THE DALLES, Ore. - Orchard View Farms sits among the sweeping hilltops just outside The Dalles, the area of the Columbia Gorge where the landscape starts to stretch and roll and melt from forest green into Eastern Oregon's golden brown.
The Bailey family, proprietors of Orchard View, a large-scale sustainable cherry growing and packing operation, have an intense attachment to this land. They've been living on it and working it for generations - from the old homestead to the northeast, across the Columbia in Washington, to the farm itself, which Orchard View Chairman Bob Bailey's paternal grandfather and his wife, Mable, established in 1923.
Through its "Orange Spotlight" program, Oregon State University is recognizing Orchard View is an exemplary business demonstrating a dedication to community service, sustainability and innovation. Part of the "Powered by Orange" campaign, the Orange Spotlight will feature a different business each month. Orchard View is the debut Orange Spotlight selection.
Orchard View ships more than 10,000 tons of sweet cherries a year throughout the United States and to more than 25 countries worldwide using a patented packaging method called View Fresh that was developed by Bob Bailey's father, Don. View Fresh, which is licensed by farms worldwide, particularly in Chile, keeps cherries fresh for up to a month after picking.
Despite Orchard View's size -- 80 full time employees and hundreds of seasonal staff -- the Baileys still run it as an environmentally responsible family business. They don't apply chemicals to their trees unless necessary. They closely monitor their use of water and plant cover crops to prevent soil erosion.
They are also active members of their communities in different ways, from school boards to commodity commissions to business associations, and offer programs to employees that help them purchase homes. "We help full-time employees with down payments. So most of them are homeowners," says Bailey.
The Bailey family's connection to OSU is as strong as their roots in the land and the community. "Since I went to school there and my dad Don was a graduate there in '38 or '39, Oregon State has been our place," Bailey says. Bailey graduated from OSU in 1963 with a degree in business and a minor in horticulture.
"The reason I got into the business is that I was born into it," Bailey says. "I went back East to graduate school for one year when I decided I wanted to go back to the small town and the farm, and that was in 1964, and I'm still here."
Bob Bailey's brother Ken, Orchard View vice president, graduated from Oregon State in horticulture in 1962. When he returned to the family farm in 1966, he was mainly involved in orchard establishment and management. Ken, along with Bob and brothers Tom and Jon, helped grow Orchard View from 250 acres to 2,000, ranking it among the larger sweet cherry growing operations in the country.
Throughout that time, Orchard View has been involved with Oregon State's Extension Service and Hood River's Experiment Station, as well as the Austin Family Business Program. And Bob Bailey hopes those connections will continue in the future.
"We want to participate and work together on issues dealing with the business - everything from fruit quality to dealing with new insects, so we can solve problems that show up for us and the industry," Bailey says.
Now, Bob and Ken are handing off the business to the next generation of family members. Bob's daughter, Brenda Thomas, a 1991 graduate of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, recently sold her practice to take over as president and general manager. And their nephew, David Ortega, a 2000 graduate of Oregon State in food science and technology, is the production manager in the packing house.
"My best hope is to create an economically viable business and a positive experience for everyone involved in our business," Thomas says. "It's definitely a learning process, which is why it's important to be around people who support you, like your family."
Orchard View is among nearly 200 organizations listed at "Powered by Orange Businesses" on the poweredbyorange.com website. Powered by Orange Businesses are owned by an OSU alumnus, have many alumni working there, or are friends or supporters of the university. A Powered by Orange Business drives innovation, supports economic growth and serves the community.
Businesses can be nominated for the Orange Spotlight at http://poweredbyorange.com
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Bob Bailey, 541-298-4496