Doug Stockwell - Orondo Orchards
Doug Stockwell is thoughtful about the industry and his journey through the production business when asked about his experience as a Washington apple grower.
Stockwell believes the most important value as a grower is integrity. “The consumer is putting a huge amount of trust in me as a grower to produce and deliver safe healthy fruit. It’s important to deliver on that trust.”
Stockwell is an apple grower in the Orondo, Washington area. He started his career in tree fruit at 16 years old working in apple orchards over the summer and attended Washington State University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration. He came back and applied his education to tree fruit production. Stockwell worked alongside his father, Vernon Stockwell, a 1st generation orchardist. His operations expanded, and he took on increased responsibilities over time. In 1979, he entered a partnership with outside investors.
Stockwell grows 100 acres of Envy™, Honeycrisp, Gala, Fuji and Sugarbee® on his Orondo Orchards and 1,150 acres with a partner group and plans to continue expanding over the next several years. Honeycrisp makes up the largest volume of his operations. Stockwell has 40 acres of organic which he says is likely to increase over time. Stockwell used business strategies to analyze and adopt new growing practices and varieties. He incorporated vertical high-density orchards, about 1,400 trees per acre, for his new plantings. The high-density plantings allow more fruit per acre, creating operation efficiencies.
When Stockwell reflects on what motivated him to return to the orchard, he states the opportunity to work on the business side of operating orchards and the horticulture side of working in the orchards was incredibly appealing. He says operating an orchard is very much a business. It requires long term planning, coordinating with multiple warehouses and meeting with managers.
There are many joys as an apple grower for Stockwell, such as, “growing fruit that is a delight to consumers, flavorful and healthy. Something that parents feel good giving their children.” Stockwell also appreciates the opportunity for his orchards to provide jobs to individuals and families within the community that is a workplace they want to come back to.
There are also many challenges like operational changes. “Adapting orchards to consumer trends is capital intensive but necessary to provide a great eating experience for consumers,” Stockwell says. There are many evolving components to the industry, the most noticeable being varietal mix. Consumer tastes have changed, and apple growers are working to adopt newer, popular varieties to stay in favor with domestic consumption. These transitions can be costly, but changes increase efficiency and meet consumer demand.
Stockwell is optimistic for the future of the industry, and the healthy Washington apples that delight consumers across the world.