When you think of putting together a summertime barbecue or family picnic, you might think of watermelons as one of the essential items on the menu. When you go to the grocery store to buy your supplies, you’ll likely see a giant pile of watermelons in the back corner of the produce section. As you look through your watermelon options, carefully examining all of the melons for bruises or blemishes, you finally make your selection. You’ve found the biggest, greenest, juiciest watermelon you could find and you couldn’t be more ready to crack that bad boy open. We’ve all been there and if you’ve ever experienced this in a grocery store somewhere throughout the Pacific Northwest, then you’ve most likely bought a watermelon from Walchli Farms.
Walchli Farms is located in Hermiston Oregon on about 1800 acres of land. Owned and operated by the Walchli Family, Skip Walchli is the man in charge of most of the operations on this land. Although the farm is known for being the number one producer of watermelons in the Pacific Northwest, they also grow several other crops on their land. In addition to their famous Walchli watermelons they grow cantaloupe, potatoes, alfalfa, seed corn, asparagus, and other vegetables for the small produce shop on their site. Having that small stand has allowed the Walchli family see many friendships made throughout the years that by people coming out to buy their produce. The farm’s shop is where locals come to purchase produce but they also sell to peddler’s who take it to various local markets. Most of the farm’s produce is sold through their broker, shipped straight from the farm to distribution centers, and then on to your local grocery store.
Skip is a long time farmer and says that farming is in his blood. Both of his parents immigrated to the United States from Switzerland but did not know each other before they came across the Atlantic. They met in Boise and eventually ended up in Stanfield where the old homestead still is and where their farm stands today. The family farm has been at its current location since 1957 and it’s the same farm that Skip grew up on. Skip’s parents raised him along with five other siblings on the farm, growing various small crops to keep them afloat. Skip did not go to school to learn to farm, he grew up working the land and learned the trade by getting his hands dirty. He started growing watermelons in high school and hasn’t stopped or slowed down since then.
A day on the farm can start as early as 5 am and during their peak seasons the pickers are often in the fields from dawn to dusk. Most of the people who work on the farm are a part of the four generations of Walchlis that live on or around the farm. They do however have some other people they’ve hired to work full-time that aren’t technically blood but still feel like a part of the family. These workers have also brought along their kids to grow up on the farm, further making the operations of Walchli Farms a true family affair. Skip and his wife Sherry raised 7 kids who have now given them 21 grandkids and 6 great grandkids. Everyone in the family plays a part in helping to run the farm. Skip’s sons help run most of the operations throughout the year but the grandkids come in full force to help out as soon as school gets out for summer vacation.
Depending on the time of year, a typical day on the farm may look a bit different for Skip and his crew. There’s the prep season, the planting season ( which varies from crop to crop), the growing season, and then finally the harvest. This schedule keeps them busy all year long and the only resemblance of a break they get is when they go hunting during elk season. No matter the season, a normal work day on the farm has Skip working from 7am to 7pm. Long days are the norm for people working in the farming industry. Skip is one of the people who loves farming and says that he couldn’t imagine himself doing anything else. (With the exception of maybe carpentry, but he was pretty reluctant to even say that.) Skip always knew he wanted to be a farmer and truly believes that farming is in his blood. Skip says, “I simply enjoy making things grow. I enjoy sharing the “fruits of my labor”, no pun intended, and I’ve worked hard to instill that into my family as well.”
Skip knows that he’ll eventually need to retire, but doesn’t plan on doing that anytime soon. He loves what he does, he loves the people he gets to do it with, and he loves being able to share what he does. If you’re interested in visiting the farm or learning more about what they do you can find them on Facebook or go out to the farm and visit with them.