggled to stay afloat. So they removed the majority of Red Delicious trees and planted an acre-and-a-half of Aurora blueberries. They also cultivated Pluot trees, peach trees, more blueberries, raspberries and some table grapevines. They grow pumpkins too.
Their gamble paid off.
Within six years, people as far away as Montana, Oregon and Idaho, came to pick and buy their fruit. (They’re opening a vodka distillery and tasting room soon. It was Jim’s idea, and Cindy is excited about it.)
But what about working with each other?
“I really enjoy the time together,” Cindy said. “We’re working side by side, sunup to sundown during Yakima’s growing season. It’s great!”
My husband and I have a lot to consider before our first planting. Timing and resources are tight, so first things first. We need to build our home — by hand.
Author’s note: Jim and Cindy’s u-pick farm opens to the public on June 15 with the sale of cherries and raspberries and will remain open through October 31 after the pumpkin harvest. You can see what’s in season and the other activities they offer by following them on Facebook.