For nearly 90 years, Harmony Orchards has been one of the largest apple producers in the state of Washington. Located in Yakima, with four locations within a 20-mile radius, the company produces more than 40 organic varieties of apples, perry pears, apricots and cherries.
A passion for produce
Craig Campbell, the third-generation owner of Harmony Orchards, took over the family business when his father passed away in 1996. “My grandfather started the orchard in 1927 just when agriculture was becoming profitable in the west end of the Yakima Valley,” says Campbell. “My father worked on the orchard his whole life.” Campbell would eventually leave the farm to attend college at Washington State University. Upon receiving his degree in horticulture, his father encouraged him to branch out and leave the farm for a period in order to gain some life experience. Campbell moved to California where he worked in distribution before moving back to Washington to work alongside his father.
With more than 30 years in the produce industry, Campbell remains engaged in all aspects of the business. From farming to marketing, Campbell has a passion for what he does. “I love to farm and grow things,” says Campbell. “I like both the marketing and farming aspects of the business. I’m still involved in the sales side of what we do, but I could also just farm all day and be happy.”
Campbell‘s background and skills allow Harmony to be one step ahead in the industry. His degree in horticulture grants him a science-based approach while his work with the company’s sales branch in California has provided him with marketing experience. “It really helps to have knowledge on both sides of the business,” says Campbell. “It permits you to know what to plant and when to plant it. Having the market information was a reason we went in the organic direction more than 20 years ago.”
Harmony Orchards has diversified its product since Campbell took ownership of the company 19 years ago. When the apple industry in America was suffering in the early ‘90s, Campbell knew that Harmony Orchards needed to find a way to stand out in the market. “That’s when we started growing apples organically,” recalls Campbell. “When I took the farm over, 80 percent of what we produced was Red Delicious apples. That product is now 10 percent of our yield. We have eight different varieties with an additional 25 varieties of cider apples and pears. We’ve also gotten back into growing apricots and cherries again, so we now have four main crops with several varieties of each.”
Growing fruit takes more than just good soil, water and sunny days. Dedication, continual learning, innovative technologies and passion are all aspects that go into creating the quality product that Harmony Orchards produces. With four locations and 400-plus acres of farmland, the company employs 40 full-time associates. “Since we’ve diversified our business there is always something to do with each crop,” Campbell explains. “When we were mostly Red Delicious we would only need people for a certain time of the year and that doesn’t work in the farming business anymore.”
Organic processing as well as the market for fresh and organically grown fruit creates a majority of Harmony Orchard’s market. “We also have heirloom apples that we pack and grow ourselves,” says Campbell. “We also have 55 acres designated for our cider business.” Tieton Cider Works is a subsidiary of Harmony Orchards. With humble beginnings of only a few acres dedicated to the cider business, Harmony Orchards has grown to become the largest cider apple farm in Washington State.
Progress for the future
Campbell is always interested in discovering innovative methods of farming. As the world moves faster the farming industry must adjust accordingly. “I’m always looking for new ways to grow things,” says Campbell. “With new technologies we can get a full apple crop in the fourth year of a tree compared to seven or eight years. I was excited when we started the cider business six years ago because it meant working with varieties of apples I had never even heard of.”
Significant growth is in the near future for Harmony Orchards. The company has acquired 20-plus acres of new land and continues to search for more. “We’ll take a look at any land that goes up for sale within a 20-mile radius,” says Campbell. “We’re planting some new orchards this spring. We’re now planting more trees per acre and are in the overall process of upgrading our entire operation.”
As Harmony Orchards continues to progress and create innovative methods, the company will remain a leader in the organic farming and cider industry.