Kurt Guelich - Guelich Orchards
Kurt Guelich’s story begins with his father who came over from Germany after World War II. After arriving in Riverside, WA (just outside of Omak), he bought a dairy farm that came with a small apple orchard. His father soon realized he preferred trees to cows and sold the dairy farm, expanding the orchards that Kurt would later inherit.
After earning an undergraduate and Master’s degree from Washington State University in Horticulture, Kurt worked as a Fieldman for Blue Chelan where he worked with different growers and learned new horticultural techniques. Working for Blue Chelan ignited Kurt’s passion for apple growing, and led him to return home and join the family orchard business.
Now, after 25 years, Kurt has expanded his father’s original 50 acre orchard to over 250 acre - about 220 acres of apples and pears and 30 acres of cherries. Of these 250 acres, he has renovated, replanted or grafted nearly everything, except for his father’s original Goldens. Kurt says, “I love planting and developing an orchard but before I plant something new I have to research and find out what works because some varieties don’t work under my constrictions.”
It hasn't been all time in the orchard: Kurt kept busy during those 25 years tending to his orchards and starting a family with his wife Kelley whom he met in college. Together they homeschooled their three children – Laurel, Grant and Ryan – who are now grown.
For the future, Kurt plans to continue expanding his orchard, evaluating new fruit varieties and balancing expansion with the pressing concern of labor constraints. “There are good varieties out there that fit a niche but you have to be willing to take a risk. I believe that it is worth taking a risk to find out which ones work for you,” says Kurt.
Kurt believes that people are meant to work and keep active and he hopes to continue with his orchards for many years to come.
Kurt enjoys getting out into his orchards to “mow the grass” and see the condition of each and every tree. “It’s a joy to be out in the orchard and do the tractor work. I feel in harmony with the orchard when I don’t have the phone screaming or too many people problems. This way I have a better sense of what my trees are saying.”