Good Fruit Grower

September 2013

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Pears California I Sixth generation f there was one thing that Matthew and Virginia Hemly knew in high school during the 1990s, it was that they weren't going to stick around the orchards where they grew up. "Been there, done that," said Virginia, recalling her plans to practice law or do anything but farm like her parents. "We were smarter than that." Fast forward a couple of decades, and the sibling duo are back where they started. They run daily operations at Greene & Hemly, their family's longstanding apple and pear growing and packing company in Courtland, California, and the acramento River Delta. S Mathew Hemly, 37, manages orchard operations while his sister, Virginia Hemly Chhabra, 41, manages the packing house. Their parents, Doug and Cathy Hemly, handle strategic decisions, regulatory compliance, and other m atters. Doug is 67 and Cathy is 66. Virginia describes her path back to the ranch as a combination of "circumstances and laziness." She graduated from college on the East Coast during a recession. No job prospects in sight, she by Kate Moser came home. Her parents promptly told her that while she was figuring out her career, they needed someone to work the night shift in the packing shed. The rest is history. "I've been at it long enough that I no longer get the 'Oh sweetie, where's your boss?' comments," said V irginia, wielding a touch of the signature Hemly sense of humor. Similarly, Matthew Hemly came home after college and was put to work filling in on pest control while the company was between pest control advisors. The summer job turned full-time when a ranch manager became ill. Matthew's been farming ever since. The four Hemlys work together closely. The trick, they say, is to keep the ideas of family and business as separate as they can. How do they do that? "Very carefully," Cathy said, laughing. The family tree comes from hardy rootstock, and the Hemlys have hung on where many growers and packers have sold their land, gone under, or otherwise left the business. A son and daughter move up as Greene & Hemly of the Sacramento River Delta goes to a new generation. "The notion of just buckling down and doing it—whatever it is—has stood us in good stead." —Cathy Hemly Multiple generations "The ranch has grown, the ranch has shrunk, it's been divided, it's been sold off, there've been family scandals—all of that," Doug said. "At the end of the day, I'm a fifth-generation farmer in the same piece of dirt, and Virginia and atthew are the sixth generation." M Greene & Hemly had its start in the California Gold Rush, when two brothers trekked west in 1850 to make their ortune. f As family lore tells it, one brother went to the gold fields while the other, Josiah Greene, settled in the Delta and cut tule hay for miners. That fall, the first brother came down from the mountain with nothing to show for his mining, and the second brother had cut a summer's worth of hay. But a dry north wind blew a grass fire down Merritt Island and burned it all up. And so, at the end of 1850, they were 0 for 2. One brother retreated to the East Coast, while the other stayed and farmed. (The Hemly name entered the picture when Doug's father married into the family.) Just as the ranch has grown and shrunk, the family farm has seen good times and bad. 24 SEPTEMBER 2013 Good Fruit Grower Josiah Greene, the brother whose tule hay harvest was burned, but who decided to stay and farm anyway in 1850.

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