Good Fruit Grower

September 2013

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Pears A grower's advocate P at Burnett, who has been a fruit grower, packer, and marketer in his career— and for many years simultaneously—has always been a champion of the small grower. Burnett was manager of the Peshastin Hi-Up fruit growing and packing cooperative in Washington's Wenatchee Valley for close to 30 years. His goal was to take care of all the individual farmers, though he admits that not everyone a ppreciated it at the time. "I was probably a tough manager," he reflects. When he wanted to do something at the warehouse—even something as major as adding a new building—he didn't ask the board. He told them. "I was a strong, or bullheaded manager," he said, "But I never took anything to the board that I didn't think was worth doing." It was a strategy that ultimately served both him and the growers well. When he retired in 2001 to focus on being a fruit grower himself, the c ooperative was in enviable financial shape, with no bank debt. Its solid financial footing has enabled the cooperative to continue to survive in an environment that has become dominated by much larger corporate packers, Burnett said. Hi-Up is one of only six remaining fruit cooperatives out of 30 or so that used to dot north central Washington. Pat Burnett has always kept the grower perspective in mind. Both sides A good packing house manager knows both the farming and the selling sides of the business, and can empathize with the growers, Burnett says. "When you're strictly a sales person, who are you going to look by Geraldine Warner after? You have to look after the customer because that's where your business is. If you're a farmer as well, you're looking at both sides of it." "One thing you can say about Pat is he's a grower's packer," agreed Todd Fryhover, who worked for a time at Orondo Fruit Company, where Burnett became a partner when he retired from Hi-Up. "It's almost the polar opposite of where you're coming from as a sales person. He really knows how to get every pack out of a bin of pears and do what's best for the grower. "Another strength of Pat is he's not afraid to say what he's thinking," Fryhover added. "He's not too worried about hurting people's feelings—he just basically states the facts—but there's no question he has the interests of the growers in mind." Pickers Burnett grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1949, when he was ten years old, his parents Lloyd and Nola came to the Wenatchee Valley to pick apples for Ed Clarke at Peshastin. After a couple of years in Washington, the family returned to Tennessee. Burnett was a high school freshman when he decided to leave school each day at noon and hitchhike eight miles into town to work in the grocery store. He had —Todd Fryhover just been promoted from bag boy to shelf stocker when he was fired for being under the legal working age and hauled before the school superintendent. His family argued, uccessfully, for him to be allowed to s keep his job. Pat Burnett tends to his 50 acres At the age of 15, he left school and enlisted with the U.S. Army (with his mother signof pear orchard surrounding ing the papers) but was turned in by a neighbor before he got chance to serve. As soon as his red-roofed home at he was old enough, on his seventeenth birthday, he joined the U.S. Navy and served for Leavenworth. four years, marrying his wife JoAnn while stationed in San Diego, California. "He can stand back and look at the whole industry, and not many people can do that anymore." 22 SEPTEMBER 2013 Good Fruit Grower

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