Growing up in apple country, Dan Davis found the tree fruit industry early in life — or perhaps the industry found him.
Davis, as director of business development for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, brings a wealth of hands-on industry experience to his post.
Davis grew up in the Yakima Valley and did not have a predetermined goal to work in the fruit industry.
During his teen years, he picked cherries and had began working at other jobs at various levels, in orchards and the packing lines.
Compared with those early years, the fruit industry has become much more than a job to Davis.
“It is just something that became such a passion of mine — easy to pursue, and easy to attack,” Davis said.
“There is a constant need for creativity. We get to rewrite the playbook every day.”
Before coming to Oneonta, Davis was global production coordinator for Viva Tierra Organic Inc. and general manager of Allan Bros. Inc., Wenatchee, Wash.
One long-time friend and current competitor said Davis has a keen intellect and memory for following the long-term trends in the industry.
“I appreciate the straightforwardness in our conversations, no dancing around issues at hand,” said Jordan Matson, co-owner and warehouse general manager for Matson Fruit, Selah, Wash.
“I value that partly because that’s the way I am.”
Davis says he first came up through the apple industry in the warehouse and later migrated to positions in the packing line, production, shipping, and then ultimately managing the warehouse.
“It really taught me a lot about the production side of life and being ultimately accountable to the grower, the person who works in the land, making sure that we, at all phases of the process, do everything we can to return the most money to the land, make them as sustainable and viable, long-term as possible — because ultimately, they’re the reason we exist.”
Sean Gilbert, president of Gilbert Orchards, Yakima, Wash. — which markets its fruit through Oneonta Starr Ranch — said that Davis is skilled in marketing both organic and conventional fruit, matching manifests with the customer base.
“He can relate to what the customer needs and what the inventories are, and how it all fits together,” he said.
Gilbert said Davis also has a passion for sustainability.
“Some customers have requested it — that the industry look for better packaging options, but Dan’s really taken that on as his responsibility to find better sustainable packaging options for customers to use,” he said.
“I think that is great for a number of reasons; I think it also points out who he is and what he believes in.”
Davis said giving a return to the land is his ultimate goal.
“As I’ve grown in various roles and capacities and interacting with retail now and other folks within the industry and various forms and functions, that that’s still the underlying goal,” he said.
“Ultimately we’re all only in business as long as we can keep that grower profitable and keep their bottom line healthy and allow them to do the things to raise quality fruit and provide a quality eating experience.”