“We are just talking fruit,” said Tyler Edwards, when he commented on what it’s like creating relationships with our growers and the orchard managers. It’s not as simple as it sounds, but Tyler has the depth and breadth of knowledge to pull it off. In fact, while Tyler has been with us for five years, his roots in agriculture took hold early and locally.
Tyler spent most of his life in the fruit industry right here in Yakima, Washington. It started with his father and two uncles, who owned their own farm and small packing warehouses. “From the time I was 12, I was working under my dad and uncles in their operations. I did everything from manual labor, to forklift driving, to working in the shipping office when I was older,” he said.
“I did get my degree in economics from Western Washington University, but I kept coming back to help out during the summers and never really left,” Tyler commented. Well, he did kind of leave when he went off to travel Europe.
In the end, his travels led him back home to Washington, and it wasn’t long until we hired Tyler as our Specialty Fruit Procurement Manager. “I was handling all of the non-apple and pear procurement. This included berries, mango purees, or organic apple and pear concentrates if we didn’t have the organic supply for the year,” he explained.
Now, Tyler is serving in a dual role. He still works to get us the best mango purees around, but he has also moved into the apple and pear side of procurement as well, which he’s not complaining about.
“My favorite part of the job is being out in the field looking at the fruit and talking with the growers,” said Tyler. “Even today, I’ll be out in the vineyards looking at concord grapes because they’re due to be harvested today. I get to be out with the growers and field managers, many of whom have been in the farming and growing industry for a long time. I enjoy picking their brains and finding out what the overall crop looks like, what challenges they have, and how we can help. It’s just about building those relationships,” he continued.
Not every day is spent out in the vineyards or in the office, though. With our more recent use of orchard run contracts, Tyler and others in our Field Team are spending more time in the orchards monitoring the fruit.
“During these times, I’m out with the growers and orchard managers before the harvest. We are looking at the apples, cutting them, and checking starch levels since that dictates how ripe they are. I work closely with them to coordinate the best time for picking and to make sure we have all the logistics hammered out on our end for shipping and storage,” said Tyler.
There’s a lot more to fruit procurement than just finding the right variety. Tyler and the rest of the team work diligently with our supply chain and operations arms to make sure every fruit has a home at the end of the day. They spend a good part of their time coordinating shipments with our warehouses to make sure each warehouse has the right variety, quality, and quantity of fruit to run their processes. Harvest time means it’s even crazier.
“Some days, I have a plan for what I think I’m going to do, but I could get a phone call and be out for the rest of the day. This time of year can be busy and a little crazy because you can be pulled in so many directions, but that’s part of the fun too,” Tyler said with a little laugh.
Because at the end of the day, it’s all about the fruit.