Allen Robison -
-Gala, Honeycrisp, Jazz™, Envy™, Cripps Pink, Lucy™ Rose, Sugarbee®
Allen Robison of Chelan, Washington is an orchardist that has a love of growing fruit running through his veins. He has a passion for the industry and is looking forward to his 33rd crop as a grower.
Robison grew up on his family’s farm, changing irrigation lines and working in the orchards during the summer for his dad. He graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Agriculture Mechanization. After working in construction for a year in Seattle, he came back to the east side of the state to farm with his wife, Rachel, a nutritionist and teacher. They jumped into growing in 1987 and he notes it was a very rough year to start but they pushed through.
Robison has 120 acres apples, pears and cherries in the Chelan area. He grows Gala, Honeycrisp, Jazz™, Envy™, Cripps Pink, Lucy™ Rose, and Sugarbee® apples and has a medium density orchard structure.
The variety mix and horticulture practices used in his orchard are constantly being evaluated. The variety mix must fulfill consumer demands, grow well in the region and meet labor needs. Growers will consider a variety’s harvest timing to ensure they can maintain consistent labor supply throughout the harvest season.
He is quick to adapt his strategies if needed but changes are made with careful evaluation. Currently, half of his orchard is in transition to organic. With the organic trend growing in the U.S., he recognizes an opportunity to supply this niche market. In Washington, organic apple production volume has grown by 16% from the 2017-18 season. It is a three-year process to transition a conventional orchard to organic and requires a certification process that includes inspection and audits.
Robison states that being an apple grower is not just a job, it is a calling for many and, one which requires the right kind of personality and a passion for fruit production. Robison’s enthusiasm for growing apples is overflowing.
“It’s a lifestyle choice. There’s good times and bad times,” Robison says. “You need to love to farm and to work and most people [growers] do.”
When considering both the challenges and rewards of being an apple grower, Allen says the best part of being a Washington apple grower is as he describes, “being in the orchards, the lifestyle, being my own boss, success or failure at my own call.”
Looking to the future, Robison is planning for slight expansion and a continued evaluation of the varieties he grows. He sees technology playing a huge role in the advancement of the industry and further refinement of Washington horticultural practices.
Robison possesses the tenacity and passion that makes a good grower into a great grower. He says, “The biggest reward is seeing the fruit of your labors and then getting another shot at it next year.”