Meet your grower

The Humble Heroes who Grow your Favorite Healthy Fruit

With the average orchard size being about 100 acres, it’s families just like yours who are at the heart of Washington’s apple-growing community. There are 1,700 apple growers in Washington, and for them, growing apples isn’t a job. It’s a way of life.

Washington apple growers work year-round to produce the quality fruit that the world has come to know and crave. From pruning trees in the winter, to carefully observing the orchards’ bloom in the spring, to thinning the small fruit during the summer so the larger fruit can thrive, to fall’s handpicked harvest, apple growers dedicate their lives to ensuring their orchards thrive.

We would like to introduce you to some of our growers:

Gene Bliesner

Meet Gene Bliesner. Gene’s grandparents emigrated from Germany to Fairfield, WA become wheat farmers. Gene grew up working on the family farm before graduating from Washington State University where he earned a degree in animal science. After graduating, Gene turned away from farming, working instead in the banking and agricultural loan industry for 20 years.

Apple Grower Geoff Thornton

Geoff Thornton

In 1904, Geoff’s great grandparents homesteaded in Quincy, WA. In 1908, they moved to Cashmere where they began the family orchard. Geoff’s grandfather, Roy Thornton, sold the original nine-acre orchard and house in Chelan County in order to purchase 100 acres in the Tonasket area in 1924. Geoff’s father grew up working in the orchard, but was drafted into the army in April of 1942. In 1972, he inherited 20 acres of the original farm and Geoff, then 9 years old, began helping in the orchard. Geoff attended Washington State University and Eastern Washington University, and then returned to Tonasket in 1986 to begin his farming career.

Greg Moser

Greg Moser truly does it all. Over the last 30 years he has successfully juggled many positions including: grower, marketer, CEO, father, and even a basketball coach. Now, Greg focuses the majority of his efforts on serving as the General Manager of Gold Digger Apples, Inc. in Oroville, Washington. Gold Digger currently owns over 700 acres of apples, pears, and cherries, so this more than a full time job. It is rare that he has a weekend off.

Apple Grower Greg Moser
Apple Grower Jeff Mills

Jeff Mills

Jeff Mills is an apple grower from Orondo, Washington.  He lives with his wife Kerri, a fifth-grade teacher, and his two sons Michael and Reed. The family’s 75 acre orchard boasts six varieties of apples – Gala, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Braeburn, Fuji and Cripps Pink.

Porfirio Covarrubias

Meet Porfirio Covarrubias – an orchardist who has truly worked his way up from the bottom. Porfirio was born and raised in the small Mexican village of Jechitlin. When he was just 15 years old, Porfirio and his older brother went to California with their father to pick limes, strawberries and grapes.

Apple Grower Kurt Guelich

Kurt Guelich

Kurt Guelich’s story begins with his father who came over from Germany after World War II. After arriving in Riverside, WA (just outside of Omak), he bought a dairy farm that came with a small apple orchard. His father soon realized he preferred trees to cows and sold the dairy farm, expanding the orchards that Kurt would later inherit.

Jim Fleming

Meet Jim Fleming – an orchardist who didn’t even start his farming career until he retired from the job he had held for 40 years! Jim’s career in agriculture began in 1962 when he and his wife Sandy moved from Kitsap County, WA to Orondo, WA to work for Auvil Fruit Company. In 1980, he and his family relocated to Vantage, WA where they planted new orchards and built Controlled Atmosphere facilities for Auvil Fruit. By the time he retired in 1992, there were 500 acres of orchards in Vantage. Jim wasn’t ready to slow down, so he launched his second career as a full-time farmer.

Mark Stennes

Meet Mark Stennes, a fourth generation orchardist from Pateros, Washington. Mark’s great-grandfather homesteaded in 1894 and planted his first apple trees in 1900. The original 55-acre orchard expanded in 1984 – now boasting 250 acres of fruit trees.  In addition to 60 acres of apples, including Fuji (organic), Honey Crisp (organic), Gala, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, Mark grows pears, cherries, plum and pluots. 

Jack Toevs

Meet Jack Toevs, a Washington apple grower whose family farming roots can be traced all the way back to the 1600’s in Holland. Over the centuries, the family migrated to Poland, Russia, and Kansas before Jack’s parents moved to Ephrata, Washington.

Apple Grower Jack Toevs

Rowe Family

The Rowe family moved to Washington from Indianapolis in 1889. In 1894, great-great-grandmother Lennie Rowe filed claim for 200 acres of “Desert Lands” near Yakima on which she started growing hops. Her son Walter took over 1,000 acres of land by Olympia, but this plot proved unsuccessful and Walter sold the land. Determined to establish profitable land, Walter bought land near Zillah where he grew apples, pears, and cherries. He was finally successful and continued to be throughout his lifetime

Mike Scott

Raised in the family apple orchard business and armed with a knowledge of horticulture, Mike knew he wanted to put down permanent roots in Wenatchee, Washington. At first, Mike followed in his family’s footsteps, tending the orchards and cultivating apples. Eventually, Mike began converting some of his apple orchards to wine grape vineyards.

Apple Grower Mike Scott