We are so happy to be a small part in this!
“Faces of Ag.” – March 8th
I’m Wes Carithers. My wife Stephanie and I own and operate Orchard Hill Farm & Country Store outside of Lewistown. We are open mid-...July through October, when we sell apples, peaches, jams/jellies, baked goods, cider, wine, and many other products.
Stephanie is also an Occupational Therapist and I also run a landscaping and construction company (Carithers Inc) in my "off time". We have four children; Casey- 10, Brayden- 9, Nikita- 5, and Cole- 2. I graduated from Astoria High School, and then from Spoon River College with an Ag Business Management degree.
We also raise a few calves every year at our home near Astoria, and we grow berries & vegetables on about 1 acre, as well as corn and beans on 46 acres. I make decisions on our farm, and pay Brian Lehman to farm the row-crop acreage! Our Apple and Peach trees comprise 18 acres. My hobbies are hunting, fishing, and woodworking. I volunteer with the Lions Club.
We purchased the orchard in 2016, but it was first established in 1933. We decided to buy the orchard because it’s something I've always been interested in, and I was ready for a new challenge. The way I figure it, if you are going to work most of your life, it better be at something you enjoy. I enjoyed the business I currently had, and thought this addition would be a good fit. It took a lot of discussion to convince my wife and there’s no way it would have worked without her support. It also would not have worked without the help of financing from the Farm Service Agency and local banks.
Running an orchard takes lots of on the job training. I recommend a young person take Ag/Vocational classes, and to do this you have to like working in the outdoors.
I think it’s a little early to tell if our kids will have any interest in the business, but I'm hoping at least one or two will like part of it. My 2 year old is always wanting to be outside and help with his tools. I can't imagine myself not working outside and caring for trees and plants. It’s engrained in my brain. Technology and practices may have changed, but it still comes down to planting seeds and trees and wanting them to grow and produce something for us. The challenge today is figuring out how to do that more efficiently, in a less labor-intensive way. We strive to be good for the environment using the tools and technology available to us, without going bankrupt!