Andrew Schultz part 2 | #027 06/15/2020

When you have wine from Washington, know that there's a lot of science and a lot of work that goes into it. Viticulturist Andrew Schultz explains in detail the secrets to growing great wine grapes, and how he's always challenging the status quo.

Transcript

Andrew Schultz:
There’s no such thing as retirement. I washed that off a long time ago. I’m just going to get up and I’m going to try and do the thing that I enjoy most every day. This seems to be something that really challenges me, so I’ve stuck to it.

Announcer:
This is the Real Food Real People Podcast.

Dillon Honcoop:
What gets you up in the morning? I know for me, one of the things is my continuing mission here with the podcast to meet farmers, talk with farmers all over the state, and share their personal stories of how they got to do what they do, all the humanity that they put into the food that we then eat. For Andrew Schultz, our guest again this week, what gets him up every morning is the challenge of growing amazing wine grapes, and in often cases, growing them in a way that maybe no one has ever tried before. He’s always pushing the envelope, doing something different. He gets pretty technical in this part two this week.
Honestly, I’m not sure if he may have shared some trade secrets in the conversation really in how he does what he does, but he’s really open on what he does. He’s not trying to hide anything at all. So, he shares a lot about the technical aspect of growing wine grapes, but don’t be intimidated by all the technical details. Maybe people more familiar with some of that stuff will really get into that, but just listen to all the… I mean if you hear anything from all this technical stuff, how he handles irrigation and managing the crop and the soil and all of that, if you take anything from that, it’s just understanding the challenge that someone growing food is up against, even a non-staple like wine, how much goes in to that between the science and the art and people and everything.
Really, really eye-opening to me as a farm kid to hear all the particulars. So, I really enjoyed this conversation myself. I hope that you do too from whatever background you’re coming from, just to appreciate what goes into growing the incredible wine grapes produced here in Washington.
Of course, as Andrew said, I think last week and says again this week too, so much of what you taste in that wine that you buy in the store is a result of how the grapes were grown, the soil that they were in, the weather. So, many things are determined by a grower like Andrew and his team at Brothers In Farms. They’re out in Benton City, by the way. If you didn’t catch last week, that’s part one. You may want to do that for some background, even though I’m sure you can appreciate some of the things he ends up talking about here in part two.
My name is Dillon Honcoop, I should mention that, host here of Real Food Real People Podcast. I grew up on a raspberry farm here in Western Washington. Like I said earlier, I’m just going on a personal mission to go all over Washington state and share the real stories of the real farmers who are producing our food. I really do hope you do, and I think you will enjoy this conversation this week.
What’s your future? What’s your vision for Brothers In Farms and what you guys are doing with custom viticulture? That has to be closely tied then with the future of these wine markets and this region and all of this stuff comes together, right?

Andrew Schultz:
Yes. What I forgot to mention, which I was going to mention earlier, is even in this marketplace, for example, work with one property. They sell their grapes for about twice what anybody else sells them for. Even in this “tight or bulked out marketplace,” those grapes are sold out. So, what I see on the higher end growing side of the people that are more discerning is yeah, absolutely they want to value and there’s ways that they can get there. They have a product line to build, but for some of these real particular things, they’re still being particular on where they buy them from and who’s growing them and what the values are behind growing those.
So, they are still purchasing up, so they’re buying that farmer’s consistency to be able to produce this thing for their customers every year. The price, it obviously matters at some level, but it doesn’t matter as much. So, that’s the same for [inaudible 00:04:52]. This is kind of our niche. We’re willing to do things that other companies aren’t, or maybe they’re so big that they aren’t, or they can’t. So, it’s like the battleship maneuvering in a bathtub type theory. So, where we can turn a corner fast and they may not be able to turn a corner fast or maybe they’re not willing to take a certain type of a measurement to be able to manage a field, that’s how we’re hammering down into our niche, is being willing to do the things or listen to the customer.
I mean, the whole reason I started this business was because a company came in and they bought out a family vineyard. They were like 75 years old, they were ready to sell. So, they sold, they got their uptick on their property. I think they bought it at $250 or $2,500 an acre or something. They sold it for… Would have been 200 or 300 X that value in the end. The person that’s going to buy that to a company. But that company, when they came in, they wanted a farm in certain way. The people that existed in Washington that were farming those properties, they said, “We aren’t willing to do those things.”
Anywhere somebody says, “We aren’t willing to do it,” is an opportunity for somebody to start a business and go do something, and that’s essentially all we did. We said, “Hey, what do you want done? We’ll listen to you. We can build a company to service your needs.” So that’s essentially what we’re looking for, is people like that.
We’ve been successful at finding those people. So, as the future grows, there’s going to be more people asking more discerning questions. We want to put ourselves in the position to be able to answer those questions for those companies or those individuals that need those questions answered.

Dillon Honcoop:
You guys are kind of new kids on the block to this world. Even though the Washington wine world is younger than California and other places, there’s still some people who’ve been around here for a while. What’s the reaction been to you guys coming in, doing things different?

Andrew Schultz:
I mean, to be honest, I don’t pay attention to a lot of stuff, whether it’s pundits on the sideline or whatever it is. We just try to keep our head down and do the right thing every day. I mean, you hear things and probably some of the comments, not that they were direct comments towards me or whatever. I’ve had conversations with guys that have been growing in the state for a long time. One of the comments I had was, “We don’t even really know what to do with this data, necessarily when people take these things and so, what are we going to do with it? It’s a waste of time.”

Dillon Honcoop:
Because you’re collecting all of these. You’ve got spreadsheets upon spreadsheets of info that you’ve gathered, right?

Andrew Schultz:
Yes. Yeah. Essentially, my point was let’s say that none of it’s worth anything, right? We can’t do anything with it. Let’s just say for a second, which we think we can, but let’s say we can’t. If we have those points in the future, we’re going to be able to go back and learn something from what we’ve done in the past, because we’ve taken the data points. I guess to go back, part of our program or why we do what we do or how we got to how we do what we do is I have developed an irrigation model essentially over the last 10 years. The company that came in that we started our business under mainly, that company, that guy had been working on same issues for about 35 years. Him and I saw eye to eye on one of the major factors.
When you look at a great plant in the world and this is the way I looked in, it took me a couple of years to answer this question. What’s the most important factor when you start looking at chaos theory, which is what farming is like. What’s the most important factor? What’s the thing that I can change at the fulcrum to change the whole picture at the end of it? So, I started dialing down. I said, “Okay, what are the three main things in a grapes’ life? It’s sunlight, it’s nitrogen, and it’s water. Sunlight comes in two forms, that which we can’t control, how much heat or how much sun hits the property in an individual a year or timing wise.
And then there’s the amount of sunlight that’s inside the canopy. In Washington state, what I look at is control or any time in a system is what I look is how much control you have is you look at the extremes. So, we don’t irrigate it at all. The plant die, or it’s significantly reduced in size, and the canopy’s 5, 10 inches tall. On the other side of it, we irrigate it all we want and the thing’s 60, 80 inches long. It’s blocked out all the sunlight and the grapes are never going to ripen. The answer’s somewhere in between. So, we can manage that and that’s managed largely with water. And then you go to nitrogen, nitrogen stops in the soil with the absence of water.
So, anything subservient to something else is not as important as the master, which means that water is the number one key. So, then the question becomes how can we manage water and what do we do with water? So, then we get into vine spacing mainly in row, not necessarily from one row to the next, but in row. And then timing and what the soil actually does. What I found on the soil, at least in my opinion, is it’s less about this real sexy version that they give you in the media about all this minerality comes through and all these other things.
Really what has the biggest effect is the physical properties of that soil. How fast does the water go in? How fast doe the water come out? Is the soil compact enough or have enough clay or silt to actually limit the row growth? What happens when you have gravel in it? That structure’s changed. I mean, those are the things that make the biggest impact. So, we kind of hammered down on that. When we started working with the company from California, they came in. They gave us some data sheets on some other things to measure to understand.
So, we started doing that. I built a program for them, which they hadn’t done, or we hadn’t done for measuring the breathing of the plant. That was important, but the models that existed out there in the world before us were all models that were created from these areas that have 40 inches of rain a year. Their model basically said that in the beginning of the year, you start out with all this water in the soil and there may be some more that comes. At some point, you cannot irrigate it enough that you reach some stress threshold that’s key. And then you go back to irrigation, and that’s what quality is. Yet, in Washington, like we could reach that point by the time the grapes go into bloom. So, now what do you do, right? So, we took some-

Dillon Honcoop:
That’s stress point of lack of water.

Andrew Schultz:
Yes.

Dillon Honcoop:
Which does what to the plant? You want that to do what?

Andrew Schultz:
Just like a human. You know what I mean? Or any other biological processes, you take something, and you put it underneath stress. And then what happens? In the plant’s version, skins thicken. They create more color to withstand more sunlight, which these are all polyphenolics and things like that. That build up in the plant and that berry size is smaller, because basically the plant just wants to reproduce. So, you’re using it against its rules. Once you reach certain biological points, the plant can’t walk back through that in an individual season. So, once that plant tip shuts down on those shoots, you can’t get them to start again.
Once it’s completely shut down and they’ll shoot, side shoots if you go back to full irrigation at the wrong time or something like that, but the tip won’t regrow. So, we’re kind of using the plant against itself and there’s ways that we’ve measured. So, we had to go back, and we had to take these parameter readings. We had to move them down. We would say, “Okay, well we have this different system. What’s the most efficient way to use that system? And then are the stress levels that they said, are they real? Are the numbers the same?” So, we started looking at research correlation and all that stuff to what that is. To go back to your point on what happens is, it’s like a human and this is the way we look at irrigation. It’s really frequency and timing when you think about it.
So, if you decide to go to the gym like once every two weeks and workout super freaking hard, right? After about six weeks or a year or something like that, you probably won’t have created much of a biological reaction with yourself, at least not as much as if you decided to go to the gym and workout moderately five days a week. You’re going to see a lot more, especially after about 21 days. Plant’s the same way.
So that’s what we do, is we’ve kind of figured out a really nice stress threshold. We hold that plant there for about 21 days, and then we’re able to start building the water back up in the soil. Once that plant walks through that door, it can’t walk back through. We go back to full irrigation. Many times, this puts us in a really good spot in Washington state where we’ve built back the water up in the soil at least on that top 12 inches to where as soon as the heat comes, the plants can withstand it. They don’t have any issues with sour, shrivel, or overstress or something like that when the stress hits the plant.

Dillon Honcoop:
Yup. Is anybody else doing this this way?

Andrew Schultz:
Not in particular. We chose that particular measurement. There’s other ones that are on the cusp, some of these micro-tensiometers and things like that, that can be measured on a 15-minute basis that are the future. That technology is not quite there. We’re also looking at stuff to be able integrate these into a basically like A&M, like these neural networks that can self-learn for a specific location and stuff like that. Because if we can do that, we’re completely automated. But we chose these measurements specifically, because they see past certain things.
A lot of guys will read the measurement of how much water is in the soil, but that doesn’t mean anything. If you have flocks run the soil, which is a real issue in Washington, say starting last year, but the reality is it was here before that. Those attack the roots, and of course that keeps the plant from uptaking enough water.

Dillon Honcoop:
Is that bacteria?

Andrew Schultz:
It’s a root louse basically. So, it’s a fly that lives on the… They pupate and all that, live on those roots. We haven’t found the flying version yet. They’re still moving in Washington state vineyards, nonetheless. It’s wiped out the California industry, I think once or twice, and then it’s wiped out France twice in two different times anyway. We’re largely owned rooted here, so we don’t have any rootstocks or anything, which is a real benefit to Washington to a certain extent, but really less is known about that.
There’s nematodes that mute the tips of all the small roots that are out there, and then that affects the water uptake of the plant. They mute the tips and they leased the roots. So, that basically stresses them out and you don’t get as big a root network. So, it doesn’t have the ability to pull out as much water over time. Especially when only start forming groundless, nematodes come up a population. So, there’s issues like that.
There’s cold damage issues and everything. If you read what’s in the soil, it doesn’t necessarily mean what the plant’s actually seeing. So, that’s why we measure the breathing of the plant, because that tells us exactly what that plant is seeing. This is independent of once you started getting into the rootstock conversation, these rootstocks that are going to be going in it and real heavy numbers in Washington state. Each one of those rootstocks deals with water differently. So, that’s going to affect the root mass below and how that plant’s breathing on the top of it. So, those are the things, so that’s why we want to measure what that plant’s actually seeing, and then we backed that up.
The best way to look at it is none of these things… I think some of the colleagues out there, at least the people I’ve talked to, have pointed to some of the measurements that we take and they’re like, “Oh that’s not a cornerstone. That’s not the magic pill.” In reality, none of this stuff is a magic pill and it’s not why we’re doing it. The reality is, is how you figure out where you’re at in black spaces. You take as many data points as possible, and then you can try to triangulate your most probable location and make a decision from there. That’s essentially what we’re doing. We have about four or five measurements that we take during the year to understand what the long-term health of the plant is to keep it doing the same thing that we want it to do.
There’s some indications there with our protocol that we put in place. So, we’ve had to compensate for our compensation. Anyways, so it’s really fun to be able to do it and it’s challenging to see. What’s really cool is when you’re able to come back and reproduce these every year and on different varieties and on different properties, and we’ve done it on about nine different soil types. We played in the rocks last year, which is a really high-end wine region, a common, interesting wine region of Washington. We played in that last year. I found out that soil is actually just as if not more predictable than some of the other soils in Washington. Predominantly everybody thinks that it’s a super wet soil.
To be honest, we did a really good job about getting the water out of there last year and faster than we did on the Ellensburg silt loam, which is their stuff that they consider as really high end down there. Warden’s nice. Some of these different soil types have these different periods of time where things pop up and some of these nematodes too even by variety. Typically speaking, there are some really over-vigorous Merlot blocks out there, and there’s some really under-vigorous Merlot blocks.
What we’ve found on some of these under-vigorous Merlot blocks is the nematodes for whatever reason tend to like them versus other varieties over time. How that ends up coming to fruition is some time in the back end or middle of May, when you wouldn’t even think about doing an irrigation, because you think that there’s water in the soil, those plants pop hot for having a lot of stress. Then you go back in and you do one really small four-hour irrigation, plant goes back to normal and you get everything you want. It’s really cool to see in action.

Dillon Honcoop:
Crazy. Still this stuff about water is boggling my mind, because everything else seems to be focused on making sure you have enough water and always bringing in enough. Your management isn’t just that. In fact, quite often, it’s about making sure you don’t have too much, which is not what I’m used to at all, but it makes sense when you explain the science of what’s actually going on in the plant there.

Andrew Schultz:
Yeah. In our case, based on numbers I’ve seen or whatever, we’re probably 20 to 25%. In a lot of cases, less water than say a standard farmer that’s trying to grow decent grapes. So, some guys will say 12 to 15 inches a year or something like that. I mean, I’ve grown some crops on as little as 8 or 9 inches in a year and had excellent results with those grapes too.

Dillon Honcoop:
So that’s an environmental impact even there possibly as well.

Andrew Schultz:
Yeah, but you know what? I mean, absolutely it’s got an environmental, but from an economic impact standpoint too, it’s fantastic. If we can avoid creating problems that we don’t have to go in there and find solutions for with either chemicals or extra inputs, we’re absolutely going to do that. I mean, every time, hands down. One of the things I like to point to is a property that I ran for about five years. I was tracking all the different forms of labor on that property. Actually, all the properties that we’re running for that guy, but I would break them down at the end of every year. Because otherwise, when you look at labor, it’s just this like big $600,000 pile of money.
But when you start breaking it down to whether it was done with hand work or tractor work or what type of hand work or this part of the season or the other part of the season, we start breaking down those numbers and you look at them over a five-year period. We went in and this is when I was developing that protocol. What we ended up doing in that business was we actually dropped $50,000 of labor off of a 100-acre property.
What’s important about that is that’s $50,000 that we saved, but when I look at labor and this comes from an employee standpoint, you don’t necessarily want to reduce your labor because people’s lives and families and all that stuff are affected. So, what we did in that particular case was we still had some acres to develop. So, we took that same crew and they would have been working on one property to do these certain things. We built another 35 acres over a two-year period on this other property that allowed us to put the time into building this other or extra or additional revenue stream for the business. And then once that came to fruition, we were farming 175 acres of grapes with the exact same number of people. We were farming 110 or 115 to begin with.
This is one of the things I like looking at is how many men per acre does it take the farm it? The year I left, we were farming 1 man for every 15 acres, and 1 to 10 is considered pretty, pretty efficient in hand done farming. So, this is the kind of power that we have with water or some of our inputs. I think it’s an important thing in life in general, like whether it’s farming or anything else. When you look at it and you say, “Okay, Hey everybody’s ready for the new magic bullet or the thing out there that’s going to get us to whatever level or something,” the reality is, is what we should be doing is saying “What can I do better with what I have right now? How can I make me more efficient or a better person or whatever it is?”, right?

Dillon Honcoop:
That applies to so many things.

Andrew Schultz:
Yup. Yeah, absolutely.

Dillon Honcoop:
What would you tell the consumer out there that’s kind of skeptical? What’s really going on our farms here in the state?

Andrew Schultz:
In general, in Washington state because of our dry conditions where the majority of the stuff has grown at least on this side. I don’t know much about the farming on the West side, so I’d leave that to you. But on this side, I mean, man, because of the lack of water and the no rain and stuff like that and having good growing soils, I mean by and large, we are really efficient. We’re way more sustainable than a lot of growing regions. I think that’s a huge benefit to Washington across the board.
I mean, as a case in point, some of these other regions, they’re spraying 8 to 12 times in a season. The average farmer over here, even for the production stuff, is at 6. We’ve been getting away for the last five years. I’ve sprayed 3 times per season and 2 of those aren’t even chemicals. They were like sulfur in the beginning of the year and then some oil in the mid part. And then at one point, chemical that attacks only mildew. And then after that, we don’t do anything.

Dillon Honcoop:
You do any organic?

Andrew Schultz:
I don’t do organic. Although I had a client that talked to me within the last two months. They’re really interested in trying to produce about 100-acre organic grape vineyard. I look at as like, it’s a challenge for me. But I think with good irrigation practices and pruning practices and stuff like that, I think we could get some organic grapes, and really not have to spray them at all or very, very little if we even did. Because I think that that could happen here in Washington and there’s definitely some guys that have been doing it in the state.
I’d like to do it on a high end level and see what happens with that, because I think it’d be a really fun project to see how efficient we can get and how much we can actually reduce as far as inputs are concerned. So, yeah. So, maybe here in the future, we’ll be working with somebody on that.

Dillon Honcoop:
Can the food consumer trust the food that they’re getting from this state?

Andrew Schultz:
Can they trust the food they get from the state? I mean, I think so. I don’t know what’s done in other places. Because I dealt with tree fruit and stuff like that too, when I was farming in the Yakima area. The US in general, we’re being held to these Global GAP standards and they are a pain in the rear end to deal with. You know what I mean? I got audited every year I mean, there’s some stuff that’s even on a ridiculous level. You know what I mean? For example, we had to test all the water sources as far as irrigation water, even for E. coli bacteria and stuff.
For the lay consumer that may not be privy to the research behind that is they looked at… I mean, we’re talking astronomical levels of E. coli in water, like somewhere around 1,200 colony forming units and stuff like that. They were putting it straight on and seeing if it actually went into the apple. What they found is even at these astronomical rates that don’t even exist in an open ditch in the state, they would literally have to put it on like that day. It was more coming in through water, actually sitting on the apple than it was inside of the fruit.
As a case in point, Washington state farmers or farmers in general, at least to my knowledge, we don’t irrigate at least a couple of days before we go pick, because you don’t want the ground to be soft when you’re in there trying to carry around, bends and stuff like that. So, there’s no water even going on these things. In many cases, it’s during the fall where you’ve cut back the irrigation and maybe like once a week anyway. But I mean, we were being held to these standards.

Dillon Honcoop:
Why do you think there’s all the concern about that?

Andrew Schultz:
The biggest part of the concern is these other countries that are producing fruit and produce in the world. Apples aren’t one of them, but there’s definitely some vegetables out there that are really prone to have issues like E. coli. One of those is lettuce. Of course, it’s low growing and then there’s ton of irrigation. There’s water that’s held in between those leaves and stuff like that. I don’t know whether it actually goes inside the lettuce, because I’m not in that industry necessarily.
The standards that these other countries are held to isn’t as strict as what the US is, but you know what I mean. We’re required to have bathrooms for so many people and cleaned on a regular basis and stuff like that. I mean, that stuff that is standard and has been before a Global GAP even existed. So, largely our produce is done right at least from that standpoint or from a health standpoint. It’s when some of those logistics are dropped or whatever that you largely start having issues. By and large, I mean, there’s large farmers in Washington, but nowhere near what there is in other places.

Dillon Honcoop:
Are workers being taken care of well? I know that’s a concern as well. Are people being compensated fairly and treated humanely as they’re doing hard work in the field?

Andrew Schultz:
I was just back in Iowa at a meeting not too long ago. This is a land expo meeting. So, they had a lot of bigwigs there and people that farm thousands of acres over there for soybeans and corn and all that stuff. I happened to stop by a bar when I got there that night. I just wanted a pint after flying over there, so I sat down at this Irish pub. I was having a pint and I chatted with a bartender for a minute. I said, “Hey, man, what’s the minimum wage over here?” They were like, “It was $7.25,” which is a federal rate. I was like, “Are you crapping me?” He said, “No.” I said, “You got to be joking me. Our minimum wage here this year is $13.50.” That’s one of the highest in the States.
Arguably, you’d say cost of living is probably a little bit increased too, but yeah, by and large Washington’s doing a really good job of keeping pace and making sure that people will be in compensated correctly or at least as correctly as possible. You see that in the guys here in Washington. I feel like a lot of the farmers are being treated fairly.
As we transitioned into more mechanical stuff and what that does is that deletes jobs, but those guys don’t go away. They still have a lot of experience. They learn how to work on those pieces of equipment. They learn how to operate them. They’re out there just doing more acres but getting paid a little bit better and doing a little bit of work that’s probably less hard than from the standpoint of that stuff.
Like when I was a kid and not that I spent a lot of time in, but my dad, he’s telling me stories about how they used to pick watermelons. You go out there and you stand in a line. One guy toss 20-pound watermelon to the next guy. The next guy toss to him and next guy to him, and it went all the way into the back of a truck. Some guy would be catching up there and stacking them. So, the backbreaking work isn’t backbreaking anymore, at least in large part so.

Dillon Honcoop:
What about environmental sustainability? Are we doing what we can here in Washington?

Andrew Schultz:
Yeah. As far as I’m concerned, yeah, absolutely. Actually, the chemicals and things that are out there are really good. We’ve seen a lot of stuff that we’ve done, even though we’ve reduced normal pesticides or chemicals or something like that just by our irrigation practices. Yeah. So, the one thing that we see for what we do is we’ve reduced that, but these chemicals are more pointed. When they go out there, they’re just out there attacking the mildew. They’re not attacking the bees and stuff like that, which is fantastic. This is what I would do if I played this game with organic grapes, is I’d looking at some other options out there other than sulfur, because sulfur even though it’s allowed for organic, a new chem nowadays would just go after the mildew in one way or another, one of its modes of action.
Sulfur goes out there and it’s broad spectrum. It wipes out anything or can affect the fecundity of these other bugs. You might end up with another issue in the vineyard, plus they only last seven days. So, the diesel footprint, because a lot of the tractors run on diesel. The diesel footprint is like three times higher. So, it’s a real question. If I was playing the organic game with organic viticulture, that’s the kind of stuff that I would try to do, is reduce the economical of the diesel footprint and actually try to get the plant to do everything we want it to do, essentially with this low input as possible.
So, typically in these vineyards, we’ve seen really excellent… As a case in point, in last several years, a lot of guys will have to spray for… Which any time, you spray pesticide, they’re bad, because it kills bugs in general, even if you have them that are fairly pointed. Mites is a big issue for dust and stuff like that especially out here in the desert, the dry side of things. But what we’ve seen is by staying as low input as possible, doing a lot of this farming up front in a year, what you end up getting is this really nice abundance of other bugs in the vineyard. So, we’ve seen in many cases, the vineyards I’ve run for last 10 years that those populations will come up in the fall.
I have a fantastic guy that does all my chemical recommendations and everything. He comes out and he’s looking at the beneficial populations. He’s looking at the populations of the bugs that we don’t want, right? As he sees those come up, he’s like, “Hey, don’t do anything right now. Let’s wait another week. I’m going to watch the populations, the beneficials.” In many cases, those beneficials come in as soon as the bad ones come up. They’re eating and taking care of the other guys, and then guess what? Nature balances itself, and it works out in the end.
So, that’s the kind of stuff that we’re trying to wait for to use, to see if it happens naturally. Because if we went in there one time and we sprayed those, now we’ve just upset what population of the beneficials they were before they ramped up to take care of the bad guys and we just wiped out everything that we want. And then we would have to do remedial action and the year after, and the year after, and the year after. And then you ended up in this downhill spiral that you don’t want to be in.

Dillon Honcoop:
What’s the one thing that person who isn’t on farms at all, doesn’t know anything about farming, but buys and eats food, what should they know about well, I guess with you guys in particular? The wine that they’re drinking from Washington state and any food and farming, what should they know?

Andrew Schultz:
Probably one of the biggest things from a standpoint of why or how we farm is there’s nobody out there. You know what I mean? I can’t speak for the big companies that sell everything to the people, but the individual farmers that are out there, like we’re trying to make a living and we’re trying to do the right thing. We’re not going to do something that is going to screw up our one plot of land that we have, because that’s what we live on. That’s our livelihoods. So, we’re going to try and make the best decisions we can every day. There’s no reason for us to go out there and do more than we have to or not pay attention enough. So, that’s probably the biggest thing. We’re real people out here and we’re trying to make the best decisions possible.

Dillon Honcoop:
Thank you for opening up and just sharing so much about what you do. It’s so obvious that you have a ton of passion for this. Are you going to keep doing this forever?

Andrew Schultz:
I don’t know, man. Yeah, I think so. You know what I mean? Life changes and life does stuff. I try to stay open minded with that, but yeah, absolutely. As far as am I going to stop doing anything? No, I’ll always be doing something until the day I die. There’s no such thing as retirement. I washed that off a long time ago. I’m just going to get up and I’m going to try and do the thing that I enjoy most every day. This seems to be something that really challenges me, so I’ve stuck to it.

Dillon Honcoop:
Well, thanks for sharing some of that with us.

Announcer:
This is the Real Food Real People Podcast. These are the stories of the people who grow your food.

Dillon Honcoop:
So, there’s a good chance that if you have some Washington wine, especially some of the really fancy stuff, you may have had wine from grapes grown by Andrew Schultz and his team at Brothers In Farms. I should have mentioned earlier, I recorded this conversation with Andrew before COVID stuff got crazy. So, I bet some of those answers would be a little bit different as far as just the things that they’re dealing with right now to keep workers and people safe. So, it’s not like they’re ignoring that. I just wanted to mention so that some of that stuff makes sense. Maybe we should even follow up with Andrew. I’d be curious to hear how things are going, because it certainly has presented additional challenges.
Also, I don’t think I mentioned this earlier, but if you do want to catch it, we earlier talked with one of Andrew’s team Javier Valencia. Should look up, see what my Googling skills are to quickly check what episode number that was. I should have checked. Oh, episode 11. Episode 11 was Javier. So, if you want to hear more about Brothers In Farms and from another team member there, check that one out. That’s at realfoodrealpeople.org, of course. What a cool guy. I don’t know if I said it on the podcast yet, but I said it on social media. Previously that after I got done talking with Andrew, I felt like can I get a job here? I’d like to work for you. You just seem like a really smart guy, really organized, and really cutting edge and just willing to try new stuff, not just doing it the same old way.
That gets me pumped up about doing something, whatever it is. I don’t have any particular passion for growing wine grapes. I grew up on a red raspberry farm, so I guess it’s not that much different. I think the whole red raspberry thing is pretty cool. So, yeah, I don’t know.
I’d be interested to hear what your reaction is and certainly feel free to anytime send me a message, a direct message or post something in the comments on any of our social media posts on Instagram. It’s @rfrp_podcast, RFRP, Real Food Real People, @rfrp_podcast on Twitter as well. And then Real Food Real People Podcast on Facebook, or I think technically it’s RFRP.podcast if you want to use the specific handle. Also, you can email me, dillon@realfoodrealpeople.org. Yeah, I think it would be really cool to hear what you think. Maybe if you’ve got questions for people too.
I’d really like to start doing that, start making this more of an interactive process, maybe questions or kinds of farmers or specific farmers you think I should go interview and talk to, or just categorically, like what kind of farmer. I’d love to take your suggestions. Also, if you have any questions for our farmer out there and even farmers that we’ve talked with before, I guess it’s not just farmers on those podcasts either, but people we’ve talked with before. If you have questions for them, we can certainly follow up either with a podcast episode or like a short little Q&A or something on social media. So, let me know.
I want to involve you in this process as well. That’s what it’s all about other than this podcast is documenting my journey, is sharing these people’s stories. I want it to be involving you in the story and in the conversation and in our food system here in Washington and the Pacific Northwest as well. So, thank you again for checking in, being with us this week. We will catch you next week back here on the Real Food Real People Podcast.

Announcer:
The Real Food Real People Podcast is sponsored in part by Safe Family Farming, giving a voice to Washington’s farm families. Find them online at safefamilyfarming.org and by dairy farmers of Washington supporting Washington dairy farmers, connecting consumers to agriculture and inspiring the desire for local dairy. Find out more at wadairy.org.

Andrew Schultz part 1 | #026 06/08/2020

His journey to farming took him to Iraq and back, and now he's changing the way wine grapes are grown in Washington state. Meet Andrew Schultz, US Army veteran and founder of Brothers in Farms near Benton City.

Transcript

Andrew Schultz:
It still felt like maybe I’m not a farmer. I’m pretending or something, but after about year three, year four, after we dealt with some pretty hard curveballs that were thrown to us, I was like, “Okay, I think I’m in this and I think I’m good at it.” Now, I’m a farmer so [laugh].

Announcer 1:
This is the Real Food Real People Podcast.

Dillon Honcoop:
The amount of work and science and art that goes into those Washington wines that we’ve all grown to love so much is incredible. Our guest this week gives us an eye into what’s going on behind the scenes with all that, how it really works and how they grow amazing grapes here in Washington to make wine. Andrew Schultz is our guest this week and next. I learned so much about growing grapes and how it makes amazing wine in this conversation. I kind of geeked out as a farm kid. Also, some people are just natural born leaders and that’s Andrew.

Dillon Honcoop:
By the end of this conversation, I was feeling like, “Can you hire me?” His vision for what they’re doing, I just wanted to be a part of it. It was magnetic. So, join me in this conversation, really cool stuff. You’re going to learn so much about what really goes into wine and really be inspired by Andrew and his backstory, the things that he went through to lead him to where he is now, incredible stuff. I’m Dillon Honcoop. This is the Real Food Real People Podcast and we’re glad that you’re here this week. Don’t forget to subscribe. I know you’ve got a long backstory, but let’s just start with how did you get into farming?

Andrew Schultz:
Farming in general? So, I got out of the service, was where I actually started, were actually I was farming.

Dillon Honcoop:
You served in the Marines?

Andrew Schultz:
I was in the US Army.

Dillon Honcoop:
In the army, yup. Okay.

Andrew Schultz:
I got out. We had the GI Bill and I actually wanted to be a brewer. I became a brewer within six months of exiting. I basically listened to a bunch of podcasts from California while I was driving back and forth, going to school. Then I sat down at a local brewery, I didn’t know I was sitting next to a head brewer. Him and I started having a conversation. He was supposed to teach me how to distill. Instead he calls me up in like a month and asked me to work for him. It was kind of interesting working for him because he liked doing all the production brewing and all that stuff for the main products, but he kicked down the majority of the odd beers to me and brewing club and stuff. So, I ended up brewing 12 to 14 styles, probably on average per year.

Dillon Honcoop:
What was your thing? What was your favorite? I mean, you’re talking odd stuff, what kind of stuff were you working on?

Andrew Schultz:
One of my favorite beers is an Altbier from Germany and reason why I like the Altbier is it’s like the predecessor to the red beer. I’m not even really that much of a red beer fan, but it’s a predecessor to it, which is really cool because Louis Pasteur came out with basically a yeast. It was for pilsners and stuff like that, produces a lot more phenolics and that’s why they have a lagering process. Back in the day, they didn’t have temperature control for grain to be able to roast it. So, it was either really heavily toasted or it was really lightly toasted.

Andrew Schultz:
So, how they created these red beers out there back in the day was it was built and fermented and treated just like a Pilsner except for in the process, in the beginning, they had a small portion of really heavily roasted grain essentially. So, what you end up getting is this really light bodied beer that has this roastiness to it. So, that was one of my favorite styles of beer that I like brewing.

Dillon Honcoop:
You’re making me thirsty for beer already. We’ve just started talking. This isn’t good.

Andrew Schultz:
Yeah, I should have brought some beer along with.

Dillon Honcoop:
Yeah. So, you were in brewing, and then how did that lead to farming?

Andrew Schultz:
Well, so I was going to community college in Pendleton for the first six months to pick up classes because I needed to do something after I got out. I basically took nine months off of not working or whatever. Started at WSU in the fall, had that conversation with that brewer sometime around August or September right after I’d started classes, and was living in Tri-Cities and bought a home. So, I actually accepted that job to be the brewer and I did it on the weekends.

Andrew Schultz:
And then at the same time, I’d send an email to a professor that worked at IAREC which is Irrigated Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Prosser, one of the largest research centers in the US for agriculture. It was Dr. Naidu Rayapati. He was interested in having somebody basically help him do grape leaf roll virus epidemiology, and I accepted that as well. That was flex time during school. So, basically, in the afternoons during the week, I would go out and I would count these fields based on this visual identification. We put them in Excel sheets to map the virus spread over a number of years.

Andrew Schultz:
I’ve worked with him for about 11 years now in different capacities over the last three or four years because I’ve had different jobs but we still do research on our properties and use him quite a bit to help him understand how to deal with that major virus in the wine industry. It was funny because they put me on this property that we’re out right now, which is Klipsun Vineyards. I met the GM at the time which was Julia cook, and she ended up hiring me for a job because she liked me. So, so now I got three jobs, right? Plus, I was taking full time classes 15, 16 credit hours in school.

Andrew Schultz:
What I said when I was going into essentially school, “If I’m going to go to school for this thing, I’m going to work in the industry that I’m going to school for so that I can cut the curve of actually getting a good paying job when I get out and all those other things.” I wasn’t planning on forming yet at the time by picking up those two jobs, the epidemiology job and then work in flex time as a VitTech at Klipsun. I actually fell in love with farming. I was looking for a solution, I don’t want to be in an office anymore, sitting behind a desk. I found out I was pretty good at, so I just kind of hammered down on that. So, then I said, “Well, brewing seemed to be pretty easy. I think I’m going to go this farming path.”

Dillon Honcoop:
You wanted more of a challenge.

Andrew Schultz:
Yes. Yeah, I think that’s really what it came down to in the end based on the other jobs and stuff I’ve had to pass, I’m a systems thinker. So, the ultimate system is one that takes away a lot of control, and you still have to get the same outcome in the end. That’s essentially a really concise way to put farming.

Dillon Honcoop:
There are so many things that are just entirely out of your control, aren’t there?

Andrew Schultz:
Yup. Yeah, absolutely.

Dillon Honcoop:
What’s the biggest thing for you guys that’s you can’t control it and it could totally mess you up?

Andrew Schultz:
Trying to understand how much heat’s going to be in a particular year, you can build your crop a different way. But for the most part, now we’ve kind of systematize the whole thing, at least the way that my company looks at growing grapes. So, we measure a bunch of different factors in the vineyard essentially that help us understand how much light is coming into the canopy. We really do that on how many shoots are per lineal foot within a canopy, and then the trellis equation basically says that you have to have 40 inches of canopy so we do what we can to get there. And then the fruit load should be as far as what we’ve seen for really high-quality stuff between 1.6 and 1.8 pounds per foot of court on out there.

Andrew Schultz:
So, if you can hit all those parameters in any one year, then by and large you’ll get what you want in the end. But we create all those systems, because every year and I have yet to see anything different, these are all decisions. If we hit these, then we should be in some pretty high-quality bracket. What that allows us to do is that systematizes a lot of our normal decision-making process and that kind of allow us to basically manage the anomalies. They happen different every year. 2016 and 2017 were some of the highest winter rain for our area in the last 20 years. So, getting rid of that water is probably the biggest trick that we have is. Essentially what we do is we let the plant farm that, so we won’t irrigate during that time. So, the plant pulls out and uses as much as possible.

Andrew Schultz:
When we get down to where there’s near zero plant availability, then we basically manage and control that stress over about a three-week period, and then we go back to full irrigation for the rest of the year. So, the biggest trick is being able to get rid of the water and years where we have a bunch, or understand that we don’t have enough, or maybe it’s evenly distributed in the soil and how we’re going to approach those things. So, those are usually the biggest decisions, those types of anomalies. There’s other ones too that pop up some really odd ones. One of them was for example, it would have been 2016, we had a really warm start to the year. So, soil temperatures in the valley were sitting right around 47 degrees.

Andrew Schultz:
A lot of the plants start to come out of dormancy, but it’s a biological system. So, not everything comes out of dormancy evenly. What ends up happening is part of those buds came out of dormancy, and we’re working at a really slow metabolic rate because the temperature went back down for about a month. Part of them hadn’t come out of dormancy. So, when the temperature warmed up, the canopy was uneven a on a per plant basis, which means that it’s not human created. And then two months later, we’re trying to make decisions on how to shut the canopy down or when. You’ve got canes in there that are at your 40 inches, and you’ve got canes in there that are at 30 inches. Which one do you manage to?

Andrew Schultz:
So, what we ended up doing in that particular case was we just bit the bullet on the cost. We managed to the shortest canes, because that was going to get everything to where we wanted. We went back and it ended up not being as bad as we thought. We ran some guys through some machetes real quick. They knocked off the tips of a lot of those canes that were long, and then everything was great.

Dillon Honcoop:
What does this all mean for the wine drinker? All these things that are changing and you’re dealing with, is that changing the flavor, what they experienced when they open that bottle? Is it changing just how much of it’s available?

Andrew Schultz:
So what I can speak to is or at least what my job is or how I view my job is what we do is we try to give the winemaker as much material to use as possible to make the best wine possible. So, some of those things that are, I call them non-purchasable. They absolutely are purchasable. These large companies buy things like mega purple and stuff like that to make wine have more color or tannins that are derived from either other plants or the same plant. A lot of those are a single type of tannin or maybe a single type of acid and not what you actually get in nature, which is this really nice wide breadth of natural acids or natural tannins, different sizes and things like that. So, we try to give that to the winemaker, so they can make the best wine possible.

Andrew Schultz:
One of those things is essentially the skin of the berry has all the stuff in it that makes a wine in case of red wines makes a wine red. It makes a wine have mouthfeel and all these other things that people want, flavor. So, that’s essentially what we’re trying to increase. There’s arguments with the way people look at these things or whatever, but what I kind of view is total polymorphic pigments is really what we’re trying to increase, because that’s the hardest thing from a wine quality standpoint, are the thing that can be washed out by over-irrigation or not enough stress in a particular point in the year.

Andrew Schultz:
So, you can literally have two crops side by side on the same property, same environmental conditions, everything, and one crop will be four tons per acre and the other crop will be four tons per acre. There’s a huge quality difference. The four on the left might take 35 clusters to get to four tons per acre, and the other one might take 25 clusters to get to four tons per acre. At surface to volume ratio is huge so you want-

Dillon Honcoop:
That’s going to change the flavor.

Andrew Schultz:
Absolutely. So, you want the one that’s got 35 clusters, because you’ve got more skin in that. So, when they press it out, in many cases with the stuff that we’re producing, and whether it’s a property or part of our management, could be in contention but essentially the numbers that we’ve returned back consistently as high end stuff is considered somewhere around 3,000. Low end management might return about 1,200 in this concentration of total polymeric pigments. Really decent management somewhere in 1,600 to 1,800 range. Our stuff over the last several years, we’ve been producing is somewhere between 25,000 and 28,000.

Andrew Schultz:
The finished product of a lot of these high end wines, they actually take our grapes and manage it down to about 2,100 to 2,200, in some cases 2,300, as opposed to like basically getting those grapes in and then trying to beat the skins to get as much stuff out of them as possible or bleeding off some of the juice and replacing it with water to get the alcohol and concentration to be correct.

Dillon Honcoop:
What makes an amazing wine? I mean, you’re talking about high end wines, what does that mean? What’s a high-end wine? How do you define that? What really kind of separates the wheat from the chaff so to speak?

Andrew Schultz:
That’s a difficult question. A large percentage of Washington State is, say 90+% actually goes to three main companies in the state. So, they formed those grapes completely different. A lot of with machines and stuff like that, and that’s three main wineries. I think, to date, maybe there’s somewhere around 1,000 wineries in Washington State. So, it kind of shows you the breath that exists out there even on that 5 to 10% level. So, the guys that we deal with primarily and what we try to do and what they’re looking for is they want to have the right property that naturally gets to the right bricks and-

Dillon Honcoop:
Bricks being the amount of sugar, of sweetness.

Andrew Schultz:
Absolutely, yeah. They want him to get to right amount of sweetness so that they’re not under ripe and so they produce these flavors. Certain sites lend to that easier every year and some sites don’t, but through correct irrigation and stuff like that, you can essentially build this grape where the winemakers actually take it in and they just try not to screw it up. That’s kind of like what my version of a high-end wine is.

Andrew Schultz:
It doesn’t necessarily mean price point either, because there’s some winemakers out there that are making $25 and $30 bottles that are absolutely worth every penny and more based on their flavor and their winemaking style and how consistent they are. And then there’s guys out there that charge $100, $150, or $200 per bottle. Some of those are really great and some aren’t worth the money either.

Dillon Honcoop:
That’s what I was going to ask you. These really high dollar bottles of wine, if I go to a restaurant and see that I can go to the… Well I guess, I was going to say top of those. Usually, it’s the bottom of the list, that bottle that’s $100 and some dollars. Is that really going to be that? But I never buy that one because I can’t afford it. But does it really taste that much better and why?

Andrew Schultz:
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of people give me wine or be in tastings where we’ve done these things and compare them side by side. Yeah, so it’s hit and miss. It’s really hard for the consumer to know. I mean, the reality is, is when they walk into a grocery store and I don’t know what the average is now, but a few years ago, the average was like 1,600 skews or something like that of just wine in one store. When they’re purchasing a $10 or $25 or $30 bottle, even at that end, they don’t want to make a mistake and get something that they don’t like necessarily. So, once they find something that they do, a lot of times they’ll stick-

Dillon Honcoop:
Stick.

Andrew Schultz:
Yeah, or maybe they go on tasting.

Dillon Honcoop:
That’s what I do. I go there, and I’m like overwhelmed by all the different brands. I try to do some reading for a while. Usually, I’ll spend a few minutes there reading bottles and trying to understand and looking at years and stuff. And then I’m just like, “I don’t know,” and either just kind of pick something that looks cool based on what the graphic design, or something that I’ve had before?

Andrew Schultz:
Yeah. For people in Washington, I mean, Woodinville’s an excellent resource. Walla Walla, if you want to make a trip, or even in the Tri-Cities area, there’s some major outlets that have a ton of wineries. Now, I think they’re charging some tasting fees, but it’s fun to go out, find something that you like that’s local. Ask the people there and get the story and taste the wine. If you like it, great. I’m sure that anybody can find something that tastes great, is locally produced, and a really high-quality wine at many different price points in Washington.

Dillon Honcoop:
So, when did it hit you that “I am a farmer and I’m passionate about it,” like it became an identity thing for you?

Andrew Schultz:
So, I ended up dropping out of school. I went to four years of college for Viticulture and Enology. I brewed that whole time on the weekend, ended up quitting that job. When I picked up my job to go basically be a General Manager at a farm and where it was 110 acres at the time. In over five years, we built it up to about 175 acres. There’s other properties and tree fruit and stuff that we dealt with besides grapes, but 175 acres of grapes is what we dealt with there in 23 varieties. Part of that was done in test blocks and things like that, but it was a really cool undertaking because you kind of understand all the personalities of these grapes.

Andrew Schultz:
They all have different personalities, and how they grow, or why they want to grow, or how much they want to produce, or how to control them, how they deal with water, or the season. I mean, some like wind, some don’t. Some like a lot of water, some don’t. So, once I moved to his property after the first year, I was like, “Okay, I really kind of dig this.” And then the second year, it was like, “I’m really digging this.” It still felt like maybe I’m not a farmer. I’m pretending or something, but after about year three, year four, after we dealt with some pretty hard curveballs that were thrown to us, I was like, “Okay, I think I’m in this and I think I’m good at it.” Now, I’m a farmer so.

Dillon Honcoop:
Where’d you grow up? You didn’t grow up around farming, did you?

Andrew Schultz:
Indirectly. I grew up in Hermiston, Oregon which is a big farming town. I’ve had aunts and uncles. I come from a big family, so aunts and uncles and everything that had been in farming. Some of them currently build stuff for processing facilities and things like that, but other than hanging out with my dad when I was a kid… He worked for a place called Circle C, which did hay cubes. They sold those hay cubes to Japan, but he did that job for 17 years. Probably 5 or 6 of those years, I was old enough to remember. We’d go on truck rides and stuff together. I go out to the farm and stuff, but really wasn’t directly related to or didn’t spend a whole lot of time in any way.

Andrew Schultz:
My grandfather was big farmer, but he died when I was really young, right around 1988 or 1989. He was a German guy, he loved his sheep. He had pigs and a lot of watermelons and stuff that are grown down in Hermiston. But again, I was really young, and I didn’t get exposed to a lot of that. And then going to high school and stuff, I didn’t hang out in FFA or with any of those guys necessarily. I had cowboy friends that farmed wheat and all this stuff, but again wasn’t directly in…

Andrew Schultz:
When I came back from Iraq, because I came back from Iraq and literally was like 8, 10 days later, I out-processed and left Germany. I was back in the US. In that spring, among attending and going into school at Pendleton, I took a greenhouse class, which I really enjoyed. We produce stuff for the local market and so there was timing and all these things that we had to plan for it. It was fantastic. Yeah, so that was kind of when I first started. So, I really wasn’t exposed to it much other than I grew up around it, but I never really dealt with it.

Andrew Schultz:
I was more into going snowboarding and bike, stuff like that when I was a kid, or fishing really, that was my main thing. I think I used to joke, because I fished like 300 days a year or something on the local route. We weren’t even catching anything good. I mean, I could count on my hands. Maybe twice a year, I might get some smelt or something that was running up the river. I might get a smallmouth bass like once a year or something, but the rest of it was all squab fish so.

Dillon Honcoop:
But you were having fun fishing.

Andrew Schultz:
Oh, yeah.

Dillon Honcoop:
Fishing is more about the process, right? Which is why I’m no good at it, because I have no patience. Talk about the army. Did you go into the army right after high school?

Andrew Schultz:
No, I didn’t, kind of took an odd path. I went in at 24, which is a lot older. So, they had to put me right around 2004. I didn’t go into the army. There’s a lot of people at that time when they were going in the army, they were going in because of country pride or family tradition type of deal, or something that’s probably the main stuff. I went in at that time mainly because, one, I think I was trying to escape my situation. Somewhere on the back end, now that I look back at it, not that I was in a bad situation, just that I felt like I needed to change or do something.

Dillon Honcoop:
What have you been doing after high school then up until 24? How was enlisting?

Andrew Schultz:
I was fairly successful. I’ve always been put in charge of stuff. The same thing happen when I went into service too, but at 16 years old, I was supposed to be a busboy. Within three months of getting hired there, they fired the chef. He asked me, “Hey, kid, are you hungry?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Well then cook it yourself,” and he used an expletive when he did. The guy was kind of a jerk. He was a Type A individual, so he’d written all these notes all over the kitchen. So, he taught me how to read all of his notes. Three months later, when he got fired on a Thursday night, the owner thought that he was going to come back. He didn’t. It was like Friday.

Dillon Honcoop:
Called his bluff.

Andrew Schultz:
Yeah, and it was a steakhouse in Echo, Oregon, called the Echo Hotel that used to be an operation. It was a pretty good steakhouse. It was four-star at one time, but when I was there, it probably wasn’t. Anyways, so really long pause when the owners like “Hey, does anybody know how to cook prime rib?” Nobody says anything, and the 16-year-old kid is like, “Yeah, I know how to cook it.” We cooked 5-, 6-, 30-pound prime ribs every Friday and Saturday night plus during the week and everything. So, that’s what I did while I was in high school, and I got done doing that. I went into warehousing essentially.

Andrew Schultz:
So, I worked for Walmart Distribution System Center in Hermiston for two years. I was put in charge of the dock within six months, not as a manager or anything, but I ran all the doors. So, we bring in and out, unload 50 trucks in a day. So, that was kind of my first foray into management. So, I had 15 people that would take all the pallets around the warehouse, off of the dock, and 15, 20 people that would unload those trailers. Then I left there and decided to go to school in Portland for art school, which was kind of an odd move, but that was kind of what my passion was at the time. So, I went down there, and started going to that, and started lifting weights when I was in Portland, and ended up dropping out of that school.

Andrew Schultz:
The main reason why I dropped out of that was I basically sat there and for me, I was like, “Well, as a graphic designer, how am I going to sell anything to a world that I don’t know about?” I realized that I didn’t know anything about the world yet, because I’m only 20 years old and lived in a small town all my life except for the last six months or a year or something like that in a big city or a larger city. So, that’s when I kind of dropped out of school and I started working for Sears and warehouse. I did that for a couple years. And then I went into beer and wine distribution, which is actually what I got into. I did that for another year. And then I enlisted in the service and left. I did it for leadership purposes.

Andrew Schultz:
By that point, I’ve been put in charge of warehouses and people and things like that, that I started piecing together how this whole thing worked, even though I wouldn’t really consider myself a real good leader at that point. But yeah, I started piecing all these things together, and I said, “Well 232-year-old organization at the time,” I was like, “they got to know something about leadership.” So, I went in, and that’s exactly what I got schooled on. There was excellent leadership and there was absolutely terrible leadership at the same time. I learned just as much from each one of those individuals as I could. I went in the service. In basic training, I ended up most distinguished honor graduate.

Andrew Schultz:
And then when I went to training for another six or eight months for the radar stuff that we dealt with, I was put in charge of platoons there, and then I was put in charge of the next platoon that I was in on that base. And then I showed up to my unit in Germany. Within about a year, I was put in charge in my section, and then put into a sergeant role at about two and a half years. In the day I was promoted to E-5, they put me in E-6 role to run the division for what we did. And then we were sent to Iraq. And then there was supposed to be an E-7 in charge of us and he got augmented out to Baghdad. So, I ran his show and it’s like an E-5. It was 25 different vehicles. We had two different groups per hours and six different radars and told that we were managing in theater.

Andrew Schultz:
Of course, this came down to a lot of computer programming. We’re doing a reset. We’re basically moving from old internet and things like to actual Category 5 cables and real internet connections, which seems kind of late to be doing that around 2007, but that was a reality. Yeah, and so that was really fun. So, I learned a ton. I didn’t have the dangerous job necessarily in Iraq, but because of where the radars were located and our teams were located, I went to just about every single base. Some of them were absolutely terrible ones, not much bigger than a dog kennel in the middle of the desert in Northern Iraq. So, pretty much everywhere in Baghdad North where we had a base, I’ve stopped by there probably at one time or another.

Dillon Honcoop:
What a unique perspective or at least it seems like it to me, because I don’t think of people going in, enlisting in the army thinking, “I’m going to get basically professional development on leadership.” It makes a ton of sense looking at it from this view, but I know especially at that age, I would not have thought about it that way. Certainly with what was going on in the world at that time, I would have been scared like, “I’m going to be put in harm’s way if I do this,” with what was happening with the Iraq war. That had been going through your head at that point, like, “What am I signing up for here?”

Andrew Schultz:
Yeah. To be honest, I mean, the reality is I was just young and dumb. Not that it’s dumb, it’s absolutely fantastic job. There’s great professional development, a lot of pluses for going in and serving the country and doing those things. So, I’m not taking away any of that or anything that anybody else puts in, whether they stay in the whole time or not. Even during a time of war, I mean we don’t really know what that is until we go and see it. So, I didn’t understand it completely and I didn’t understand what the full commitment really is. Because even after you get out, there’s stuff that you have to deal with on a personal level that you didn’t even… I like planning ahead. There’s things that I didn’t understand that I didn’t plan for that happened to me after I got back, and we had to deal with that stuff.

Andrew Schultz:
One really interesting one, I mean, obviously, I don’t know if you’ll get this in this interview or not, but I have a really good memory typically. I don’t know if that’s because I read a ton or not, but I lost it temporarily after I got back. I mean, literally, it was as bad as the day or two after I got back, I mean, I park my car, go into a subway or something like that, and come out. I’d have to search for my car, every single time. I mean, it was really weird.

Dillon Honcoop:
Why? What did that?

Andrew Schultz:
What I ended up figuring out later, it took me about six months. It wasn’t quite that apparent. The first few weeks were really apparent, and then after that, I still had issues. One of the issues when I started going to college, WSU during that summer course that I took was I told the teacher. I just said, “Hey man. I’m not trying to be disrespectful or anything like that, but if I don’t show up to class, I may just have forgotten.” That was real, I told him. I said, “I really enjoyed the class, and I really enjoy you as a teacher, but sometimes I just forget this stuff. It’s hard for me to remember and it was. It was four or five years later, I found that old schedule and I looked at it. It was literally it was five days a week at 11:30 AM.

Andrew Schultz:
So, I mean, it was the easiest schedule to remember, but literally I’d be… I lived 40 minutes away at the time or something like that, but it would be like noon and then I’d realized that I forgot my class. So, what I found out what had happened, it really had nothing to do with me lose my memory. But once you’re over there and your priorities are different, remembering where your car parked is parked and stuff like that isn’t a priority, as opposed to the other things that are going on. And then you get back after you haven’t… Because you’re over there and something may happen or whatever.

Andrew Schultz:
So, when you get back, it’s like your mind has built all this stuff of potential or what you can do or whatever when you get back. So, in my mind, I figured out it was just rolling so fast that I just wasn’t paying attention to the things were right in front of my face. So, I kind of retrained my brain to slow down, and take the opportunities that come, and pay attention to the present. It was a real thing.

Dillon Honcoop:
Basically, living and working in a warzone in that capacity, you have to be so keyed up to be managing that.

Andrew Schultz:
Yeah, and you don’t even think about it. I mean, all the normal things that somebody has is basically taken off your plate. I mean, foods in the same place every day if you’re on a base or something like that, or it might change if you’re on a different base. But you don’t have to worry because foods provided, so you’re not really worried about going to the store. There’s nobody hammering you with marketing or advertising, because you’re not watching TV. I mean, there’s no cell phones or anything back in the day that had any capabilities like that. So, we weren’t doing any of that. The internet still was fairly marginal at that time, especially for what you could get over there plus communications were bad.

Andrew Schultz:
So, I mean, literally, you’re removed from the world. Which is was a good thing too for me, because I saved all my money while I was in Iraq exactly for that reason. We didn’t have to spend it, so I didn’t. I saved and I had probably $40,00 to $50,000 that was saved between… And then I was injected back in January of 2009 to one of the worst economies in American history. I took that money and I bought a house. It’s $57,000, which is ridiculous to think nowadays, because they went up. All those same houses now are selling for like $180,000 and I sold mine after I went to school with a little mortgage and all that stuff. I sold it for $140,000 and that kind of got everything paid off.

Andrew Schultz:
Essentially, I went back to zero but with an education which was fantastic, because I have four years of school and didn’t owe anybody anything. So, then I could start building from there. That’s where the ideation for building a business and stuff like that came from. This is like, “Hey, I’m on a level playing field and I made some smart moves, even though I didn’t realize I was making them when I was that young. We’re going to roll with this.”

Dillon Honcoop:
Did you see some scary stuff over there in Iraq?

Andrew Schultz:
Personally, no. I mean, I say personally, no. My version in being mortared is probably different than most people’s. Four hundred or 500 feet away is not being mortared in my mind. But to somebody else, it may be or-

Dillon Honcoop:
Like having a mortar hit that close to you?

Andrew Schultz:
Yeah. Sometimes you don’t even see.

Dillon Honcoop:
Yeah, that would be mortared for me. Yikes.

Andrew Schultz:
You don’t even you don’t even see them. I mean, that’s the scary part, right? Yeah, you don’t even see them. It could be at night, like you’re leaving it 12:00 midnight or something like that. You’re walking back to your containerized housing, what they call the CHU. That’s protected by these hesco barriers, which are filled with dirt and stuff like that to keep any shrapnel. Anyways, one could hit, and you don’t know where it hit necessarily. It was fairly close, but didn’t rock your world, so you’re good. I mean, I’ve had to call up. I had a team of sergeants that I was in charge of that would go out and repair these radios.

Andrew Schultz:
There are several times where I had to call up and see whether those guys had… Because there’s several people that died on a base or something like that. We had make sure that our guy was okay and all that. So, I mean, that stuff kind of jerks you in. Of course, we’re dealing with division operation center. So, we’re watching a lot of stuff that happens. We’re seeing a lot of stuff. It’s actually a really good point when we started talking, I’m not saying whether I’d PTSD or not. But when we started talking about that, the battlefield has changed from what it used to be. It used to be there’s this what they call the FLOT, Forward Line of Troops. Bad guys are over there, and good guys are over here. They’re going to clash and something’s going to happen. Now, it’s kind of all around.

Andrew Schultz:
From that standpoint, the safety of the troops and the equipment stuff that they have is I mean, it’s massive. I mean, literally a guy can get shot with an AK-47. If he gets hit in the plate and fall down and he might have a bruise and be a little bit rattled or whatever, but like he’s good, or they can get wounded in other senses and still make it home because of the medical that we have and how fast response time is and all those things that came up. So, what ended up happening is this smaller portion of people go into battle and experiences being a thing. So, maybe in the past, it was like 80% of people on the front line and 20% people in support.

Andrew Schultz:
Now, it’s more like 20% of the people on frontline and 80% in support. So, you concentrate all these experiences into this small number of people, but what’s important is that small number of people, they only see what’s right in front of them and how horrific it may be. The people in the back don’t necessarily see that, but instead of seeing just one or being in one individual scenario, you got all these people that they’re fed information from every area. They’re looking at all these or they’re hearing the response come into these facilities that are making the responses to help these guys out, but they’re doing it for 5 minutes or 10 different areas and all week long and working longer hours too, 18 hour days in some cases doing this stuff. I mean, it just takes a toll on you.

Andrew Schultz:
I mean, even for what we did, I think the most I’ve ever worked was when I was in Iraq. I did 400 days in a row or something ridiculous like that. All of them were 18-hour days. Some of them were 20-hour days. So, that kind of stuff has a toll on the human body in the end. So, you come back and you have some fatigue issues and things you got to figure out how to reset, probably the biggest thing aside from the pills they try giving you or these other things. It’s just exercise, eat right, and try to keep moving.

Dillon Honcoop:
How does that affect you now in what you’re doing, that whole experience? I mean, it sounds like there’s definitely some bad, definitely some good as well with the leadership stuff that you were able to do.

Andrew Schultz:
Now, there’s massive amount of humility with people in general. Especially some of the stuff I’ve learned over the last several years, it’s like the world will try and tell you that there’s all these things coming up or they might have priorities for you. But priorities are big, being able to pick and choose which ones are the right priority, where you’re going to put your time and energy, and where you’re not going to put your time and energy. That allows you to get a lot of stuff done. There was, at the time, probably self-judgmental, things like that. I think being self-judgmental on anything is not going to get you going in the right place.

Andrew Schultz:
So, sometimes just dropping that expectation that you’ve created in your mind and just trying to wake up, do the best thing you can in the moment. List your priorities and just keep rocking and rolling. That’s probably how it’s affected me the most but having a really wide experience background as far as that’s concerned and some of the other things I’ve done. I find it funny, especially when I talk to either soldiers or other people. They say, “Well, I’ve done all these things, but I can’t do that, because I don’t have the experience in that.” But the reality is, is those are the backgrounds… Everybody has a really unique background. All of those things when you’re trying to build a team, they come into play.

Andrew Schultz:
So, having all these unique backgrounds put together, you can get some really interesting solutions for and build some teams that have a really strong from taking all these parts and pieces of their lives that they’ve learned and trying to get them to work in unison towards a single goal. So, I think that that kind of realization is good.

Dillon Honcoop:
So, you guys do customed Viticulture, and it’s called Brothers in Farms, right?

Andrew Schultz:
Yes.

Dillon Honcoop:
Which is kind of an homage to your military background.

Andrew Schultz:
Yes. Yeah. One of the questions I asked is “How can we help veterans and stuff like that?” One of my answers to that was okay, let me build something that’s as strong as possible, and then we’re going to start integrating in ways to help service veterans as they get out and all of that. I’ve got some buddies that I met through the school and stuff like that that I went to that are doing some great things in Washington for veterans. So, we’ve been reaching out to those. We may start doing some scholarships for some of these vets that come back to help ease any of the cost and stuff like that as they go through school.

Dillon Honcoop:
Can farming be a good thing to do when you get out? You talked about having that time where you kind of needed to reset.

Andrew Schultz:
Yeah, first thing I started doing was growing a garden. For veterans that are dealing with stuff… I also picked up a dog too, have had a dog by my side for the last 11 years now that I’ve been out, or it’s been 11 years. Anyways, having something that you need to go out and water and take care of and something that says, “Hey, there’s something out there that’s bigger than you,” that gives you humility and keeps you less focused on yourself and more focused on the things that need to happen. Her name’s Blue. The most inspiring thing I learned during that hard period of my life was every day, she would come in and she would eat the exact same dog food every single day. She was just as happy, if not happier to eat it at that moment than any other time. So, that’s inspiring to see.

Dillon Honcoop:
What kind of dog is Blue?

Andrew Schultz:
She’s a German Shorthaired Pointer.

Dillon Honcoop:
So, you guys do customed Viticulture, right?

Andrew Schultz:
Yes.

Dillon Honcoop:
What does that mean?

Andrew Schultz:
Essentially, we do custom farming for clients. So, if a company or person owns a property and they aren’t necessarily interested in taking all the liabilities and all that stuff to grow the grapes or maybe they want a specific product off of that property, my company comes in. We offer the solution to do everything on that property for them and say for doing the sale of grapes essentially everything to get it to harvest and then we harvest it. Their clients come and pick it up and take it back to the winery. Some of the clients are real discerning, and some are less discerning. We take a lot of data and stuff like that, which is different. We’re trying to integrate the newer world into what we do. Part of that is the communications and the computer science and stuff like that.

Andrew Schultz:
So, we built databases in the background of the business to deal with the payroll stuff, and legalities, and chemical records, and all that stuff. So, literally, my guys are going out. If we’re taking a shoot length measurement on a property, they’re doing it on an iPad, and it goes in. Literally the end of the week, we print off a PDF report, send that to the client, shows them exactly what’s going on the property and why we’re making those decisions. So, it’s pretty cool.

Dillon Honcoop:
So, these are people who want to be able to own a vineyard kind of thing.

Andrew Schultz:
Yup, some are people, some are companies. A lot of them already exist in the marketplace, but as labor price is obviously going up, we’ve taken $1.5 increase this year alone. But over the last five, six years,, we’ve went up about $3 or $4. So, labor gets pretty expensive. For us to come in and say we’re farming 450 acres currently, but we build a crew as such that those people are on and off that property. The tractors are on and off those properties. So, a company or an individual doesn’t have to go in and buy an $80,000 tractor and use it for 500 hours on a property. We can use it for 1,000 hours between all of our properties.

Andrew Schultz:
We might have three or four tractors and have the implements and things like that to do it, not only that, but the labor to be able to go in there and get things done in a timely fashion. So, essentially, we’re leveraging time and creating efficiency through scale. So, several small guys can get a cost that would be economical while we’re taking the brunt of the work and moving it around to properties on an economical level.

Dillon Honcoop:
At that level, it’s just like the custom farming I grew up around. Actually, when I was quite young, my dad was a custom farmer. I mean, his version was he had a tractor and some dirt work implements. He’d to go out and work people’s fields for them, because they were maybe a small dairy farm. They couldn’t afford to have that tractor and implements. He couldn’t either if he was just doing that small amount, but because he was driving on… Yeah, same thing.

Andrew Schultz:
Yup. Yeah, absolutely.

Dillon Honcoop:
Spreading that around and letting somebody else kind of deal with that part of it. Does that put more risk on you though without the reward of being the owner?

Andrew Schultz:
I think if you guys listen to much of my story, I’m not really that worried about risk. I’ve always been kind of a risk taker. I’m pretty good at hedging downsides. The biggest thing as far as risk is concerned is I probably am at some larger amount of risk, but we do a lot of things to hedge those. I mean, we have contracts in place that are put in by attorneys and stuff like that to make sure that that I’m hedging on my bets in the right direction. Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of money floating out there, and making payroll, and stuff like that. I mean, it’s a real deal. That’s why when we look at the values of why we do what we do or how we do what we do, we go back to the original values and that’s what we make decisions on.

Andrew Schultz:
The biggest thing is providing a product to our customers that people like or they want but more importantly, it’s communication and it’s being real with the people. The people being either those in the management level of my business or the people that are actually out doing the work. We’re trying to provide a really solid job for them. From that standpoint, there’s definitely jobs out there that they can get in farming. As the cost increases, what we’ve seen for these other businesses, we’re actually driving a lot of employees from tree fruit or whatever towards us or operations like us. Because as that price increases, those farmers are in many cases asking those employees to do more or by the piece and faster.

Andrew Schultz:
Ours isn’t necessarily about that, we’re more about quality. We’re trying to give them as much work as possible throughout the year. People in general, it doesn’t matter whether they’re working in a field or whether they’re working for business, they want to work for somebody that’s organized. Whatever they do in the field, somebody doesn’t come in and make another decision and say, “Undo that and go do this.” It gets real confusing for somebody. So, those are the types of things that we try to provide to the workers. So, we’ve been successful driving people towards us in a short labor economy.

Dillon Honcoop:
Yeah. How does that go? Are you able to find enough people?

Andrew Schultz:
Yeah, I mean, we just turned down a couple guys the other day, because we just picked up four to help us with some stuff that we’re trying to get off our plate this spring. We had guys that contact us last year and I said, “Hey, we work in tree fruit. We’d like to come over to you guys because things are getting real tight over there and we see what you guys are doing.” By and large, a lot of these families at workforce, they all go to the same church locally. So, everybody talks behind closed doors, and they find out what’s going on where. So, our perception is good from that standpoint.

Andrew Schultz:
Right now, we’re capping the business at 50 people for the time being, and then we’re going to walk over that 50-person line as soon as I feel comfortable to. But for this year, based on how fast we’ve grown, what I want to do, and what I am doing is we’re investing back into the infrastructure of the business as I build out the administrative side. That’s going to create a really nice concrete, solid launchpad, and then we’re going to ramp it up from there.

Dillon Honcoop:
What’s the future look like? I know, the wine community here in Washington is kind of coming of age from what I’ve heard and read. That it was growing like crazy because it used to be a California thing, and then it became a Washington thing, right?

Andrew Schultz:
Washington on the world stage has been doing amazing. There’s one major reason behind that amongst others, but one of the major reasons behind that is essentially we don’t have very much rain over here in this part of the state. Six inches per year is probably the average. Some cases, we have a little bit more. Some case, we have a little bit less. But again, we go back to what’s the number one thing that’s going to improve quality and it’s water, how much water you have there. So, if you don’t have enough water to grow a great plant, then you get to choose whatever you want to put on it. That’s going to change quality in the end.

Andrew Schultz:
As a case in point, first irrigation in many cases for say Napa Valley is 7/15, so say July 15th or something like that. They’ve already grown up, set the fruits, fruits going in close to Verizon at that point. For us, if we don’t irrigate that grape, by the time it even gets into bloom, we’re not going to have any bloom. So, we get to choose how fast and how long those canes grow, which is going to give us a canopy density not only reduce cost, but canopy density. From a canopy density standpoint, you’re going to get more sunlight into grapes on average year in and year out. If somebody managed to do irrigation correctly, we have the ability to hit really tight brackets on how big those berries are and what kind of concentration levels they have. That’s been playing out.

Andrew Schultz:
As the farmers get better and they have over the last 10 or 11 years, we’ve seen a lot of really good farmers come out and start improving some of their operations, even putting in some of these new trellising system stuff like that that kind of naturally gets the grapes to where they want to be. I think Washington’s got more 90-point wines in this state than any other wine region in the world on a yearly basis is what I’ve been told. That’s massive, that means that we’re just creating a massive amount of really good wines every year. That’s hard for anybody to go back and say, “Well, knock that area.” So, we’re kind of emerging this big power. I think it’s fantastic from a quality standpoint, which is fantastic.

Dillon Honcoop:
But some things are starting to slow down as far as the market for Washington wines, right?

Andrew Schultz:
It’s not just-

Dillon Honcoop:
Or changing.

Andrew Schultz:
It’s not just the Washington market. Essentially, we had several really good years or high crop quantity years. So, the bulk market is full right now. But based on some of the economists that we’ve looked at typically or I’ve talked to or listened to, it happens every so often. They only last two to three years or something like that, and then we bounce back from them. We actually went a fairly long time without that. Although we’re feeling a little bit of pain right now as far as those things are concerned, not a concern over the long run in my opinion.

Dillon Honcoop:
Is part of it what variety is cool at a given time and the amount of time that it takes to get a variety up and producing which is years, right, that the market may have moved on to something else that’s trendy?

Andrew Schultz:
When you start talking about time for planning and investment and stuff like that, in general, I look at crops that you can get a full crop within one year, or say even 18 months or two years or something like that. Typically, those crops have huge swings in varieties and changes and stuff like that, because they’re a lot cheaper and faster. Not they’re necessarily cheap, but it’s a lot cheaper than say a vineyard pulling out or something like that. But hops is a big one or has been. Now, there’s some reasons why that market stabilized more than it has in the last 400 or 500 years of its history. With the microbrew’s taken over as opposed to a lot of the large farmers in quantity and volume used.

Andrew Schultz:
But in the grapes, I mean, yeah, it takes three years to get up and get a partial crop. By the time you’ve taken all that cost and about the 25,000 or 30,000 an acre to input that stuff, you’ve got a significant investment. So, most people that are planting are planting safe bets. There are people that will plant out there and they’ll plant some funky stuff. Some of it goes overwhelmed. Some of it doesn’t. Some of it gets changed. But yeah, by and large, when a property goes in, people will make some pretty safe bets as to what they’re going to put in.

Dillon Honcoop:
What are the trending for righties over the last few years and how has that been evolving?

Andrew Schultz:
I mean Cab is king. That’s kind of the nature of the beast in the hot wine growing areas of the world. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the cooler growing areas, but Chardonnay is still in the warm growing areas for a while. So, those really haven’t changed a whole lot from the standpoint of what varieties there are. The big thing has changed probably over the last 5 or 10 years is the number of clones that we’ve got that we have of those varieties. So, there’s a lot of opinions floating out there about was it clone 8 or is it close whatever, you name it. I mean, there’s tons of them out there.

Dillon Honcoop:
All that stuff the consumer never sees, because they just see, “I’m buying a bottle of Cabernet.”

Andrew Schultz:
Yup, yeah. We do those tastings and stuff like that to see if there’s any reliability there in one year or the next. Some of them are non-perceptible or would probably be largely non-perceptible to standard customer that’s out there buying it. But essentially a winemaker, the biggest part of their palate or what they’re going to create is… I mean, obviously, they could do it from a clonal standpoint, but the difference is less significant there than if they just chose different growing regions.

Andrew Schultz:
So, you might buy something off of Red Mountain, which is really hot growing region. You might go down to Benton City and buy something else that you’re going to put in that blend that’s maybe a different variety. It might keep a little bit better acid down there. You’re going to blend it with something you get from Walla Walla or maybe higher elevation or down at White Salmon or something like that. That’s one of the cool things about Washington is we have so many microclimates. There’s a lot of really hot and cool places.

Dillon Honcoop:
So that’s what you mean when you talk about a hot growing region and a cool growing region that can just be down the road here, basically.

Andrew Schultz:
Yeah, absolutely. It’s two hours right now from here to White Salmon, and we can drop the number of heat units that is received in a year by half.

Dillon Honcoop:
Wow.

Andrew Schultz:
We’ve got 33,000, 35,000, or 38,000, or whatever the long term is here. We can go down there, it’s literally like 1,500 or 1,600. That affects the types of varieties that you can grow and ripen and changes to season parameters. There’s this heat that’s accumulated over time, but probably the best way to look at what these different growing regions can do is what time bud break happens and then what those temperatures are out or like throughout that period of that grape’s life every day on average, the highs and lows. That’s really going to affect what happens with that grape.

Andrew Schultz:
So, if you have Cabernet Sauvignon that comes out on some property two weeks earlier than on another property, every temperature for the rest of the season is going to be at a different part of that particular plant’s growing cycle. That’s going to end up making the flavor different in the end. So, there’s going to be different parameters that come with that. When a winemaker goes out there, he’s picking and choosing these regions. In many cases, if they’re doing a blend, sometimes they do bend your designates from a single vineyard or something like that.

Andrew Schultz:
But for the most part, he’s going out there and he’s picking Cabernet Sauvignon from three maybe particular locations or maybe it’s three particular growers that he really trusts. And then he’s going to put something together for us customers that hopefully they’ll enjoy.

Announcer 2:
This is the Real Food Real People Podcast. These are the stories of the people who grow your food.

Dillon Honcoop:
Doesn’t that change the way you think about Washington wine? I just want to go have some now. Since that conversation that we had, which by the way was pre-COVID, it wasn’t time yet to talk about the impacts that COVID had on the future. It’d be interesting to go back and talk with Andrew now. But it just makes you think different things about the wine that you’re drinking. Andrew Schultz, awesome guy. We get into more big picture stuff next week, so you won’t want to miss that one either. Make sure to check out our website, realfoodrealpeople.org. Don’t forget to subscribe and follow us on social media as well.

Announcer 2:
The Real Food Real People podcast is sponsored in part by Safe Family Farming, giving a voice to Washington’s farm families. Find them online at safefamilyfarming.org and by dairy farmers of Washington supporting Washington dairy farmers, connecting consumers to agriculture and inspiring the desire for local dairy. Find out more at wadairy.org.

Javier Valencia | #011 02/24/2020

Although he grew up on a farm, Javier Valencia was dead-set against following in his father's footsteps. He shares his story of how he came back to his roots and finally understood his dad's passion for farming.

Transcript

Javier Valencia:
First couple of years, I was intimidated. I’d see people like, “A young, tattooed Hispanic. What are you?” You know, “You don’t know what you’re doing,” and I believe that’s pushed me more. People saying, “Hey, you don’t have experience. Hey, you don’t have a reputation for yourself,” but I guess we made a name for ourselves, just with hard work.

Speaker 2:
This is the Real Food, Real People podcast.

Dillon Honcoop:
This week on Real Food, Real People. We get to know Javier Valencia. He grew up as a farm kid in Eastern Washington, but he did not want to be a farmer when he grew up. Well, guess what? He is and he’s so passionate. He talks about his struggles with weight and with being a troublemaker when he was young and being in trouble and now he’s an inspiration with how motivated he is and his goals in life and all the things he’s trying to accomplish.

Dillon Honcoop:
And what he and his boss, Andrew Schultz and you’ll hear him refer to Andrew in the conversation. That’s who he’s talking about, Andrew Schultz, who I hope to have on the podcast in the near future. The organization that they’ve put together called Brothers In Farms, the things that they’re doing are pretty incredible, pretty cutting edge. They’ve done some amazing things in the wine world, growing grapes for wine and the art and science of doing that, so we get into all of it this week with Javier Valencia on the Real Food, Real People podcast.

Dillon Honcoop:
I’m Dillon Honcoop and this is my continuing journey to get to know the real people behind our food here in Washington State.

[Music]

Dillon Honcoop:
But you grew up around farming?

Javier Valencia:
Yeah, that’s all I grew up around. Like I said, my dad came to America as a farmer from Mexico to California. California is berries, grapes as well. Came to Washington when he was 12 I believe, and farmed since then. Since I was younger, I was able to see him as a farmer, grown into his own business. Seeing that, all that hard work that goes into that. That’s what came into my head like, “There’s no way I’d go into farming.”

Dillon Honcoop:
So you didn’t want a farm?

Javier Valencia:
I didn’t want to farm. I was like, there’s no way I would work 12-hour shifts in the heat, in the cold, just seeing that labor. You know sometimes we’d see them two hours a day. The dude would eat and pass out.

Dillon Honcoop:
What kind of farming does your dad do?

Javier Valencia:
A little bit of everything. I really think he does what he enjoys now. He does mint, asparagus, Concord grapes for juice, corn. One of his favorite things just as asparagus. I don’t know if it’s just something one of his favorites or something that he’s done, but yeah, he does a little bit of everything basically.

Dillon Honcoop:
And you said he farms in Sunnyside?

Javier Valencia:
Farms in Sunnyside and Grandview.

Dillon Honcoop:
Okay. How many acres does he farm?

Javier Valencia:
In total, I believe he has 62 acres.

Dillon Honcoop:
Okay, so when you were a kid, were you working on the farm? What did you do?

Javier Valencia:
Yeah, I learned how to drive on farm. I learned basics changing water on the farm. A lot of times when I was working was punishment basically, so I think that made it worse.

Dillon Honcoop:
Punishment for like what?

Javier Valencia:
Just stuff at school like me getting in trouble with my sisters. I’m the only boy out of four kids, so three sisters. So I was basically always a troublemaker and because of that it was like, “Okay, you’re going to work with your dad today. After school you’d go do this, you’d go change water, you’d go.” And so I was like, “I’m at school all day, I’m a kid. Why do I have to be changing water after work?” So that just made it like this is just struggle. It’s a struggle, so I don’t want to farm.

Dillon Honcoop:
So what had you planned to do?

Javier Valencia:
I actually wanted to go on law enforcement. I accomplished Pre-Police Academy when I was 19. That was my set goal. I was set to do it. I’m somebody that doesn’t plan things. I don’t like sitting at a desk. I like the assignment of something changing and that was it for law enforcement. I knew it’d be something exciting and that was my plan and I went to school for that. I wasn’t perfect as a teen, so I kind of backtracked for a while. Enjoyed my 19 through 21.

Dillon Honcoop:
Yeah.

Javier Valencia:
And I became 21 and ended up having a family. I had a daughter, so that I just started working. I actually went back with my dad, working on the farm, working two jobs because that’s what I was raised as. I had a child, so I had to start working.

Javier Valencia:
Then when I planned to become a cop, I ran into Andrew and he gave me this crazy idea about, “Let’s start farming.” And I jumped in. Like I said, it was just his ideas were what I wanted. Going for the unknown, but knowing that we had a goal for it is like I could do something like that. And I told him the same story, “Man, I’m not a farmer. That’s not my thing.: And he’s like, “Yeah, I get that.” He’s like, “I feel the same way.” But there’s totally different view at farming now.

Dillon Honcoop:
So do you love it?

Javier Valencia:
I do love it. Like I said, “It doesn’t feel like a job.” You know people are telling me you work all the time. My social media people are like, “You’re always working. Why are you always working?” It’s like I don’t even picture it some days. I get up at 3:00 in the morning every day and I go to the gym and I’m in the gym and that’s when I start my day off and then I could work from 6:00 to 6:00, 6:00 to 8:002 and it’s like it’s not a job sometimes. I enjoy it and I never thought I would. I do now.

Dillon Honcoop:
So how did that change as you started to do it? When did you realize that you have a passion for this?

Javier Valencia:
I think when I started, I honestly believe I thought about like when he first explained it to me, I was like, “Well, you know there’s money there.” I believe that was my first thought. Hey, that career there’s money there and it’s something I know. Maybe I’ll click onto it faster. So I think that’s what started me out, but I kept going like taking data and knowing I was able to control so much and we were able to control so much, that’s what kept me going, knowing that I control and being able to set goals and accomplishing them and then learning at the same time.

Javier Valencia:
And what’s kept me going now is I see people coming to me asking, “How are you doing this? How are you doing that?” So if I’m able to help out more people now like in a conversation you’re having with Andrew outside, given all these younger kids opportunity that were raised in farming, but, hey, there’s growth now. You don’t have to be like your uncle and your dad that does the same job for 30 years. There’s growth here and being able to give people the opportunity and it keeps them going.

Dillon Honcoop:
You guys are your custom viticulture, right?

Javier Valencia:
Right.

Dillon Honcoop:
What does that mean? What’s the actual job?

Javier Valencia:
Well, our business is growing high quality wine grapes. The difference between quality and quantity basically. We’re able to do work for people at a higher price, but being able to put in little details that people don’t see. Like I mentioned before, we have programs, we have systems that we use pruning weights parameters, shoot length. We have all these small things that keeps us precise on our goals and we were able to use those to set our goals.

Javier Valencia:
Like I said, our tonnage were dead on. We were able to set those goals and hit them each and every time just because we’re so precise at those things. And like I said, even those being precise isn’t like, “Okay, we have it figured out.” We don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. It’s sunny outside right now. It could rain tomorrow. But having those goals and having all this data and having all this information is what keeps us on top.

Dillon Honcoop:
So custom viticulture is basically like somebody else owns the vineyard, the field.

Javier Valencia:
Right.

Dillon Honcoop:
And then you guys come in and farm it for them.

Javier Valencia:
Right.

Dillon Honcoop:
So what kind of things do you do to make that happen?

Javier Valencia:
A lot of conversations like myself, the owners are from Napa where we work for. So I’m able to go to Napa and find out information they have there, see the information they want there and bring it here to Washington where people haven’t seen it, so I’m able to do that. I’m able to take information and show them, “Hey this works. This doesn’t work.”

Javier Valencia:
So besides just data collection and stuff, yeah, I’m able to manage 40 people, I’m able to find and that’s been fun, like I said, I’ve never done it. I was able to walk in and speak to, have conversations and speak with managers that have managed 20 people for 20, 30 years and have conversations with them, how they do it. Until this day I’ve learned, and I’m trying to learn, “Hey, how do you manage those people to get that done?” Because yeah and all, even though I have the information, none of it would be possible without those 30, 40 people that we do have and building that team.

Javier Valencia:
Like I said, I think we’ve been lucky to try to find people like me and Andrew that are open minded, that want to see an outcome, that want to see change. And that’s something huge that I’ve seen with our workers that they’re able to see, “Hey, these guys have goals. Hey, these guys are pushing for something instead of just give me a job and working me from 6:00 to 5:00 and kicking me out.” These guys get to see, hey, why are doing this differently. They get to see the outcome, hey, their business businesses growing. They got to see us from the bottom. They’ve got to see where we are four years, now. They get to see why we’re so picky. They get to do harvest and see, maybe in them they don’t get to see the product of the wine, but even just money-wise like for them I believe it’s like, hey, we’re getting paid by tonnage when everybody else getting paid by an hour.

Javier Valencia:
It’s like everybody sees our goals and the achievements we are getting in different ways. Everybody’s able to see it. It’s not just a huge company like, “Hey, we don’t know who we work for.” And I think that just puts us out. That puts us out and shows how different we are from everybody else, just how our company is. How would you put that? That’s how our company is different from everybody, but makes us stronger and shows us why we stand out. Even though we’re younger, like it’s a family that we have here.

Dillon Honcoop:
You guys are kind of the new kids on the block, so to speak with doing this here in Washington. What have the reactions been to you guys doing things differently?

Javier Valencia:
I think that’s the fun part. First couple of years, I was intimidated. I’d see people like a young tattooed Hispanic? You know what are you doing? You know you don’t know what you’re doing. And I believe that’s pushed me more. People saying, “Hey, you don’t have experience. Hey, you don’t have a reputation for yourself,” but us with our results and everything, all the hard work that we put in, our Brothers In Farms has been. I guess we made a name for ourselves, just with the hard work.

Dillon Honcoop:
What about the cultural element? You come from a Hispanic family.

Javier Valencia:
Right.

Dillon Honcoop:
Your dad’s from Mexico. He’s been through this world of farm work.

Javier Valencia:
Right.

Dillon Honcoop:
And you’re bilingual as well.

Javier Valencia:
Right.

Dillon Honcoop:
How does that affect how you manage your crew?

Javier Valencia:
I think that does help me out. Like I said, I believe everybody in any heritage, they’re going to push you. Like you said, you’re the new kid on the block. We’re going to test you to see if you really know what you’re doing, but them testing me in that culture has made me the manager that I am now, stronger.

Javier Valencia:
And I’ve always done that. I don’t go out there and it’s like, “Hey, you’re doing something wrong.” It’s like, “Hey, I see this as this. Would you explain to me why you’re doing it this way?” And before it’s like I would go out there and do that and some guys would turn their back and probably laugh. Like, “This kid does not know what he’s talking about.” Like I said, now I’m able to have a conversation with them because I am bilingual. Like, “Hey, this is why I’ve done this and this is why I do this.”

Javier Valencia:
And sometimes it makes sense or I could take their experience and then my information that I have that I’ve learned now and put them together and it’s like, “Okay, we could balance somewhere here.” And I really believe that’s what stands out. I don’t know how you’d put it. We have the connection with our employees to do that and help us learn. And then, we’re teaching them, but they’re teaching us at the same time, which makes us stronger. Like how you said, being Hispanic, I’ve seen, okay, a guy who wants to do his job and get out and it’s like, “Okay, do that, but I want to explain to you why you’re doing it.” Because I don’t think they’ve ever had the opportunity.

Javier Valencia:
I don’t believe anybody’s ever been told, “Hey, this is your job and this is why you’re doing it.” It’s like, “Hey, do your job and there’s your paycheck.” And I honestly believe that’s what makes them, having that Spanish culture is like, “Okay, now I see that. Now I see why I’m working. Now I see, hey, I could have…” Most of the people that work here are husband and wife. “Hey, I’m able to work here with my wife,” and it’s like, “We know what we’re doing.” Nobody’s working, hey, we’re working 6:00 and 8:00 and they can’t go to their family. We’re all working together as a team and they still have their lives. Nobody’s working 20 hours a day, seven days a week and them seeing that, like I said, I think they appreciate it as much as we do.

Dillon Honcoop:
Do you think that cultural heritage is often misunderstood like when people are talking about labor issues and work and stuff?

Javier Valencia:
I believe so. I honestly believe there’s people still that don’t understand, those guys are just working. They just want a job. But like I said, I don’t think they were ever fed the information that we’re able to feed them now. So yeah, I still believe there still might be confusion. Why do you guys have your employees uninvolved? Why are you taking your time with them? Why don’t you just have it your way and that’s it. That makes the difference between our quality, quantity, you know?

Dillon Honcoop:
What’s the key, what’s the secret to managing people?

Javier Valencia:
I don’t know. I believe communication. I was lucky to get new Hepe is what we call the manager this year. I connected with him easily and he’s become a really good friend to me, but that communication is same thing. I’ve had a conversation with him that he’s worked with employees for 10 years that he’d see once a month. He’d get a list and he’d see them once a month and I’m out there involved, asking them questions.

Javier Valencia:
And actually, I had to tell him, “Hey, I need this done.” Most of the time he knows what he’s doing. He’s done this for 10, 12 years, but just because I’m not here all the time, I want to know how this is happening and managing is, I don’t know. It’s something that I’m still learning until this day. I try to read and I try to see how people do that, but I honestly believe it’s takes that experience and that time to get those communications with people.

Javier Valencia:
And I honestly believe I’ve gotten really good at it, but like said, I still want the experience. And I don’t know if it’s just a friendship that’s made it easier, but I just believe it’s like communication to people. Like I said, I see how going back to my family seeing. Maybe they didn’t know anything. Maybe he was working 24/7, he didn’t even know who was working for.

Javier Valencia:
And now I see these guys and it’s like Hispanic culture, they want to work anyways, so he’s going to work, he’s going to work, he’s going to work, but if he knows he’s working for somebody that appreciates that and he knows what he’s working for, I believe just makes it easier for everybody. So being in that man-driven position, being able to do that, honestly, I think that what makes my job even easier. I come to work and I’m managing, but I’m having a conversation about life and work at the same time and we’re both getting things done. We’re all getting things done.

Dillon Honcoop:
What’s it like to know that you’re out there growing food for people to eat or drink, I guess?

Javier Valencia:
I’ve gotten lucky trying wine. I’ve tried really good wines that came from these vineyards that we grow for, but it’s just amazing how you see all this labor, all this time, these harvest hours, it’s amazing what you could do with the grape. It’s amazing how in my eyes is now comparing the grapes that I grow to another wine. I don’t know how wines are made exactly. That’s something I’m still wanting to learn, but trying wines side by side now, “Hey, you grew this and someone grew this,” or trying wines that are from right next door to my stuff and it’s like, what’s the difference, you’re 20 feet away from me.

Javier Valencia:
Even seeing those goals, I honestly wish I could show all the guys that work for us, “Hey, try this wine that your guys labor went into this,” because I don’t think you can write all that in a wine bottle and a lot of people don’t see that. I’ve actually seen, there is some wineries now that take photos of our workers, take the pictures and they have that in their winery as you’re trying wine. And I’m not sure people notice that, but I’m sure, one out of those 10 people see it and it has to get noticed. That one person goes and tell somebody else, “Hey, you see those photos or did you see, you know that wine we had it came from this vineyard?”

Javier Valencia:
It’s amazing to know I grew that and it was made into that like honestly is and that’s why I said, now like last year was one of the biggest accomplishments, having winemakers come and say, “This is some of the best fruit I’ve had in 10 years.” You know I have to pat myself on the back for those things. There’s no way you’ve been buying grapes for 10 years and you’re going to tell me this the best you’ve had two years in a row. That’s accomplishment for me.

Javier Valencia:
But like I said, it’s accomplishment for all of us and if I could write that on a board and put it out there for those guys, I’m sure they love it. Hey, you guys, just appreciate everything you’re doing. And like I said, I’m sure that just has to make somebody happy. If it made me feel that way, I’m sure the guys would love it.

Javier Valencia:
You have a daughter, you said. Do you have any more kids in that?

Javier Valencia:
I have two daughters, seven and eight. Still, I don’t know where they’re going to go. They’re too young for me to decide yet.

Dillon Honcoop:
Yeah.

Javier Valencia:
But they’re both crazy open-minded like I am, so I can’t complain. I’m a single dad right now, so that’s fun. Like I said, I have a full time managing job and I can still be a full-time dad, so that keeps me on my toes. I’m assuming that it’s really and I’m always pushing myself for more. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m at the gym at 3:00 in the morning. People say, “You’re crazy.” Some people say, “You don’t sleep,” because I just made it a routine and I love to compare things at the gym. That’s the reason why I go to the gym so much. Lifting weights, pushing myself, two different things that I haven’t done. Lifting heavy weight that I haven’t before.

Javier Valencia:
Same with work. I see it most of the time. I compare that to work. It’s like I would go try something that I haven’t tried. Nine-hour days, not really indifferent than a six-hour day. Computer work isn’t really different than standing out in the field. It’s just that mind thing. And I don’t know if it’s maturity. I don’t think I’ve used that word before, but maybe it is. I became more matured to see like, okay, I have goals. I have a future here, so why not use it? I became really big on like I said, just time-wise and me using my time for something that’s worth it.

Javier Valencia:
Like I said, my daughter is the same way. Like they’re really young, so I don’t know where they’re going yet, but they have opportunities for everything. They want to try something, they try it. So that’s going to be the fun part, raising them, I guess.

Dillon Honcoop:
How do you manage being a single dad and doing all the work that you do here and just life?

Javier Valencia:
Honestly, I have no idea, so I’ve gotten that question a lot, but I honestly feel like I’m killing it. Like I said this year or is it like February 3rd, I actually made it a year everyday going to gym, 3:00 in the morning and Andrew was like, “Wow, you did it.” It’s like during harvest, working to our days, I was up at 3:00 in the morning at the gym and I said, I’d just like to push myself. I’m still young, so I could be wasting money, but if I could push myself and set these goals for myself, why not?

Javier Valencia:
Even now, like how you said, I feel like I’m busy. I’m managing a business. I’m still learning, so I can’t say I have it. I’m stress-free. I have two little girls. There’s no way that’s not stressful, but even now, I’m pushing myself to partner up to open up a gym. People are like, “There’s too much on your plate.” But it’s like, “Who else is going to do it?” Nobody. And that’s what I’ve put into my head. There’s opportunities out there for everybody.

Javier Valencia:
So if I’m able to help somebody with that, if it’s my workers, a friend, myself to learn, even if I would fail, I think what’s motivated me the most is that as a younger age through 18, I was overweight, quiet kid and that’s what I was. I was just overweight quiet kid. So when I see I had opportunities and now jumping here, I made a huge step from working a 40-hour week job for two or three years to where I’ve jumped into position now is a huge step and I think that’s what I had taken advantage of, I’m not going to waste time anymore with any of this stuff. I have two little girls that I can’t say I’m bored with. There’s no way I could say I’m bored at a seven- and eight-year-old.

Dillon Honcoop:
Yeah.

Javier Valencia:
A management position. I can’t say on bored. Like I said, weather-wise, water-wise, harvest wise, I can’t say I’m bored. I can’t say I know it’s going to happen tomorrow. Same with the gym. It’s like, I’m nowhere to perfect, so why not push myself? So that’s what’s kept me. I don’t know. It’s the first time. like I said, I’ve ever used the maturity like I don’t know if that’s changed or not, but I know I’m doing something good. I know I’m doing something that’s keeping me motivated.

Javier Valencia:
Like I said, I have people now telling me, “Hey, how are you doing it? How are you doing?” I’m like, “I just get my ass up. I have to. I just get my ass up.” And you have to give people a chance because, “Hey, I want to do that.” Okay and they’ll show up at 3:00 in the morning. Actually, charge me nothing. Show up. It’s sad, but it’s like you give those people opportunities and if you get one out of 10 to do it, that makes you feel better than charging somebody, “Hey, I’m charging you 200 bucks for this.”

Javier Valencia:
So that’s where I’m at now. I feel like I have had a huge opportunity, so I’m trying to give that back to everybody else. Everybody’s around me, Andrew is 38, 37, so about 10 years older than me and he says. “You’re in a position that I was never at that age.” As I said, that’s why I put it in my hand. It’s like I have no time to waste no more. Like why not just put my head down and keep running.

Javier Valencia:
And even me losing the weight, that was a huge thing. I believe I doubted myself a lot before, but it’s like now I put my head down and I just run forward and it’s like nobody’s stopping me. If anybody stops me, it’s going to be myself.

Dillon Honcoop:
What was the key to losing weight? Was it the working out or changing your diet or?

Javier Valencia:
I think I just want to change, like I said, I was honestly just tired of it. I used to run and run and run. I used to run sometimes where I’d have to call my mom, “Hey, I’m not going to make it back.” And now I’ve gotten smarter, like I said, working out wise. A year of working out, doing programs, helping the body build programs, having him ask him now, “Hey, let’s partner up and open another gym.” I know I’m doing something right.

Javier Valencia:
And I believe that’s what puts me out from everybody else. And I know Andrew had seen that. I’m willing to go for it and I’m willing to try it and I’ll do it over and over and over. And some people will be like, Oh, I didn’t see. This didn’t happen as soon. It’s like, it’s going to happen. If you don’t try it and you waste time and it’s not going to happen. So like I said, I can’t tell myself right now, hey, I’m going to mess up or I’m going to fail. I’m sitting here, I’ve never done this before. That makes me nervous, but I said, hey, I do.

Dillon Honcoop:
Do the whole podcast thing?

Javier Valencia:
Yeah, I’ve never done it. I’ve never spoken on a microphone. I’ve never, so I’m doing it once. Hopefully, it’s easier the next time and hopefully, there’s a next time and I don’t see why there isn’t. There’s the opportunity.

Dillon Honcoop:
Talk about your tattoos, you got a lot of them.

Javier Valencia:
I got too many of them. Same thing. I’m not sure why I got tattoos. I have on my arm this family, daughters, nephews, sisters. I don’t why I got tattoos. I believe when I lost my way was something that meant to me. I’ve always liked them, but then I was like, okay, it means something to me. So I started doing it. I like them.

Dillon Honcoop:
How much weight did you lose?

Javier Valencia:
I lost 40 pounds. I believe I was 216 at my biggest, and even now, like I said, I do these goals and stuff. Right now I’m doing this thing at the gym that’s like, hey, who could lose the most fat and gain the most muscle. Like I said, I’m just doing it just so I could do it. My buddy said, “It’s a three-month program.” He’s like, “I lose 50% first month, 50% second month.” And he’s like, I’d like a third. At the last one, it was just like wow.

Javier Valencia:
You put that out there and people are like, “Oh, I want to do it.” And it’s like it just happens. Everybody falls like flies and I believe that’s the fun part, too. It’d be like, I did that now. I’ll just do it to be like I did it.

Dillon Honcoop:
The sense of accomplishment

Javier Valencia:
Right, and people noticing it. Like I said, I don’t think it’s an ego thing, but being able to see those things like, hey, people notice who you are. People notice who Bros and Farms are now. It’s like, hey, that hard work paid off. Everybody’s hard work paid off. And like I said, I don’t believe we’re stopping anytime soon.

Javier Valencia:
And me health-wise, me, I don’t know it’s like trying to keep yourself not satisfied but knowing, “Hey, I like this. I enjoy this, so why not?” You’re satisfied now, but the long run isn’t just going to be worth it.

Dillon Honcoop:
What should people know about how their food is grown?

Javier Valencia:
Health wise and gym wise, I’d say that having locally grown food and stuff like that is worth it because the labor that goes into it, it’s just different than something coming out from a machine. It is better for you. That’s a whole another topic how that food is better for you, but just knowing, hey, somebody grew that or somebody even now like, how would I put that? Just like the grapes I grow.

Javier Valencia:
I’m able to go tell somebody, hey, that wine’s good because I knew I grew it and if somebody had questions, “Hey, what about sprays?” And some people don’t know that information, but some people hide that and I wouldn’t. Hey, I know what I sprayed here. I know what I put there. There’s nothing really to it and some people won’t say anything. It’s just, hey, it’s a bottle of wine.

Javier Valencia:
So I think having information and having a background to it, that will put more people like, “Hey, I want to try that,” because that information is open to everybody when like I said, some people might listen and go one ear and out the other.

Dillon Honcoop:
You mean like people who are worried about what’s being sprayed on food or something?

Javier Valencia:
Right. And they might be worried about it, but they’re not sure what’s in it, so just giving them that information because you do have it, it’s not going to hurt anything. That could have somebody jump into something like, “Hey, that’s interesting.” It just opens conversations that people don’t have. So you know just asking me that like, how do you explain that to somebody.

Dillon Honcoop:
But what would you tell somebody who is worried that their food isn’t safe?

Javier Valencia:
Investigate, ask questions. That’s what I would do. If I don’t know something, like I said, I can’t sit here and say exactly what’s sprayed on everything and how everything’s grown, but just asking those questions because half the time it isn’t. There is nothing huge. There’s nothing. You don’t have to be worried about this, but I guess that’s something like I said, just that fear of asking, “Hey, what’s in my food?”

Dillon Honcoop:
What about how workers are treated and what would you tell somebody who hasn’t been around farming if they’re concerned about that?

Javier Valencia:
Ask questions and actually see it. Like I said, I wouldn’t be scared to show anybody, “Hey, this is what my workers go through every day. This is what my workers do weekly.” Informing them, “Hey, we have information. There’s nothing crazy going on here. These guys have a job just like you do. These guys are putting everything they got.”

Javier Valencia:
For an example, we have workers here that I see are motivated to have a leadership thing, but they really are. They have a background. They’re Hispanic, they came from Mexico. They’re just saying, “Hey, I need my job. I’ll work. I’ll do what you need to get done.” But because they were never fed, “Hey, what about if he’d grown here? What about if he did this? What if?” So having people like that working for us here, like I said, you couldn’t ask for something more.

Javier Valencia:
And people don’t know that. Like I said, people don’t know, “Hey, who are your workers?” Like I said, I don’t think I’ve ever been somebody to do that. Like, this is my fruit or hey, this is my wine that we made. It’s like, no, it’s Brothers In Farms for a reason. We have to all come together to do, to have our results that we have. It’s a really a team.

Javier Valencia:
And like I said I’ve gotten lucky the last couple of years knowing how to build that team and I’m trying to learn more now, to build that team and make that team stronger. Have a buddy jumping on the first, he’s jumping on for the same reason I see he’s open minded. He’s older than I am. That’s actually kept me more motivated this year. A buddy that’s older than I am, that seriously had no goals, driving a tractor in wheat fields. I’m giving him an opportunity, “Hey, jump on with me. Jump on Brothers In Farms and there’s somewhere to go, man. I got a future for you.” And me saying that to him, he calls me like, “Hey, I’m ready to start now or hey, I’ll prove it to you in 30 days instead of 90 days.” This dude is jacked and motivated.

Javier Valencia:
And it’s like I was able to do that for somebody and it’s like people don’t see those. Like I said, people don’t see, oh, how the company was made. And it’s like, we really started from an office, officers sitting in two offices that a desk right next to each other, but to building a shop, to building our label has just become huge.

Dillon Honcoop:
Why do you think there’s controversy about workers and how they’re being treated and immigration and all that stuff? Do you follow that much?

Javier Valencia:
Honestly, I don’t. I’m not a TV person. I’m not involved. I don’t know. I just don’t like something that I can’t. I don’t know if I can’t control it, but it’s like, I honestly feel like it doesn’t affect me. My workers do, so I’m doing my part here. So yeah, if I’m able to say, “Hey, we need our workers here.” I guess my point of view on all that stuff is just like it’s not necessary. We need workers. Get rid of everybody else and then see how many people are in a struggle when they don’t get wine. I mean these guys are going to struggle when they don’t have fruit.

Javier Valencia:
But like I said, people aren’t informed on that. Like I said, I keep myself out of the media and news and stuff just for that reason. I feel like that’s something that somebody has way too much time on their hand to like, “Oh, I want to know. I want to pick at this and I want to know what this is.” I’ve always stayed away from my TV. Not always, but it’s just became a habit again as well, not listening to many media, not listening to the news.

Javier Valencia:
Just controlling, I don’t think it’s control, but just knowing like the known, instead of me questioning, “Oh, I don’t know that or what if that doesn’t affect me.” If I know I’m doing well here and we’re doing good at well here it’s like, it doesn’t affect me.

Dillon Honcoop:
Within the Hispanic community here in Eastern Washington and I know it’s a fairly well connected community. Do people talk about that issue and like labor issues and problems?

Javier Valencia:
I honestly haven’t heard a lot about that. Like I said, I’m younger to this business wise into what I have seen. That’s something I’ve seen recently. Hey, we’re getting paid minimum wage, but like I said, me knowing management wise now, like I said, people get raises every time, but they never know, “Okay, what’s that getting out of the business?” Like I said, we’re a young business. It’s like, hey. You know that adds up and that’s a big chunk out of a business that just started.

Javier Valencia:
And that’s where I think where we stay motivated trying to push them, “Hey, we have a future.” Nobody’s struggling. I don’t believe anybody is struggling and I don’t believe I’m struggling. Maybe at my position I could be making more money I could, but I’m not struggling at all. And like I said, I’m not complaining about where I’m at, but because like I said, I see that future. I don’t believe I’m going to stop anytime soon.

Javier Valencia:
Like I said, I’m only 28. I see me at Andrew’s age, it’s like I’ll be set and that’s not going to stop me then and I don’t believe I will ever stop and that’s just my heritage and like how I was raised. You know my dad now still working. The man shouldn’t be working, I don’t think, but he’s still out there working. So like I said, even if I’m fat and happy, honestly, I hope I never get there, but me staying motivated, it will keep me from that spot. I’ll be happy, but I’m going to be motivated.

Dillon Honcoop:
What did your dad think was he like not wanting to be farming and then ending up in farming, what did he say?

Javier Valencia:
When I first told him I was going into farming, I think he kind of like laughed about it, like, “Really?” Like he didn’t think it’d happen. And I think in his head he’s like I gave up on the thing like, “Hey, I’m not going to be a farmer.” So in his head it’s like, “Oh, you really don’t want to work.” And like I said, I don’t see it as a bad thing. Somebody would be like, “Oh, he didn’t believe in you,” but he’s worked his whole life, so I’m pretty sure the first thing he went to his head is like, “Damn kid doesn’t want to work.” And I’m sure that’s exactly how he said it. It’s exactly how he’s seen it.

Javier Valencia:
And now that he sees what I’m doing and that I enjoy it, like I kind of see why he works. I’m pretty sure he enjoyed it. For doing it for 40 years, you know he has to enjoy what he’s doing and if he’s still doing it now and he doesn’t have to, the dude has to enjoy it. And like I said, me learning technology and the new stuff’s that’s upcoming. I mean, being able to share that with him. It’s just like I said, that just raises my standards as well. I’m able to help these guys and it’s not easy to help him and I think that’s the challenging part.

Javier Valencia:
I love challenges. Like I said, just me staying motivated gym wise with my daughter’s work. Everything’s challenging for me. I’m never comfortable. And you know, I read a lot now. I listen to a lot of motivational people, Jocko and all those dudes, any of those guys are just about, just do it and people talking about reasoning in this. And I’m like, I have an excuse for everything if I wanted to. I don’t have to be at gym at three in the morning. There’s no reason I have to be there. My ass could be asleep. My girls don’t go to school until 6:00. I don’t have to be at work at a certain time, but like I said, it’s just keeping that momentum and challenging myself is like what’s keeping us going.

Dillon Honcoop:
It sounds like all this is back to your dad and this has changed your understanding of your dad.

Javier Valencia:
Right?

Dillon Honcoop:
Like you get him now?

Javier Valencia:
Yeah, I get it. Like I get why he worked. I get why he was looking. He had a goal somewhat. You know that would be a good question for me to ask him one day, “Hey, what was your goal?” And I wondered if he had one or he just worked his ass off and now he’s like, he’s content, but he’s like, he’s never going to stop and maybe that’s a difference between somebody. Maybe he doesn’t have a high goal yet, or maybe he does, but it’s just, he’s going to keep going until he falls down.

Dillon Honcoop:
Yeah. What about you said he was skeptical of you going into farming at first.

Javier Valencia:
Right.

Dillon Honcoop:
What does he say now?

Javier Valencia:
Now, he congratulates me. You’re doing well. You’re doing really good. When he was first able to ask me for my opinion, like I said, that just jumped me up. Like, hey, I know what I’m doing. The guy has worked to the ass off, asks me for my opinion. It’s like, I mean I’m doing something right, so that just keeps me going, too.

Dillon Honcoop:
Would that have been hard for him?

Javier Valencia:
I believe it took everything he had, you know? Everything he had to ask me, “Hey, what’s your opinion on this?” And I’m damn sure he’d probably kill me if he’s like, “Oh, you’re going to tell people I asked you for help or asked you for your opinion.” But like said, it just shows, I had to show him in some way or another, he’s learning, he knows what he’s talking about. So like I said, if I’m able to get into somebody’s head like that, my workers, the employees we have, that’s what keeps me motivated. Like I said, these guys see it and I know they see it now.

Dillon Honcoop:
What’s your future with farming?

Javier Valencia:
I want to keep going. Maybe one day, our goals are now, we’re growing so fast to have Brothers In Farms 2. Maybe one day that will be me or maybe I’ll take over Brothers In Farms and then Andrew’s Brother In Farms 3 and then we have, you know, that just keeps growing. I love the business part. I love being outside. I don’t like sitting on desks, but I love this business part. But at the same thing, it’s just challenging. It’s challenging and I said, why not do it?

Javier Valencia:
I failed, but every time I failed now, I’ve learned from it. And I said, that’s the difference for me as well, all these failures I’m taking them and I’m learning from it, so it’s like, “Why not do it now?” If I was able to jump from no experience to a management position, why can I not be in a CEO position and it’s like, why not. The opportunity is there and I believe that was something I was scared of before. Asking for the opportunity or saying I couldn’t move on from this and it’s just all there.

Dillon Honcoop:
What should somebody in Seattle know about the people that are growing their food?

Javier Valencia:
What should they know? There’s hard work into it. It’s not just a piece of fruit that is put into a box. It took a lot to get into that box. It probably took a lot to get to Seattle. I’ve worked in warehouses before. It’s no fun. You know putting apple by apple in a box or into a bag. It’s not that easy. People should really, I don’t know how I’d put it, I don’t think I’ve ever gone to that far of like I don’t think I’ve ever thought about that.

Javier Valencia:
But if somebody has questions about it, not to be afraid to ask and I think that’s something we’re trying to do, building the website and stuff like, hey, this is where this wine is coming from or hey, this is where this field came from. Like I said, I love now just hearing clips and I was down in Benton City, that’s the view from here. I was down in Benton City and I got to see the 60 acres we put in and like I said, I get to say we did that and some people that don’t get to see that.

Javier Valencia:
I’m sure this $200 bottle of wine is coming out of here. Those people open it, but if they got to open it and see the view from where I get to see it, I bet it’d be even better. Like I said, I’ve been lucky to do it all. I was able to grow it, plant it, and try it at the same time. People had seen that story is what makes it even better.

Dillon Honcoop:
That’s awesome. Thank you for opening up and sharing your personal story. Yeah, I think what you guys have going here is really, really cool stuff.

Javier Valencia:
I appreciate it and like I said, I really hope we keep growing and like I said, it’s my first podcast, but I really hope from this just people really saying that like, “Hey, we want to know what Brothers In Farms is,” or “Hey, we want to know what grape growing is.” Like I said, it’s just asking those questions and having people like you to get us out there, you’re doing your part, we’re doing our part and it’s like, people staying open-minded, we’re all going to grow like that.

Speaker 2:
This is the Real Food, Real people podcast. These are the stories of the people who grow your food.

Dillon Honcoop:
Honestly, I couldn’t believe it when he said he’s working on opening a gym. I didn’t know before this conversation that he was a single dad and doing that while he’s putting in so many hours on the farm and he’s so passionate about growing incredible wine grapes and kind of changing that world. Yet his story of discipline and motivation on top of all that and all the other things he’s trying to do, pretty incredible stuff, so it was really cool and actually kind of inspiring to get to know Javier Valencia there.

Dillon Honcoop:
Thank you for joining us for this conversation and we appreciate you subscribing to Real Food, Real People on whatever your favorite podcast platform is, whether it’s Apple podcasts or Spotify, and there’s some others out there Deezer or Spreaker or I can’t even list all of the ones that we’re on. You can find us there. Also at realfoodrealpeople.org. Our website just got a face lift, so go check it out. There’s additional content there plus I got to get to work on adding even more, so expect that in the near future. Again, at realfoodrealpeople.org.

Dillon Honcoop:
Again, I’m Dillon Honcoop. This is the Real Food, Real People podcast, documenting my personal journey going around Washington State, getting to know the real people behind the food that we have here. Thank you for being a part of this with us.

Announcer:
The Real Food, Real People podcast is sponsored in part by Safe Family I Farming, giving a voice to Washington’s farm families. Find them online at safefamilyfarming.org.y