For five generations, Chuck Erickson’s family has been farming north of Hartline, Wash., in Grant County, but they haven’t always grown wheat.
“Originally, we were orchardists. At the homestead where I live, there were 18 acres of assorted fruit trees. They had to bucket water to the trees by hand,” explained Erickson. “Eventually, my great-great-great-grandmother told them they needed to find something different to do because she was tired of bucketing water up.”
Erickson is the fifth generation on his family’s farm, established in 1889 as Kelley Bros., which he runs with his father, Gary. They primarily grow wheat, barley and, occasionally, canola. Harvest is a true family affair with Erickson’s two children, Grace (13) and Noah (12), and his wife, Timi, all pitching in, along with their long-time truck driver, Mana Victorino.
Erickson’s mother, Chris, helps with the bookkeeping and is a crucial part of the decision-making team.
This year, Grace and Noah got their hands dirty, literally, as they learned to blow out and grease the combines each morning. Grace also began learning to drive the combine. Erickson said he farms because it’s his heritage, and he hopes his children will continue the tradition.
“This is what my family’s done for pushing 150 years. It’s an honor for me to continue that tradition, and I hope I’m instilling that same pride in my kids,” he explained.
Another family tradition involves hats.
“We have a harvest tradition that whatever hat you start wearing at the beginning of harvest, you have to wear all the way through,” Erickson explained. “On the very last day of harvest, it gets sent through the combine, and then we have to take a picture with the trashed hats. We’ve done it ever since I can remember, and I don’t have a clue how it started.”