The world’s best Chelan, Sweetheart and Bing cherries as well as wild blueberries, marionberries, raspberries and more are grown by family farmers. Many of these farms have multiple generations involved, somewhere between the orchards and the operating facilities. For our growers, providing the highest quality products to our customers is truly a labor of love. Get to know a few of them.
John H. Byers of Byers Orchards has been farming cherries with his family for more than 40 years in The Dalles. His parents started Byers Orchards in the Mill Creek Valley with 20 acres in 1970, and today John and his wife Sandy run the now 205-acre orchard. They produce 17 varieties of cherries including Chelan, Bing and Skeena. For John, cherry harvest continues to be a family affair, some years recruiting the help of more than 17 family members to work the orchards, which he says teaches invaluable life skills.
Dave Cooper is a fourth generational farmer – his grandfather and father both were part of early cooperatives that formed Oregon Cherry Growers – with 300 acres of sweet cherries and 25 acres of pears in the Columbia Basin. One of Dave’s first jobs (in the orchard at age 12) was to record the weight of cherry boxes for his father. Those weight records were used to determine every pickers’ earnings for the season. Today, Dave’s daughter Stacey manages the day-to-day operation of the farm, and Dave acts as an advisor.
Dan Ericksen is a third generation farmer who has been growing cherries in The Dalles for more than 40 years. After graduating from Oregon State University in 1974, Dan married his high school sweetheart, Kay Ericksen, and they established their own orchards. Today, they manage 90 acres featuring mostly early market varieties, like Bings and Chelans. As the current Oregon Cherry Growers board chairman, he supports efforts to invest in new ways to steward the land, test new techniques with cherry varieties, expand markets and support growers. When he’s not tending to cherries, he enjoys spending time with his two daughters and four grandchildren as well as golfing and traveling.
Kay Ericksen is a local cherry farmer and serves on the Culture Trust Board in The Dalles for Wasco County. Together with her husband, Dan Ericksen, they manage more than 90 acres of cherry orchards, including early market varieties like Bings and Chelans. While Dan tends to the orchards, Kay oversees the office side of the business, including payroll, recordkeeping and regulatory requirements. When she’s not handling the administrative side of cherry-growing, she enjoys spending time with her granddaughters, scrapbooking and traveling.
Brenda Bailey Thomas establishes fourth generation stewardship and management of the family-owned Orchard View Farms. She was born and raised in The Dalles on the family cherry farm. She is a graduate of Tufts University and a graduate of Oregon State University with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Brenda and her husband established, operated, and eventually sold a successful veterinary practice of 15 years in The Dalles, Oregon. Returning to the family business and named President in 2009, Brenda developed and streamlined the management team and developed the business strategic plan for the next decade. She has been instrumental in expanding packing house capabilities. Brenda is entering her eighth harvest with Orchard View Farms.
Megan Thompson has been a field representative with Oregon Cherry Growers for 15 years, and she and her husband have also been growers for the past seven years. She works with area growers to facilitate maximum grower return and quality control. Megan graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Horticulture, after first falling in love with plants and horticulture due in part to her involvement with the Green Thumb program in Portland as a child.