Good Fruit Grower

December 2015

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74 DECEMBER 2015 Good Fruit Grower T he number of apple growers in Washington has shrunk from more than 5,000 to fewer than 1,500 today through a process of consolidation. But Sam Godwin, who farms 200 acres of orchard in Tonasket in north central Washington, believes there's still a place for small growers because they have some advantages over the mega operations. One is the ability to be an early adopter. Growers trying to accomplish something on the scale of 1,000 acres have to rely much more on people, teams, and processes, Godwin says, whereas the small grower is personally involved. "The advantage I have is I can be more nimble and quick," he said. "By being involved and adopting things sooner, maybe I can extract a premium because I can stay one step ahead of the machine." Another advantage is that he has a small team of expe- rienced year-round employees who've been working for him for ten years. He also hires 24 H-2A guest workers who return year after year and don't need to be retrained. The ability to survive as a small farmer is important to Godwin, who grew up on his family's small orchard in Tonasket and hopes his 10-year-old son, Lukes, will carry on the family legacy. Godwin knew from a young age that he wanted to be an orchardist, but his career took a different path at first. He graduated from high school in 1981 and went to Washington State University to study horticulture, but since the economic outlook for fruit growing was not promising at the time, he decided to study engineering instead. After graduating, he got a job as an engineer at The Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington, and worked his way into management, earning a master's degree in busi- ness administration from Seattle University in his spare time. Still, he yearned to return to his roots some day and attended the annual Hort meeting to keep in touch with the industry. Surviving as A SMALL GROWER Sam Godwin has strategies for staying competitive. by Geraldine Warner PHOTOS BY GERALDINE WARNER/GOOD FRUIT GROWER Sam Godwin is one of a shrinking number of small growers. A first-leaf planting of SugarBee apples is on the left and Gala on

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