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Jordan Rasch: Remembering the past, growing the future

As a kid, I wanted to be just like my dad. I dressed like him, acted like him and even spent my days in the orchard, just like him. My dad, Fred, and late grandfather, Frank, showed me at an early age, if you don’t love what you do, your days will be long. Though, it was obvious, they worked on our farm not because they had to, but because it was their passion – the same reason I do it. 

Our business, Green Tree Orchards, was founded in Conklin, Mich. in the early 1900s. As the years passed, the orchard grew and was left for the next generations to build on its legacy. Being the sixth generation to inherit the family orchard with my brother Ryan, I plan to take what I’ve learned through my on-farm experiences, as well as my studies at Northern Michigan University and continue to implement new strategies to build on the success of our company for generations to come. 

Just as any business, our intentions are to produce the highest quality products for consumers in order to increase our sales. However, when it comes to our family’s business, our long-term objective is different from most. Our goal is not to sell our business and retire early, but to leave an ongoing legacy for the next generations. My grandfather taught my dad this, just as he taught me, and just how I will teach my kids. 

My dad, brother and I worked with my grandfather until he was almost 90. As a kid, I remember playing with family and friends on hot summer days until I would receive the call, “Go look for grandpa.”  I could always find him in the midst of the heat, chopping away in the orchard. Then there were the times he would take us to the packaging facility before the sun even came up and we wouldn’t leave until it went back down. This was always a blast; however, we may have been yelled at a time or two for throwing rotten apples instead of working…

Though growing up and working on our family orchard has proven to be a great opportunity and experience, this was not always my career intention. I love numbers and felt I could get used to a suit and tie lifestyle, working as a financial planner. As time went on, I realized I couldn’t give up my passion of working outdoors. This led me to an idea of incorporating the two – I would create and implement marketing strategies to sell our crops, while managing a good balance of on-farm work. 

I could not be happier with my decision. It allowed me to work in Washington State after college in 2012 when the crops froze out. This also gave me the opportunity to be a part of USApple’s Young Apple Leader program. There, I was able to make my concerns for the industry known, and discuss with other industry members on how to get them resolved. The program allowed me to network with other young apple leaders, each of us sharing our unique stories, gaining knowledge about the industry we would have never found otherwise. 

Being a young industry leader can be intimidating at times, but at the end of the day, all growers are after the same goal: produce the highest quality fruit as efficiently as possible. Despite my age, I care about my job just as much as the next guy. Though I find problems in the apple industry, I see plenty of strengths and opportunities to match. With constant changes in technology and tools, I look forward to being a part of a fast-paced, growing and economy-building industry.