“Harvest is the best time of year,” said Brian Wheeler. Even after 26 years of working for Tree Top, Brian still gets fired up this time of year.
You don’t have to spend a very long time with Brian to figure out he loves to constantly be on the go. Whether it’s strolling through pear orchards, walking around pack houses, or hiking through the Cascades, he’s always moving. This part of his life has always been with him.
“I am a military brat, moved around a lot,” said Brian. His love for travel and adventure started young. As a young adult he decided to take the risk and participate in an exchange program, which brought him out to the Pacific Northwest to study at the University of Idaho. Here, Brian earned his degree in entomology and applied ecology.
Always enamored with the outdoors, Brian managed to make his way farther west to where the mountains touched the sky. He became more engrossed in the agricultural business and went on to expand his education at the Oregon State University where he studied agricultural soil sciences.
Several years and working for small companies later, Brian took a job here with us and has stayed with the Field Team ever since.
Brian said, “Back then, we had the ‘Green Sheets’ where I went and met with growers to gather information about them, their crop, and other logistics. Many people didn’t have voicemails, and we certainly didn’t have cell phones. So, there was a lot of showing up, knocking on their door, and introducing yourself.”
This was how Brian started creating relationships that have lasted the full 26 years he has worked with us. Through all the shifts, twists, and turns the industry has taken during this time, his commitment to maintaining these relationships – and expanding to new ones – has never changed.
“Most of my time is now spent with the packing houses,” said Brian. “I see myself as a negotiator to make sure we get the right fruit at the right time at the right quality. But we are also the liaison between the company and the packing houses as a proxy for the growers. We really try to preserve the relationships with growers and warehouses because all of us rely on each other to maintain our businesses.”
Brian makes the logistics sound pretty simple. “With many of the growers and packers, I’ve worked with them for so many years I can just call them up and have a conversation about the orchards and the fruit,” he commented. The reason why he makes it sound so simple is because he works diligently to ensure the needs of every packer and grower are met, along with our own supply and demand.
Harvest time really ramps up Brian’s energy levels. He lit up when he explained, “This is the time we are really working with growers to figure out when the best time to get this fruit is. We have to work around their schedule, and our schedule, and get the bins out there; it can be very hectic. But you’re more content when you’re busy.
This very active, involved time when things are busy and changing rapidly is the best part of the job. I love it when we can be proactive and out in the field checking on the harvest.”