Meet Our Grower: Gary Wells
Natural beauty and a sense of community are two major facets that keep Hood River, Oregon farmer Gary Wells in the family business. Well, that and providing naturally healthy produce for the greater marketplace. "I get up every morning looking forward to the day," Gary said midst another year's busy pear harvest.
In fact, he’s busy much of the year, thanks to Wells & Sons growing a variety of fruit in the Hood River Valley– apples, pears, peaches, and sweet cherries. “We usually start harvest the third week of June and keep going through the last week of October,” he said. "But we’re always farming. When we’re not actively involved in harvest itself, we’re usually working on projects for the upcoming year."
Wells & Sons consists of four local families that have been in the business of packing fruit since the 1930s. Gary was born and raised in the valley and felt that his taking part in the family business was an easy choice, despite it not always being an easy job. "There are so many variables you can't control– nature, politics, costs. The marketplace is fickle and can be frustrating." So, how does he do it? "Agriculture is cyclical– you have to conserve in the good years to balance out the challenging ones."
Living and working in such a stunning landscape helps as well. When not farming, Gary says he tries to take advantage of the natural beauty of the land around him, recreating on any of the nearby rivers in the warmer seasons and skiing on Mt. Hood when his orchards are sleeping under a blanket of fluffy snow. He enjoys traveling but is quick to add, "I’m always glad to get home."
Having grown up with a bounty of fruit practically out his backdoor means Gary is well-versed in ways to cook and eat any of those fruits. His favorite, however, is pretty simple: sliced Newtown Pippin and Golden apples simmered in cinnamon and brown sugar until they form a soft, slightly chunky applesauce.
Even with farming's peaks, valleys, and unpredictable nature, Gary is quick to wax nostalgic about his profession and family history. "Farming is a good way of life. It's a wonderful way to bring up a family and the sense of community you get from it is tremendous."