Good Fruit Grower

December 2015

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52 DECEMBER 2015 Good Fruit Grower management practices: Investing in canopy man- agement (good sunlight penetration while reducing sunburn, good spacing for airflow, no mildew), deficit irrigation management, and hand-field work to eyeball for the future, knowing the spacing of the spurs contributes to the spacing of the cluster. "To do it right takes more investment. It's not just machine pruned and machine harvesting," Clubb said. "They're willing to do all aspects to accomplish the kind of quality we're going after." Apples Investing in wine grapes and selling them under contracts helped to make the farm more financially stable and provided a foundation to reinvest in other ways. Roy decided the farm needed to heavily reinvest in apples or exit the business; some of the planted varieties were outdated—Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Rome, and Braeburn—and there was no graftable acreage. His first orchard planting was a new block of Braeburn on M9.337 rootstock, and new varieties, including Gala and Fuji, have been planted in the years since, many as sleeping eyes. And Oasis Farms continues to transform. That original Braeburn block he planted has since been grafted with Envy, and Honeycrisp have been grafted onto older Fuji on M.26 rootstock. Orchards also have been modernized with new growing methods, first with tall spindles, then V-shaped trel- lises with formal limb placement (see "In with the new" on page 54). Roy said Oasis Farms aims to aggressively rein- vest in the best varieties of everything grown there, using the latest technology, with a goal to be in the top third of whatever market they're in for that crop. "Our approach from a business perspective is to focus on topline income rather than expenses," he said. "We're looking for crops that are going to bring in the most money." In addition to trying new varieties, Roy also has entered into organic blueberries. A blueberry pack- ing shed went into production this year. The future In the coming years, the few Concord grapes and stone fruit blocks will be replaced as well, as Oasis Farms focuses on four key crops: apples, wine grapes, blueberries, and hops, grown under contract to big brewers and to serve the craft brew market. He also is keeping an eye out for new apple varieties coming to market, including WA 38 (Cosmic Crisp). "He's got a philosophy that he's got to turn something over every few years in order to stay up on things, so he's always looking to pull out some- thing old to put in something new," Newhouse said. "It's hard to do, and he does a good job of it." Roy particularly credits Derek Hill, production manager, and Chad Lybeck, chief financial officer, with helping to lead Oasis Farms into a future where the farm aims to be a key player. Roy hired Hill in 2007 straight out of Washington State University— Hill graduated on Saturday and started work on Monday. Hill said he's grateful for the opportunity Roy gave him to learn from the ground up like he did. "I am really excited by the fact that we continu- ally develop every year. Making things better, look- ing for the best varieties, the best trellis system, how are we executing on our farm, how are we going to do better," Hill said. "Those are things that make me proud to be part of the farm." Oasis Farms is a relatively youthful company, management-wise, and Roy said he and his team are enthusiastic while having high expectations for themselves. "I don't think what we're doing is out of the ordinary. It's just something we've been suc- cessful at being completely committed to. It's easy to say and hard to do." • Chief Financial Officer Chad Lybeck, left, and Brenton Roy talk shop in the Oasis Farms conference room. 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