What you do:
We grow apples, pears, cherries, peaches, strawberries, plums and a few other crops here in the beautiful Hood River Valley. We sell our apples, peaches, plums and strawberries through our fruit stand, farmers markets, small stores and
directly to restaurants. We market most of our pears and cherries through Diamond Fruit Growers, one of the few grower-owned cooperatives in the industry.
How did you get into farming?
I’m a third generation orchardist and have been back on the farm since 1988. After graduating from Oregon State University and working in Portland for a few years my father, Mamoru, had health problems and I returned to help out. My grandfather, Riichi Kiyokawa, started farming in Dee, Oregon, (which is located about six miles from here) in 1911.
What would you be if you weren’t a farmer?
I have had the opportunity to work with kids through coaching and volunteering and have cherished those experiences over the years. So if I had to choose I would say I would like to teach math at the middle school level and coach on the side. The greatest influences in my life were/are my parents, teachers and coaches, as well as some very close friends.
What do you love about what you do?
I’ve always enjoyed watching a customer who has come to our farm and takes a bite of an apple and says, “That’s the best apple I’ve ever eaten.” That is one of the greatest rewards of direct marketing and getting to know your customers.
I also like the seasons we have in growing fruit. From the spring blossoms and hope of a new season, to the summer caring of nurturing the trees and the rewarding harvest of a well-earned crop.
What do you want people to know about Kiyokawa Family Orchards?
Since 1911, the Kiyokawa family has been growing the finest produce available while emphasizing conservation-oriented agricultural practices. The fertile soils found at the base of Mt. Hood and rarified, glacier-fed water sources create a unique growing environment allowing us to offer you the cleanest, healthiest produce possible. We emphasize and promote locally and sustainably-grown produce.
What’s the biggest challenge in what you do?
Keeping balance in my life, especially in the harvest season. It has been an easy trap to put work in front of everything including family, my health and spiritual well being. On the business side, I have the obvious concern of the rising cost of production that includes labor, fuel, pest control, insurance & fertilizer. But there are growing regulations that put a small family farm at a huge disadvantage when we are trying to be efficient. The time it now takes me to comply with all the regulations has made farming a “desk job,” let alone the cost of the fees involved.
Your favorite apple or pear variety?
It depends on the time of the season, what I’m going to use it for and even what I’m in the mood for at that time. Early in
the apple season I like Ginger Gold, Gravenstein and an apple developed at the University of Minnesota called Zestar. Mid-season you cannot beat a good Honeycrisp for crispness, flavor and texture but Sonata and Jonagold are also outstanding. Late season would be a toss-up between Crimson Crisp, Mt. Rose (Red Fleshed) and Mutsu.
As you can see it’s a difficult question without going into great length. Maybe that is one of the reasons we grow over 75 varieties.
5 Fun Facts about you:
- I have three kids: Cameron-22, Catherine-20 and Rebecca-12.
- I’m the boy in a family of 4 older sisters and am blessed to have such a great family.
- I wrestled at Oregon State University for three years as well as was a Resident Assistant in a dormitory and Resident Advisor in a Housing Cooperative.
- I see the glass as half full and feel it’s my responsibility to fill it with what makes me happy.
- My dog’s name is Brick.
Our orchard is located on the base of majestic Mt. Hood and we invite our customers to enjoy the farm by offering u-pick apples & strawberries, a play area for kids including picnic tables, a self-guided tour for the adventuresome and the view of three mountains: Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams.