Good Fruit Grower

April 1

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C olumbia Basin Nursery will ship its last trees this spring, allow- ing the three women who have run the business for the past 20 years to move on to other adventures. Gie Perleberg and her husband, Carl, established the nursery and orchard in the early 1960s. While growing up, their daugh- ters, Dena and Carla, were expected to help out, and both returned to work for the business after college. Since Carl died from cancer in 1992, Dena has managed the grow- ing side of the business while Carla and Gie have run the offi ce and accounting side. "Dena and I have different strengths," Carla said. "We each have our own area. We're complementary." Almost from the time she could walk, Dena would be out with her father, Carl, watching him trying out his latest horticultural ideas. "I never wanted to go inside," she said. Carla, on the other hand, disliked being out in the fi eld. "During the summers, I had to work outside, but I tried to show how I would be better inside," she recalled. "Dena learned how to bud and tie, and I did the counting behind her. By my senior year in high school, I was helping in the offi ce." Eastern Dena went to Eastern Washington University, not intending to return to the family business. But when career surveys kept highlighting her aptitude for agriculture, she transferred to Washington State University, where she earned a degree in horticulture in 1987. Her father believed that school was where a person learned vocab- ulary and that the real learning would take place on the farm. Dena absorbed everything he could teach her about growing trees and fruit. Carla, who is seven years younger, also attended Eastern Washington University, earning a degree in accounting. She returned to the nursery and took over from her mother as offi ce manager and controller. Gie shifted to processing tree orders and doing "vital behind-the-scenes" work, as her daughters describe it. German Gie grew up on a 12-acre orchard in Penticton, British Columbia. Her parents had emigrated to Canada from Germany, and German was her fi rst language. Carl grew up in New Jersey and had a grandfather who had emigrated from Germany. The two families met, when she was 16 and he was 19, through an association for people of German heritage. After Carl graduated from college in New Jersey, the couple married, and he served for two years as a landscape beautifi cation offi cer with 8 APRIL 1, 2014 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Going out STRONG Columbia Basin Nursery is selling its last trees. by Geraldine Warner Dena, Gie, and Carla look forward to new adventures. Dena Perleberg, aged about four, supervises the planting of a high-density orchard in 1968. PHOTOS COURTESY OF COLUMBIA BASIN NURSERY

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