Good Fruit Grower

February 2013

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Ed E d Kershaw speaks with a slow, measured cadence, carefully choosing each word to make his point. He draws you in with a pause rather than volume or pitch. You listen. He can sell you anything, even hope. Grandson of area pioneers in the Yakima Valley, he works on the same ground originally settled by his family in 1887, though the 40-acre pear and apple ranch is now headquarters of Kershaw Fruit and its marketing arm, Domex Superfresh Growers, large operations even by Washington State standards. He and his brother, Bob, built their fruit empire, and they love what they do. For Kershaw, it has always been about family. And about business. It might have stayed just another family business success story with accumulated wealth handed down from one generation to the next. But things changed for him when Brian died. Sixteen years ago, Kershaw's eldest son Brian was killed in an auto accident caused by an inattentive driver in a second vehicle. "Brian was a seriously good kid," said Kershaw. He paused. "Something in me died that day," he said. "When someone suffers a major tragedy, your emotions are elevated to a new level," he said. "I think you become more caring." After Brian died, Kershaw first put his energy into his business, driving himself and his staff to be the best. He said he has a passion for the fruit industry, and working hard gave him an outlet to move through his emotional issues. During that time of healing, he also developed a greater personal connection with the Hispanic laborers who made his business flourish. He recognized that without them, he could not take his business where it needed to go, yet he also saw that the price paid by his workers was great. Although the Hispanic families were likely financially better off than they had ever been, the change in culture from Mexico to the United States was destroying their families, and particularly, their relationships with their children. Kershaw's appreciation for the family-centered Mexican culture solidified when he travelled to rural Mexico in 1993. He was on their turf for the first time, he said, and realized that in any Mexican business relationship, it was about family. He was invited into their homes where he ate dinner at the family table. Children were on either side of him. "It's fair to say that the culture of the Hispanics is that they are hard working, energetic, and have a willingness to persevere through hardships that our generation [of Americans] has not really experienced," Kershaw said. "This enables them to survive in a foreign country where they do not speak the language, and to take over the role of our labor force. "At the same time, the Yakima Valley has grown to almost a majority of Hispanics. I think our industry has been looked upon—fairly or unfairly—as being responsible for some of the issues that we have today in our communities." Kershaw knows his industry has to get involved with the surrounding community, and he believes he has to be a part of that involvement. The children of laborers are given new options by Yakima's tree fruit industry. A Journey of HOPE Madison House, a two-story brick cube in a downtown Yakima low-income residential area, looks and functions much like a child's building block, providing recreation and education for a vulnerable set of children. Most, if not all, of the youth are from Hispanic orchard worker families. And many of those families are headed by a single parent or an older sibling. Gangs, abuse, and generational poverty are the enemies on the outside. Madison House does its best to keep those forces at bay. Three years ago, several tree fruit industry leaders were inspired enough by the work of the Union Gospel Mission to provide funding for Madison House and to coin the phrase "Journey of Hope" to describe their vision for the future. Over 30 major donations have been made by fruit industry individuals and organizations, some quite sizeable. Other community groups also support Madison House and the Union Gospel Mission. Photo by Jim black by Jim Black Madison House "I was introduced to Madison House three and a half years ago," he said, adding that he had nothing to do with the concept. "I'm a Johnny Come Lately. Madison House was a youth center of the Union Gospel Mission—which is critical to the whole thing." Having the backing of a

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