2020 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Robin Graham

Age: 36
General Manager
Stemilt Ag Services
Wenatchee, WA

Graham is a rising star at Stemilt and in the industry. Recently promoted to run Stemilt Ag Services, the company’s orchard management division, he currently oversees orchard accounting, HR, project management and day-to-day operations as they all relate to growing a large percentage of Stemilt apples, pears, cherries and stone fruit. No matter what the task, he demonstrates great care and focus on producing high-flavor fruit to accomplish Stemilt’s mission of delighting consumers. He is concerned about the environment and is guiding Stemilt’s Responsible Choice program on new environmental initiatives. He is a mentor to his team and is focused on culture and cultivating the next generation in the field.

During college and for a year after graduation, Graham worked in the California and Washington tree fruit industry. During that time he had met, and eventually convinced one of his favorite winemakers, Le Cuvier of Paso Robles, CA, to hire him. During his position at Le Cuvier, he not only learned the wine industry but also became well educated in running a business, sales, and the importance of culture and organizational health. In 2013, he took an opportunity to return to Washington to work as an orchard manager with Stemilt’s farming team. During that time, he was promoted twice and also received the Stemilt Grower award in 2015. In the fall of 2018, he was named general manager of Stemilt Ag Services. He contributes back to the industry by serving as a panelist at various industry meetings including the Grower Roundtable during the Organic Grower Summit in 2018 and the Washington State Tree Fruit annual convention in 2017. And, he led a field tour demonstration for the International Fruit Tree Association’s annual conference in 2017.

Hobbies: Cooking, Reading, Hiking, Travel, Woodworking, Archery

Personal/Community: Married

Motto in life: “Work hard and be nice.”

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
I have been obsessed by food for as long as I can remember. That food obsession eventually turned into an interest in growing things.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?
Focus on what I can control, and maybe not be so hard on myself about the things I cannot.

Q: What industry improvements would you like to see?
Our industry needs continued improvements in human augmentation for improved safety and ergonomics.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?
Don’t be afraid to call lots of people to ask for help, advice, or ideas on solving problems.

Q: What do you see as the most critical “hot button” issue facing the industry in the next decade?
It is hard to think anything other than labor and immigration reform could hold this position.

Q: What would you like consumers to know about the industry?
In my role I get to see all the time the hard work and pride taken in growing the best eating fruit for the consumer. It is inspiring to see.

Q: What would you like to be doing in your career when you turn 50?
I would be very happy to be doing the same thing, but would like to devote more time to volunteering, and maybe just a little bit of fishing.